Category Archives: Public Opinion
Dear Research Advocate:
The budget and appropriations process typically reveals stark differences in funding priorities among the two parties. And this year is no exception. House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08) introduced the Democrats’ 10-year budget plan this week, which stands apart from the Republican proposal introduced by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) most notably by ending sequestration. The Ryan budget, which won House approval today, is on its way to the Senate but is considered dead on arrival. Note that there’s still time to urge your Members of Congress to support medical and health research as this year’s appropriations process continues!
Teen “whiz kids” profiled in the latest issue of People magazine personify the future of science and medical innovation. Among them, Jack Andraka, who at age 15, created an affordable diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that provides results in five minutes. He faced tremendous obstacles securing funding for his breakthrough innovation, a problem we see all too often in medical and health research. Such ingenuity propels our best and brightest to take risks but the funding to support their revolutionary ideas is not within their grasp.
Discussing these innovative projects with candidates and elected officials is key to elevating science and technology in the national conversation. In Research!America’s newly released poll data summary booklet, America Speaks, Volume 14, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research. Now is the time to ask future and returning Members of Congress if they believe that medical progress is a high national priority as part of our new national voter education initiative Ask Your Candidates!, which was formally launched this week. More details about America Speaks and the campaign can be found here. As the number of lawmakers with a background in science diminishes, it’s more important than ever to engage with your representatives. Michael S. Lubell writes in Roll Call that if we don’t elect a new scientist in the upcoming elections, it will mark a six-year decline from five to two Members of Congress who have a PhD in a natural science.
National Public Health Week, which wraps up tomorrow, provides another opportunity to engage policy makers about the benefits of health research. Don’t miss our recent blog post celebrating public health — an often underappreciated facet of our research ecosystem.
A new video highlighting backstage interviews with our 2014 Advocacy Award Winners illustrates the passion and drive of these extraordinary leaders who have contributed greatly to medical progress. We encourage you to nominate individuals and organizations whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research for the 2015 Advocacy Awards.
As you’re aware, members of Research!America’s management team will guest-author this letter in Mary’s absence. This week’s author is Research!America’s vice president of communications, Suzanne Ffolkes.
Few Americans Know Where Elected Officials and Candidates Stand on Government Support for Research and Innovation, New Polling Booklet Reveals
Research!America and partners launch national voter education initiative to elevate the priority of medical progress
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—April 8, 2014—Two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research, according to America Speaks, Volume 14, a compilation of key questions from public opinion polls commissioned by Research!America. Polling shows that Americans place a high value on U.S. leadership in medical innovation, yet only 12% say they are very well informed about the positions of their senators and representative when it comes to their support of medical and scientific research. www.researchamerica.org/poll_summary.
To help close this knowledge gap, Research!America and partner organizations are launching a national voter education initiative, Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Research Progress a Priority? Through online and grassroots activities, social media strategies and on-the-ground events, congressional candidates will be urged to share their views on government policies and support for medical innovation conducted in both the public and private sectors. www.askyourcandidates.org.
“Candidates must do a better job articulating their vision for medical progress, clarifying what level of priority they assign to research as a way to assure improved health, well-being and economic security of all Americans,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Voters need to know whether their candidates view lifesaving medical research as an imperative or an afterthought.”
During election season, Americans want candidates to talk about medical progress. Nearly three-quarters (74%) say it’s important to know whether their candidates for Congress are supportive of medical and scientific research. Notably, more than half of respondents (53%) do not believe elected officials in Washington are paying enough attention to combating the many deadly diseases that afflict Americans. Continue reading →
Dear Research Advocate:
Fostering research and innovation has long been a multi-pronged effort — government, industry, academia, patients and patient organizations, foundations, and individual philanthropists — all working to advance research. The current interest shown by private philanthropists in advancing science is an echo of a phenomenon witnessed a century ago — and a sign of the opportunity available in some way to all of us to accelerate medical progress and maintain our nation’s competitive edge. As reported in a recent front page New York Times article, private donors are stepping up in a big way at a time when scientific opportunity has never been greater. But it is worth noting that even as philanthropic spending is surging, and while it has historically been an important, often energizing component of U.S. leadership in science, the most robust philanthropic support imaginable would still not be sufficient — nor is it intended to — replace federal support.
In tracking medical R&D spending across all sectors over time, Research!America’s annual investment reports not only support the NYT finding that philanthropic spending is growing, but place that spending in perspective. For example, in 2011, NIH spending dwarfed medical- and health-related philanthropic research spending by nearly $29 billion. That does not mean philanthropic giving isn’t important; rather, it demonstrates that the magnitude of funding needed to drive medical progress is too large to rely on individual or foundation giving. Public and industry dollars are quite simply indispensable to the research pipeline. We call on every sector, every individual (including you billionaires out there!) to step up and increase support. We urge you to fund basic as well as translational research, to identify new approaches and new partnerships, to show us all how to take risks and demand accountability, and to work with and for the overall research enterprise. And — perhaps most important of all — commit to giving confidence to young scientists that their work is valued and will be sustained.
There’s no question about it: We all play a role in achieving better health and quality of life, very much including those who volunteer to participate in clinical trials. We are proud to spread the word about a new campaign initiated by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF). The “I’m In” campaign aims to increase diversity in clinical trials and give patients the opportunity to connect with trials in their communities. Research!America polling shows that while Americans are interested in clinical trials, levels of participation are low, especially among African-American, Asian and Hispanic populations. Advancing medical progress means participating! Our newly released America Speaks, Volume 14 poll data summary booklet includes relevant information on public attitudes about clinical trials.
One time-sensitive way you can exercise your responsibility for advancing medical progress is by asking your representatives in Washington to join the chorus of legislators who support strong, continued funding for research. Members of the House and Senate have the opportunity to share their priorities with the appropriations committees until April 4. Send a note to your representatives urging them to submit appropriations requests that support robust medical research funding in FY15.
Finally, I encourage you to review our just-released 2013 Annual Report, which thanks all our members and supporters — you! — for working with us to inform and engage policy makers, media and the public.
Dear Research Advocate:
What will determine the speed and scope of medical progress in the years to come? There is more to it than the essential ingredients of money and brainpower.
Sound tax policy is essential if we are to propel medical progress.
Yesterday, Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI-04), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, introduced a comprehensive tax reform bill. While the prospects for passage during this election year are — to put a positive spin on it — uncertain, Congressman Camp laid down the gauntlet for much-needed tax and entitlement reform, and he also proposed making the R&D tax credit permanent. Uncertainty surrounding future access to the R&D tax credit has reduced its power to drive private sector R&D investment. While the Camp bill does not contain the ideal package of changes needed to optimize the usefulness of the credit, and in fact contains some potential setbacks, his decision to support making the R&D tax credit permanent sets the stage for finally achieving this long-standing goal.
Scientists, physicians and patients must all work to increase clinical trial participation.
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, a personal hero of mine, former Surgeon General and CDC Director David Satcher, MD, discusses the importance of African-Americans contributing to medical progress by participating in clinical research. Using Alzheimer’s disease as a lens, he argues that adequate research funding is not the only imperative; individuals must be willing to volunteer for clinical trials. Participation is especially valuable for racial and ethnic groups who have much to gain as health disparities persist, but who understandably remember mistreatment in trials in the past. Polling commissioned by Research!America has affirmed this lack of trust but also, importantly, has revealed that African-Americans in particular say they want to help others by participating in trials. We also learned from our polls that most Americans, across all demographics, look to their physicians to be the touchpoint for learning about clinical trial participation.
Improved scientist engagement with the public and policy makers is essential.
Medical research stands a better chance of becoming a higher national priority if people can connect meaningfully to scientists. As Alan Alda said at the annual AAAS meeting last week, and in an interview with Claudia Dreifus in The New York Times, “How are scientists going to get money from policy makers if our leaders and legislators can’t understand what they do?” He and his colleagues at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook use of the some of the same approaches we do to help the science community connect with non-scientists in ways that can truly move mountains. Alda adds a passion for science with dramatic talent for a skill set we can all learn from.
Media attention — old school and new school — is key.
Both traditional and social media play a role in the fate of U.S. medical progress because of their ability to call public and policy maker attention to possibilities and stumbling blocks. Research!America and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network hosted a media luncheon today to discuss the challenges involved in turning cancer, in all its insidious forms, into a manageable chronic condition. It was reinforced to us that journalists’ questions are good markers of questions the public in general are raising; it’s important for scientists and advocates to listen and respond. Sometimes we fall into the pattern of just repeating our own messages louder and louder, but we should instead step back and listen to the sometimes-challenging questions being raised by media as they seek to inform the public. All of us who care about the future of research for health should seek out opportunities to engage with journalists. Contact us for suggestions on how to get started!
Guest blog post by the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
Only a few hundred of the nearly 7,000 rare diseases have approved therapies. Many are not being studied at all by medical researchers.
Often, patients – or parents of patients – feel that nothing will be done unless they raise the money, recruit the researchers and fuel the search for their own lifesaving treatment. They find themselves in a race against time, since rare diseases tend to be serious and many are life-threatening.
To promote awareness of these and other rare disease challenges, the National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD) hosts a national website where all patient advocates can find ways to show their support for Rare Disease Day. Continue reading →
Research!America Honors Congressmen Frank Wolf and Chaka Fattah for Advancing Medical Innovation to Save Lives and Strengthen the Economy
Reps. Wolf and Fattah to Receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy at Research!America’s Advocacy Awards Dinner on March 12
ALEXANDRIA, Va.–February 12, 2014-Reps. Frank Wolf (R-VA) and Chaka Fattah (D-PA) will receive the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy for their leadership and unwavering commitment to supporting policies that promote federal and private sector medical research and innovation. Reps. Wolf and Fattah have spearheaded efforts to create a legislative and regulatory climate conducive to medical innovation.
“Representatives Wolf and Fattah are exceptional champions for research,” said Research!America Chair John Edward Porter. “They have worked vigorously to increase funding for research, support policies that ignite public and private sector innovation, maintain our global competitiveness, and help patients and their families struggling with costly and debilitating diseases.”
Wolf is currently a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, presides as chairman of the Commerce, Justice, Science Subcommittee, and is a member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and State and Foreign Operations subcommittees. Throughout his distinguished tenure in Congress, Wolf has worked to advance the state of science and R&D, and he recognizes the role innovation plays in our nation’s economy, health and international competitiveness. Notably, he was a founder of the “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” Commission which sparked a national effort to bolster federal science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education and R&D programs. These efforts culminated in the enactment of the first America COMPETES Act in 2007 to increase public-private partnerships and provide assistance to innovators throughout the country. Wolf also supported the act’s reauthorization in 2010. He is an active member of several caucuses, including research and development, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis. Continue reading →
A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Americans say scientists aren’t communicating the impact of science
Dear Research Advocate:
Since President Obama declared 2014 as a “year of action” in his State of the Union address, several people have asked my view on how the president might advance science by executive order. Some options that come to mind: the president can (1) pump up the budget for NIH and other science agencies in his FY15 budget blueprint, scheduled for release in early March; (2) require an assessment of the impact on innovation, access and economic growth before making any administration-initiated cuts to drug, biologic or device reimbursement; and (3) designate a task force to formulate a national science strategy.
As several Members of Congress noted after the president’s address, American progress can’t be achieved solely by executive order. But rather than debating constitutional authority, it’s past time for the administration and Congress to work together to advance the priorities of the Americans who hired them. Congress is reportedly getting a jump-start on the FY15 appropriations process, so this is perfect timing for advocates to make the case for science funding levels that capitalize on the multi-faceted return on that investment. Continue reading →
Research!America’s chair, The Honorable John Edward Porter, has been named the 2014 winner of the Public Welfare Medal, given by the National Academy of Sciences. The award recognizes Porter’s decades of advocacy on behalf of scientific and medical research.
Established in 1914, the Public Welfare Medal is the most prestigious award given by the Academy.
“John Porter’s amazing ability to excite policy makers and the public about the great promise of science and medicine is directly responsible for the support of numerous research projects that are advancing biomedical science and enabling treatment of devastating illnesses,” said National Academy of Sciences President Ralph J. Cicerone, PhD. “We are pleased that he will accept our highest award.”
The Public Welfare Medal will be presented to Porter on April 27 during the Academy’s 151st annual meeting at the National Academy of Sciences Building, 2101 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, DC. More information, including a list of past recipients, is available at www.nasonline.org/public-welfare-medal.
Dear Research Advocate:
Anticipating the 2014 State of the Union address next Tuesday evening, I have been searching for the right descriptor — the union is “in a state of resignation”? “The state of the union is not as bad as it could be”? “The union is in a state that falls short of its potential”? “The Americans forming this union are in a state of disappointment regarding their elected leaders”? A headline from The Washington Post last week addresses the latter point: “Congratulations on your budget, Congress. America still hates you,” i.e. no uptick for those low ratings for congresspersons of either party! The president’s rating with the public is a bit better (though not high) as he takes the annual opportunity to discuss the nation’s progress relative to enduring objectives such as economic strength, robust national defense capability, a balanced budget and, implicitly, global leadership and influence. As we all know, the state of our nation’s science and technology enterprise intersects all of these objectives, but the odds are against that point being made. The pols don’t believe there are votes in talking about science, and this year is all about rounding up votes. Yet there are a number of reasons voters should question candidates about their position on research and innovation: because of the good jobs and revenue today; because our global competitiveness in export markets extends into the future; and because medical and human progress remains an enduring and defining contribution that our nation makes to its people and to the world. Continue reading →
As the year comes to an end, let’s revisit the top ten most popular Research!America blog posts in 2013 (based on page views) that highlighted the importance of making research for health a higher national priority. We’re thankful for our many outstanding guest bloggers including early career scientists, leaders of industry, academia, patient groups and scientific societies who strongly believe in the promise of scientific discovery and medical innovation to build healthier lives.
10) Millennials Move On
August 14: Guest blog post by Tyler Wiechman on why the millennial generation is leaving science, from his personal experience. “If funding was more available for these VITAL research programs, students of this generation would be much more optimistic about their personal future in clinical research and able to get into academia or the industry of their choice.” Read the post, here.
9) The Science Policy Group at the University of California, San Francisco
July 22: The Science Policy Group at UCSF speaks out about the “crisis situation” brought about by the sequester. “We have observed a number of our postdoctoral colleagues leave UCSF due to the budgetary constraints both they and their PIs were experiencing. The immediate consequences, such as sudden lay-offs and premature termination of promising research careers, are obviously tragic.” Read the post, here.
8) Research!America Hosts NTD Forum at Tulane University
May 17: Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) commonly associated with the developing world, have been identified in many parts of the country including Louisiana. Research!America hosted an NTDs event at the Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in New Orleans with health and policy experts. Read highlights of the event, here.
7) Research!America’s Inaugural Advocacy Academy
September 19: Highlights of the inaugural Advocacy Academy which brought 12 postdoctoral researchers from across the U.S. for a two-day advocacy training program in Washington, D.C. that culminated in Capitol Hill visits with their representatives. Read the post (and see photos), here.
6) Public Health Thank You Day, November 25
November 6: Every year, Research!America and other leading health organizations take time to recognize the public health professionals across the country who protect us from disease and injury. The 2013 Public Health Thank You Day blog post describes the round-the-clock activities to address major health threats and promote good health. Learn more about the initiative, here.
5) Neglected Tropical Disease Research in Louisiana: Saving Lives and Creating Jobs
April 24: Research!America produced two short compelling videos about neglected tropical diseases and patients with NTDs that were unveiled at the NTDs Louisiana event (see post #8). Watch the videos, here.
4) Top “disruptive technologies” that could revolutionize health care and research
May 30: Blog post about a McKinsey Global Institute’s report that identified 12 “disruptive technologies” that could be transformative for the U.S. economy. “It doesn’t take much imagination to see many of these technologies making an indelible mark on health care and public health.” Sound interesting? Read the post, here.
3) Announcing Research!America’s Inaugural Advocacy Academy
June 4: The third most popular post of 2013 was the announcement of the Research!America’s Inaugural Advocacy Academy which focused on engaging early-career scientists in research advocacy and science policy. The program is an opportunity for postdoctoral fellows to learn how to incorporate advocacy and effective communications into their role as a scientist. (see post #7). Take a look, here.
2) Cuts to NIH research squeezes young scientists out
July 25: The second most viewed; op-ed by Abigail Schindler, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-leader of the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy published in The Seattle Times. Abigail bemoaned the consequences of sequestration (across-the-board budgets cuts) to science and the careers of young scientists. Read more here.
1) Heroes for scientific knowledge
October 23: Our most popular post of the year! Benjamin Caballero MS, a PhD candidate at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine (one of the Research Matters Communications Workshop participants) wrote this entry about the importance of scientists communicating their research to the public and policy makers.
“Science is in need of heroes. It is important to realize that each and every one of us have a role and can become one. Inform yourself, ask questions to the experts and learn how your day-to-day life is benefited from the scientific endeavor. Be a part of human progress, become the hero science needs.”
Read the post, here.
Stay tuned for 2014!
Dear Research Advocate:
The end of the year is a good time to think ahead and consider our nation at the end of the decade; how will we fare in the world order? My letter this week to the editor of the New York Times highlights poll data indicating that Americans don’t believe the U.S. will be the world leader in science and technology by 2020. This data reflects opinions grounded in numerous media reports on China’s accomplishments and determination to lead the world in science. Chinese accomplishments in space of late and their plans for a space station in 2020 ought to be a 21st century “Sputnik moment” for the U.S. It should be a wake-up call to policy makers: get serious about fueling our nation’s underpowered research and education infrastructure if we expect to compete globally in the years ahead. As NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins noted in his Washington Post op-ed this week, we’re at a “critical juncture” in biomedical research. Do we pursue opportunities derived from recent medical breakthroughs or squander them with insufficient funding for research? Continue reading →
A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Call in Friday morning to help change the national conversation
Dear Research Advocate:
Research!America, in partnership with the American Society of Hematology, released a new poll on Tuesday, revealing strong feelings about the consequences of recent fiscal debacles. A majority (57%) of Americans, across party lines, believe that the government shutdown in October caused significant harm to programs like medical research, defense and education, programs that Americans value. It is not difficult to connect the dots between fiscal dysfunction and the future of our nation: More Americans than ever believe that our nation’s global leadership in science, technology and research will soon be a thing of the past,with 73% saying we will lose global leadership by 2020 — just six years from now. A plurality says China will surpass us by then. This perception is not far off base. China and other countries, including most recently Mexico, are making major commitments to their research and innovation infrastructure. They are determined to drive their economy and contribute to health and prosperity by following what was for years the leadership example set by the U.S.
Last month, following President Enrique Peña Nieto’s leadership, the Mexican Congress increased the budget for the primary national science and technology agency by 20% for 2014 and increased the nation’s overall science budget by 12%. Battelle predicts that China’s dramatic increases in federal research spending have positioned the nation to overtake the U.S. in total R&D investment within a few short years. It’s high time we match the bold visions of Mexico, China and many other nations. Continue reading →
Majority of Americans Believe Another Government Shutdown Likely in Coming Months; Last One Harmful to Medical Research
New National Poll Reveals Many Respondents Predict China will Surpass U.S.
in Science and Innovation by 2020
ALEXANDRIA, Va.—December 3, 2013—Nearly two-thirds (65%) of Americans say it’s likely there will be another government shutdown in the months ahead as Congress continues to debate deficit and budget issues, according to a new national public opinion poll commissioned by Research!America and the American Society of Hematology. This sentiment is shared across party affiliations: Democrats (66%), Republicans (65%) and Independents (65%). There is also consensus across party lines that government dysfunction has consequences. A majority of Americans (57%) say the shutdown in October caused significant harm to many government-funded programs including medical research, defense and education. Democrats (68%) and about half of Republicans (49%) and Independents (51%) agree.
On the topic of sequestration, a plurality (44%) says Congress must tackle tax and entitlement reform to reduce the deficit instead of continuing the 10 years of across-the-board cuts; another 16% say sequestration is not the right way to reduce the deficit. Less than a quarter (23%) believe the across-the-board cuts are a way of ensuring that many government programs share the pain, and 17% say they’re not sure. In general, 62% of Americans say they’re concerned about the long-term effects of sequestration on advances in health care such as the development of new drugs and other treatments.
“Our poll demonstrates uneasiness among many Americans about the ramifications of deep spending cuts to programs that are critical to our health and well-being,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Americans want Congress to reach a budget deal that protects medical and health research, at least in part because of concern that our nation is at risk of losing our global leadership position in science and innovation.” Continue reading →
Op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in The Scientist.
On winning hearts, minds, and votes for science
In chartering the National Academy of Sciences 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln had the wisdom to establish a body that would provide scientific advice to the nation. Lincoln also had the wisdom to know that science doesn’t advance in a vacuum; he knew that there are political frames for science, which must serve—and be perceived to serve—the public’s interest. “Public sentiment is everything,” he said in 1858. “Without it, nothing can succeed; with it, nothing can fail.”
Public opinion polls document strong support for scientific research, including for basic research, but few Americans can name a living scientist or a place where research is conducted. Researchers, with careers on the line, can and must do a better job of articulating the value of science, because the virtual invisibility of our enterprise is not destined to activate general sentiment in our favor.
It’s tempting to think that biomedical science has “won” the hearts of the public, but that would be wrong. To say we have won the hearts of the public would be to imply that we have worked at it. In fact, researchers rarely work to win the hearts and minds of the public, rarely demonstrate accountability to the public in ways non-scientists can understand, and rarely talk about how science affects the quality of life of all Americans. To the contrary, researchers rely too much on the assumption of unspoken alignment, and—what’s worse—when questions arise, are quick to marginalize and malign those who don’t immediately agree. And even if we stipulate that we have mostly “won the hearts” of the public, it’s pretty clear that we haven’t won the minds of those who are making decisions about the future of the scientific enterprise in this country. And win votes we must if we are to assure that American preeminence in science continues. The challenge of winning hearts, minds, and votes is a collective task, and it is high time we embrace it. Continue reading →
Letter to the editor by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
By visiting a University of Pennsylvania research facility last week, Sen. Bob Casey (D., Pa.) underscored his commitment to making research and innovation an immutable national priority (“Scientists reeling from budget cuts,” Oct. 24). Adequately supported, research will allow us to overcome major health threats and drive the economy.
Americans have taken notice that research support is waning and, in addition, say they are concerned that officials in Washington are not paying enough attention to deadly diseases, polling done for our nonprofit advocacy alliance, Research!America, shows. If elected officials aren’t paying attention, who will lead the charge to assure robust funding for research now and in the future? Too many lives hang in the balance if we take medical progress for granted. Cures and treatments for deadly and disabling diseases can’t wait out nine more years of sequestration.