Category Archives: Scientific Integrity

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 →

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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 →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Winning Hearts and Minds and Votes

Dear Research Advocate:

It has been a week since the Budget Conference Committee’s first meeting. The next public meeting is scheduled for November 13. Staffs are at work, and various Members are talking. There are no concrete signs of progress. What I keep coming back to is the failure of our nation’s decision makers to recognize and act on the reality that the priorities of Americans are reflected in both discretionary and entitlement programs. The persistence of sequestration underscores Congress’ inability to make decisions and choose priorities. The sequestration era has run its course, dealing Congress record lows in terms of public support; it’s past time to end the era and move on.

Recently I shared my letter to the Budget Conference Committee; it argued for an end to sequestration, pointing out the importance of investing in medical research as a pragmatic strategy for decreasing the national debt and deficit. This week I followed up with a letter on the importance of health research, pointing out how it helps identify smart medical innovation and optimal health care financing and delivery. The letter showcases the essential role of health economics, health services, public health, behavioral and social science research in assuring quality medical innovation and smart health care delivery. We are concerned that if the research stakeholder community at large does not speak out for this critical research, it will be compromised or even defunded altogether. Please join us in raising your voice. Continue reading →

Opinion: Who We Work For

Op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in The Scientist.

On winning hearts, minds, and votes for science

mary-woolley-webIn 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 →

Research Matters Communications Workshop, October 9

Promoting Basic Research in a New Age of Communications: Challenges and Opportunities

REGISTER HERE.

Scientists, journalists and policy makers. What do they all have in common? They all are trained (in very different ways) to ask the hard questions while serving the public interest. Often the lines of communications between these three professions are weak or, sometimes, non-existent. A greater understanding between them is needed to demonstrate the value and the return on investment of basic biomedical research.

On October 9, 2013, join Research!America, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Elsevier, The George Washington University and the Society for Neuroscience for a workshop designed to enhance the ability of early-career scientists to effectively communicate their research to various audiences and become stronger advocates.

Plenary session speaker:

  • Christie Nicholson, lecturer at the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University.

Moderators:

  • Frank Sesno, director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at The George Washington University
  • Debra Lappin, JD, principal, FaegreBD Consulting and Research!America Board member

Panelists:

  • Cara Altimus, PhD, executive board member, Johns Hopkins Postdoc Association
  • Nick Bath, JD, senior health policy advisor, Senate HELP Committee
  • Patrick Carroll, legislative director, Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS)
  • Susan Heavey, health correspondent, Reuters
  • Patricia Knight, founder, Knight Capitol Consultants, LLC; former chief of staff, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT)
  • Jonathan Moreno, PhD, editor-in-chief, Science Progress blog; senior fellow, Center for American Progress
  • Nancy Shute, health and medicine reporter, NPR
  • Dan Smith, JD, principal, The Sheridan Group; founder and former president of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network

The program includes a plenary session by the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University; two panel discussions with leaders in science, health communications, journalism, public health and public policy; and a session with top Elsevier editors on techniques for getting published in scientific journals.

Register for half off the admission price now through Friday, September 27: $37.50 for participants affiliated with Research!America members and $75 for participants not affiliated with Research!America members. (If you’ve already registered, we will offer a partial refund.)

Registration deadline has been extended to Friday, September 27.

For more information, visit www.researchamerica.org/communicationsworkshop

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Cuts in research funding undermine medical innovation

Op-ed by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America Chair and former U.S. Representative (1980 – 2001) published in McClatchy-Tribune newspapers, including the Great Falls Tribune, News & Observer, Times Herald Record and Billings Gazette.

John Edward PorterThe health of Americans and future generations is at risk. This seems incredulous given our track record in medical discoveries that improved health care and saved lives over the years. But our nation’s research ecosystem is now in a precarious state as a result of federal policies and proposals that continue to undermine medical innovation.

Sequestration, the across-the-board spending cuts for federal agencies, is a self-inflicted wound on our country and the pain is acutely felt by patients who cannot afford unnecessary delays in the development of new therapies and cures for their illnesses.

In short, the entire country is hurting and as much as we would like to believe medical progress will continue unabated, we must accept the inevitable consequence of sequestration and other federal actions that muzzle research and innovation – needless deaths, economic decline and challenges to our global competitiveness.

The current political environment lends itself to ideological battles that ignore national priorities. Those battles are draining the budgets of federal agencies that are critical to the sustainment of basic research and private sector innovation. Medical research, which has received overwhelming bipartisan support on Capitol Hill, is now caught in the crossfire of extreme partisanship and illogical decision-making. Continue reading →

The Science Policy Group at the University of California, San Francisco

By Dai Horiuchi, PhD and Bradley Webb, PhD, co-leaders of the Science Advocacy Subgroup and organizing members of the Science Policy Group at the  University of California, San Francisco (a Research!America member).

UCSFFBThe Science Policy Group (SPG) at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) is determined to take advantage of this crisis situation brought about by the sequester to speak up for the future of academic biomedical science in America.  We’re composed of a dedicated group of life sciences graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Our primary mission is to educate ourselves as well as the general public about policy issues and to take actions for the advancement of science and human health.  The SPG is composed of five subgroups; Science Advocacy, Science Education, Science Outreach, Science Reform, and Health Care Reform. The Advocacy Subgroup was formed in response to the sequester, the across-the-board budget cut, which has significantly decreased scientific funding since it went into effect earlier this year. It appeared that only those PIs and postdoctoral scholars whose federal grant applications (i.e. RO1s, K-awards, etc) were under consideration were aware of the potential consequences of the sequester. However, a majority of trainees had no knowledge of what the sequester entailed. It was not until grant applicants were unusually delayed and an abnormal number of grants, scholarships and fellowships were denied funding that people started paying attention. Continue reading →

Your Data Matters. But So Does Your Story.


A tenet of Research!America’s advocacy has always been to implore scientists to tell their stories – not their data. Stories connect with other people, i.e., non-scientists, in a way that data cannot. A hundred heartfelt words do more than 100 million data points.

We know this because people, i.e., non-scientists, have told us. They have demonstrated it to us.

Alan Alda’s improv classes at Stony Brook University turned scientists into storytellers. We’ve heard from Members of Congress that stories keep them engaged. And if that’s not enough, we have an in-person demonstration from part of the crew at the traveling show/podcast called The Story Collider.

Ben Lillie, PhD, is the co-founder and director, and Erin Barker is the senior producer for the show that brings stories of science to the public. During a recent talk at TEDMED, first noted at io9.com last week, Lillie explains the stress and anxiety of earning a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University – and it’s easy to imagine that stress, right? Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What’s wrong with this picture?

Dear Research Advocate:

According to our new national public opinion poll on clinical trials and related topics, most Americans are willing to share their personal health data to advance research, and 72% would be willing to participate in a clinical trial if recommended by their doctor. This complements what we know from other polling, i.e. that Americans want research to proceed at a pace of scientific opportunity. Yet we continue to lose ground in the gridlocked political environment, which, by its inaction, is dashing the hopes of patients and families anxious for new therapies and cures. What’s wrong with this picture?

It isn’t as though research hasn’t yielded both societal and economic benefits! United for Medical Research (UMR) and Battelle Technology Partnership Practice have released a report on the economic and transformative impact of the Human Genome Project, timed as we celebrate the 10th anniversary of its completion. This visionary project has resulted in wildly successful public-private partnerships, more than 4.3 million job-years of supported employment, and nearly $1 trillion in total economic impact since 1988.

The goals of the BRAIN Initiative have been compared to those of the Human Genome Project. Breakthroughs are so desperately needed to overcome Alzheimer’s and a plethora of other serious illnesses. In a recent Bloomberg View article, columnist Al Hunt points out the folly of starving research while we are faced with such major health challenges. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The president delivers a charge to the science community

Dear Research Advocate,

President Obama spoke to the National Academies of Science on Monday. I commend his remarks to you. He charged the members of the Academy, and by extension the science community writ large, to engage at “the center and the heart of our public debate.” He said that IF scientists do so, the nation will be assured of continued prominence. IF is a tall order — it makes most scientists very uncomfortable, but it is essential that we get out of our comfort zone right now. The president didn’t pound his fist on the podium in stressing this, so I will. The science community simply cannot step away from the public and political fray right now; not if we want to see the end of sequestration and not if we want to hear no more talk, such as has become more serious this week, of upending peer review.

Draft legislation from Rep. Lamar Smith (R-TX), chair of the House Science Committee, would do just that. The bill in its current form would require the NSF director to certify that all grants meet certain criteria before providing funding for a project, effectively adding another layer of review for research projects and overriding current NSF guidelines. The committee has released a statement on the proposed legislation. You can view the legislation here and send your feedback to the committee using this link.

We continue to beat the drum in the media about the foolishness of sequestration, including in a Marketplace radio broadcast on NPR stations. Also this week on NPR, an interview with NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins highlighted sequestration’s impact on medical research and the challenging career pathway for young scientists. This is the time to accept the president’s charge and join in at the heart and center of the public dialogue — make a point, today, of reaching out to local media. Sequestration is going to stay in the news for awhile; science will not be part of the story unless the advocacy community speaks out.

Many of you have attended our annual Advocacy Awards dinner held in March each year. We are fast approaching the deadline for nominations for our next Advocacy Awards, which will mark our 25th anniversary celebration! Please take a moment to browse the categories and nominate an individual, or an organization, who should be recognized for outstanding advocacy. There are no Nobel Prizes for advocates; recognition by the Research!America alliance is the next best thing! Contact Barbara Love with any questions about the nominations process.

Next Thursday, May 9, Research!America is co-sponsoring a discussion on healthy aging across the lifespan. The event will feature a variety of speakers including Susan Dentzer, a Research!America Board member. I hope you can join us! You can find more information and RSVP here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A thorn-laden rose

Dear Research Advocate,

The President’s budget is out and it’s a mixed bag. First, the good news. NSF was given a significant funding boost, $593M over 2012 levels, NIH funding was increased by $470M, and AHRQ, via budget trade-offs, looks to have been boosted by $64M. The increases are from FY12 to FY14, since the President’s budget replaces sequestration in a different way than either Congressional body (see more below). The not so good news in the President’s budget is that other health research agencies did not fare well. The CDC budget was cut deeply, especially prevention programs. FDA was essentially flat -funded. And entitlement-reform may pose a challenge to innovation.

The different ways the three budgets, President, Senate and House, deal with sequestration is symptomatic of the continuing failure to reach agreement on anything resembling comprehensive legislation, including so-called “grand bargains.” The fact that there is so much attention to medical research in the President’s budget, as well as on the floor of the Senate recently, and from a number of Members of Congress, speaks to the progress the research advocacy community is making in bringing medical research to the forefront. But success to date has not diminished the need for heightened advocacy for public health and social sciences research, nor the imperative of carefully evaluating the full consequences of changes to entitlements. The three budgets deal with entitlements in different ways, but with similar ill-effect when it comes to innovation. There is no question that we need tax and entitlement reform, and no question that sequestration must be eliminated; however, we cannot thrive as a nation or succeed at deficit reduction if entitlement reforms come at the expense of private sector innovation.  See our statement on the President’s budget here.

Speaking of social science research — so clearly under fire —  it is not too late to RSVP to a Capitol Hill briefing we are co-hosting tomorrow on economic research. There is a terrific lineup of speakers.

I know many of you attended the Rally for Medical Research on Monday here in Washington,  a coalition effort led by the AACR. Thousands of like-minded research advocates and a wonderful array of speakers, including our board chair, The Honorable John Porter, gathered to crank up the volume for research. In his remarks, Mr. Porter urged advocates to get fighting mad or we risk continued cuts from Congress. Review his remarks here; then, take a moment to participate in the Rally’s on-going text messaging campaign to urge Congress to assign a high priority to medical research. You can view press coverage of the event and the full list of speakers. During the event, social media attention was strong — messaging trended #2 globally on Twitter.  That’s the level of volume and attention we must continue to maintain if we want to see a happy ending to budget negotiations.  Please do your part!

More than 50 Nobel laureates are doing their part; they have joined forces to send a letter to Congress urging them to fund, rather than freeze or cut, research and development. In the letter, the Laureates cite their deep concern over reduced funding levels and the negative impact this will have on the next generation of scientists and ultimately, upon our nation’s economic vitality. It’s a good reminder that the full science community is in this battle together.  Take a moment now to echo their message by urging your representative to sign on the Markey-McKinley letter calling for a $1.5B boost to NIH funding. Click here to see the list of current signers. If your representative is on the list, be sure to thank them for standing up for research. If they haven’t signed-on yet, click here to send them a message.

On Monday, we released our latest national poll, focused on chronic pain and drug addiction. Surprisingly, only 18% of the poll respondents believe chronic pain is a major health problem, yet two-thirds know someone who has sought relief from chronic pain. Huge majorities are concerned about  abuse or misuse of prescription medications; the need for better understanding of how to address chronic pain literally cries out for research. You can view our media release here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Nobel Prize Announcements

October 10, 2012

We congratulate Dr. Robert Lefkowitz and Dr. Brian Kobilka on the announcement of the Nobel Prize in chemistry for their groundbreaking work on protein receptors, paving the way for the development of new drugs to halt the rampage of disease. Patients benefit from unwavering commitment to putting research to work. Lefkowitz, an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and professor at Duke University Medical Center, and Kobilka of Stanford University School of Medicine, have demonstrated that scientific discovery is the result of painstaking work supported by both the public and private sector. Throughout their careers, both have received government funding for various studies that have culminated in this remarkable achievement. This is an apt illustration of the value of sustained public investment in science. Dr. Shinya Yamanaka of Gladstone Institutes, one of the winners of the Nobel Prize for medicine and physiology, was also supported by the National Institutes of Health. This week’s winners are among the many Nobel laureates whose incredible work was made possible by support from the American taxpayer. We must continue to assure our nation’s leadership in scientific discovery with a strong investment in research and innovation.