A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Talking about science at election time

Dear Research Advocate:

Ebola remains in the news. In the midst of the demoralizing finger pointing that seems to have taken the place of unity of mission that ought to characterize our nation, we are occasionally reminded that science is a problem solver. That’s a useful message to convey if we hope to keep the current politicization from worsening. But more of us have to speak out. Don’t stand on the sidelines when you could make a difference at this important time when people are paying much more attention to research than usual.

With the election only a little over a week away, take the time to ask candidates a question or two. Email or tweet in questions to debates and contact campaigns via social media. You might talk about Ebola, keeping your request in the moment.  But consider, too, that your candidates’ views on investing in medical progress may be influenced by yesterday’s news about the federal deficit.  The deficit is $483 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP — its lowest level since 2007. Reasons cited include lower unemployment, higher tax revenues and stable government spending. Still, the budget gap forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to widen again as an aging population leads to more spending on Social Security and health care. It isn’t surprising that rising health care costs are cited as a force behind projected future deficits.  What is surprising is that our nation doesn’t have a plan to harness research as a means of responsibly reducing health spending. You will hear more from us about advocating for a national plan to address this and other solutions only science can provide. 

Mark your calendar to join Research!America on the morning of November 6 for a Post-Election Briefing at the AAAS Auditorium in Washington. How will the new Congress influence medical and health research and innovation?  Will science be perceived as pragmatic or suspect, important or oversold?  David Hawkings, senior editor, CQ Roll Call, will provide top-line election take-aways; a moderated panel discussion with former members of Congress will address what the composition of the new Congress might mean for science; and a panel discussion among four AYC! partners will discuss advocacy challenges and opportunities given the election results. There will be ample opportunity for audience engagement.  To register, click here.

One final note. The rancor over Ebola research spending, or the lack of it, is provoking some policymakers and pundits to scour the research landscape for federally funded research studies that can be framed as superfluous. Scrutiny is not a bad thing, and science should always be prepared to respond to questions from the public and policymakers.  After all, it is the public’s interest that the science community serves, and it’s the public’s dollars — whether tax, philanthropic or consumer — that pay for science.   It bears underscoring that everyone in the science community should take every opportunity to say and convey, “I work for you,” and be ready to answer questions after expressing accountability with those important opening words.


Mary Woolley

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