A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Nobel prizes this year and in the future

Dear Research Advocate:

The 2014 Nobel Laureates will be announced next week. I hope you will consider amplifying the news via social media, op-eds and letters to the editor. The Nobel prize is so iconic that it provides an entrée to the broader public, one that can be used to connect the dots between the process of scientific discovery, the power of ingenuity, and the role of science in human progress. And if a winner has been funded by a U.S. science agency or company, all the better from an advocacy perspective!

In the years ahead, will the United States be home to more Nobel Laureates in the sciences, or will those honors go to scientists in countries that place a greater emphasis on research and innovation? This chart compares the R&D commitment of 19 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, the metric being R&D as a percentage of GDP. The next time you are speaking with a member of Congress or his/her staff, you may want to mention that, in relative terms, Estonia assigns a higher priority to R&D than does the United States. Bravo to Estonia, but do we as a nation truly expect to remain a global powerhouse as we drain our own power source?

While it is tempting to blame the neglect of science on Congress, let’s face it: American voters do the hiring. With the onset of early and absentee voting in many states, candidates have just over a month left to hear feedback from their voters. Please take a minute to visit www.askyourcandidates.org and see whether your candidates have offered insights into the role they would play in advancing medical progress. If they haven’t spoken up yet, ask them to!

And speaking of weighing in, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is asking for your feedback on creating a policy framework to ensure that differences related to sex inform basic as well as clinical research. Beyond the normative issue here, as the Society for Women’s Health Research has long maintained, ignoring this variable makes absolutely no sense since it can lead to misdiagnosis, mistreatment, and premature death. NIH would like your feedback on the proposed policy framework by October 13. You can complete their survey here.

Finally, I am pleased to announce the winners of the 2015 Research!America Advocacy Awards, honoring distinguished researchers, advocates, and organizations committed to advancing medical progress. My thanks to the many members and partners who submitted nominations for the 2015 Awards; the selection committee’s work was challenging. The 2015 Advocacy Awards will be conferred at our annual dinner on March 11, 2015 at the Mellon Auditorium — plan now to join us!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

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