Tag Archives: AAAS

Statement from Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on Hon. Rush Holt named AAAS CEO

November 18, 2014

We extend warmest congratulations to Congressman Rush D. Holt, Ph.D., on the announcement of his new position as chief executive officer of The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and executive publisher of Science family of journals. As a trained physicist, Representative Holt leveraged his scientific understanding to propel and enact policies that have contributed significantly to improving our nation’s health and economic security. During his distinguished tenure in Congress, he worked tirelessly to lift the ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research and helped enact the America COMPETES Act to strengthen investments in research and development. Representative Holt recognizes the value of inspiring the next generation of scientists, helping to restore investments in the Department of Education’s Mathematics and Science Partnerships program. His passion for science and commendable track record make him an exceptionally fine choice to lead one of the nation’s most highly-regarded and well-respected scientific organizations. We look forward to working closely with Representative Holt to build a deeper appreciation for science among policymakers and the general public. Outgoing AAAS CEO and Research!America board member, Alan Leshner, Ph.D., has been an outstanding leader and we are confident he will continue to be a prominent voice in science advocacy.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Finally, tax policy is on the agenda

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!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dispelling a Few Myths

Dear Research Advocate:

Myth #1: Congress doesn’t pay attention during the August recess. Not true! Many town hall meetings are planned. Since the debt ceiling and appropriations negotiations are coming up in September, the August recess is actually a very important time for advocacy. Use this month to drive the point home that medical research should not be subjected to budget cuts by attending a town hall meeting, meeting with district staff and participating in our social media campaign, #curesnotcuts. Click here for sample messages, or draw from a recent op-ed penned by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair. The op-ed ran in several McClatchy-Tribune newspapers across the country last weekend. In it, he highlights the dangers that indiscriminate budget cuts pose to our medical and health research ecosystem.

Myth #2: It makes no difference when scientists speak out. On the contrary, one of the most effective strategies for promoting and protecting research is public engagement by scientists. It may seem like a waste of time or an unjustifiable obligation, but if scientists don’t speak up about their work, the funding that allows that work may evaporate. In a recent entry on his website, David Eagleman, a PhD researcher who recently received an award from the Society for Neuroscience, makes the case that the benefits (such as inspiring critical thinkers, stemming the flow of bad information, informing public policy and more) clearly outweigh the cost of time to engage in outreach and advocacy. For those ready to engage, some important points and valuable tips on how to communicate clearly and effectively were highlighted in yesterday’s Nature blog. Research!America Board member and AAAS CEO Alan Leshner is among the experts quoted. Continue reading →

Wallace Coulter Named First 2013 Recipient of Golden Goose Award

Dr. Wallace H. Coulter

Dr. Wallace H. Coulter

Coulter. Medical diagnostics.

See a link?

Coulter is one-half of Beckman Coulter, a Research!America member and a company that boasts nearly $6 billion in market capitalization. And that half of a multi-billion-dollar, multinational company began with research on paint for the U.S. Navy.

Such unlikely beginnings are the reason that Wallace Coulter has been named the first recipient of the Golden Goose Award for 2013. More winners will be named during the coming months.

The press release announcing the award explains Coulter’s research: In his time away from working for various electronics companies in the 1940s, Coulter built a lab in his garage and earned a grant from the Office of Naval Research. His task was to standardize the solid particles in the paint the Navy was using on its warships; but to do that, he first had to identify the reasons for inconsistencies among the paints.

He developed a device that would help him count the number of particles in a given volume of paint. Comparing different colors and batches would help him understand how to standardize. Continue reading →

Speak up or Watch out: Why medical research is at risk with Sequestration

It’s all over the news: The federal government is headed for significant, across-the-board budget cuts. Sequestration, or 10 years of automatic spending cuts, is a self-inflicted consequence passed by Congress, aimed to be a drastic outcome of failing to agree on a federal deficit-reduction package. Some Members of Congress argue that the sequester will not have a significant impact; they claim that the 5.1% cuts made in 2013 are only a drop in the bucket and there is no need to worry. However, the amount of money that the National Institutes of Health will lose, $1.56 billion, could fund the entire National Institute of Mental Health for more than a year. Cuts to the National Science Foundation total $359 million, more than 80% of the entire FY12 budget from NSF for homeland security research, including emergency planning and response. Research!America’s fact sheet on the effects of sequestration on these agencies, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control can be found here.

What will cuts to NIH, NSF and other agencies mean to biomedical and health research?

The NIH and NSF fund the basic science that fuels medical innovation and the health services research that enables smart policy making by all levels of government and by health care providers in support of high-quality health care delivery. The CDC funds an enormous range of research and public health services essential to the basic health and safety of Americans. Cuts to these agencies will compromise medical progress, stymie deficit reduction and render it more difficult to reinvigorate our economy. Cuts to public health funding, which is already inadequate, will degrade the foundation for safe and healthy communities across our nation. In short, these cuts will have dramatic impact on the health of our nation. Polls commissioned by Research!America consistently show that Americans highly value medical research and would even pay higher taxes if they knew the dollars would be devoted to that research. And we will never bend the health care cost curve without medical research to overcome disabling and costly conditions like Alzheimer’s and health services research to identify and evaluate viable and patient-sensitive cost savings strategies.

Finally, cuts to funding for biomedical and health research jeopardize the product of years of investment in our nation’s research capabilities. Those investments have produced the most sophisticated and productive medical research enterprise in the world. If funding declines, so will opportunities for young scientists. So will the capacity for our nation’s researchers to break new ground. So will the pipeline that fuels private sector innovation and jobs.

Think about it: Advances in ongoing and promising medical research will invariably be halted due to a lack of funds for these projects. One such project is ongoing research at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center in Washington, DC. There, researchers have worked for years on a preventative strategy for breast cancer focused on anti-estrogen treatment, and this work is ready to move into clinical trials. Without funding, this lifesaving research could be halted. A study recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that the frequency of metastatic breast cancer is on the rise in young women, a troubling trend in light of the threat to biomedical and health research funding.

So what can we do?

Contact your representatives in Congress and tell them how important it is to STOP sequestration! Click here to send an email now.

Sign the petition from AAAS to “Speak Up for Science.”

Share these resources with your professional network, and encourage your peers to speak up for research now!

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: When “kicking the can down the road” is better than the alternative

Dear Research Advocate,

Medical research advocates are being heard by those urging a halt to across-the-board budget cuts scheduled to go into effect March 1; your voices are being picked up in the media and echoed by decision makers. But as the deadline approaches, no progress has been made, with many Members of Congress insisting that sequestration go forward. As much as we, and the public at large, have railed against Congress when it “kicks the can down the road,” this is a time to call for just that! Delaying sequestration would create the opportunity (of course, not the promise) of a “grand bargain” before the continuing resolution ends March 27. (In order to avoid shutting down the government, Congress must act before that date. It may be another case of kick-the-can, extending funding until the end of the fiscal year on September 30.) What advocates must push for right now is to eliminate sequestration in favor of prioritization and pragmatism. Email your representatives, sign this petition from AAAS, and stop sequestration. When you reach out to your representatives, use our revised fact sheet and make sure to highlight how sequester would impact your priorities. For other examples, see the just-released fact sheet on sequestration from The Society for Women’s Health Research (SWHR) as well as Rep. Rosa DeLauro’s report.

The House subcommittee that sets funding levels for NIH, CDC and AHRQ wants to hear from you! On March 13, the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Subcommittee is holding a public witness hearing. Requests to testify are due by Monday, February 25. This is an excellent opportunity to make your voice heard loud and clear on Capitol Hill. (Members of Research!America, let us know if we can help draft a request letter!)

The New York Times reported Monday that the White House is planning to launch a decade-long project led by the NIH to unravel the core functions of the brain. NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins spoke about the Brain Activity Map on PBS’s Newshour last evening. Scientists are hoping that the project will provide $300 million in funding per year for a decade or more, with the end goal of understanding what goes wrong in the brain and how this leads to some of the most insidious and expensive diseases plaguing Americans and the world. The price tag is daunting, and it will be important to ensure this project doesn’t supplant other critical research, but there is no doubt that cracking the code to the numerous diseases of the brain would be a breathtaking advance in modern medicine.

Speaking of spectacular research, the richest research prize ever has been announced. The winners will receive a prize of $3 million each in recognition of their high impact research. This headline-grabbing announcement helps put faces on science and remind the country of its value, perhaps inspiring young Americans to pursue a career in research. But awards are not enough to stop the onslaught of growing public health threats like Alzheimer’s and other diseases, especially when many policy makers are prepared to allow sequestration to occur. We need to reinvest in our innovative capacity, not cut it off at a time of immense opportunity for health breakthroughs and research-driven economic growth.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Merry Cliftmas?

Dear Research Advocate,

Are we heading over the fiscal cliff? You have probably seen the several public opinion polls saying most Americans now think it’s inevitable. (“Merry Cliftmas,” says Jon Stewart.) Our latest polling tracks with that of others — and adds a timely insight. Just when one might least expect Americans to voluntarily increase what they owe to Uncle Sam, more than 50% say they would be willing to pay $1 more per week if they were sure the dollars would go to medical research. See this finding and more in a new poll we commissioned to take the pulse of Americans at this high-stakes time in our history.

We have been asking about willingness to pay more in taxes for years now, but it is particularly relevant now while elected officials are talking about tax reform and so many people are rethinking the role of government. We hope that advocates will use our poll data, emphasizing that Americans believe research is a part of the solution to containing health care costs and a significant driver to our economy.

You’ve heard about the impact of the fiscal cliff (and possible solutions to it) on NIH and other agencies that support research, but what about the impact on private sector innovation? Our VP for policy and programs, Ellie Dehoney, points out that cuts to Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement rates could create a disincentive for venture capitalists to invest in new medicines. Read the full article in Genetic Engineering & Biotechnology News. New investment in biotech is already down significantly from last year, a trend that does not bode well for patients waiting for innovative treatments.

According to a new brief from the Center for American Progress: “Our national investments in research and development as a percentage of discretionary public spending have fallen from a 17% high at the height of the space race in 1962 to about 9% today, reflecting a shift in priorities of our government.” That’s disturbing, the authors assert, since research and innovation are powerful economic drivers. Public sector funding is slipping in a key area just when we need it most. For more on how innovation powers the economy, see a new report from the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation: The 2012 State New Economy Index. Wherever your state ranks, its future economic success depends on robust investment now in the knowledge economy.

United Health Foundation and its partners have released the 23rd annual America’s Health Rankings — a wonderful resource that tracks key state health indicators across the nation, providing fuel for targeted public health strategies. Investing in research that will open more doors to prevention of obesity is just one of the answers to the call to action issued by the report and its accompanying release.

To help our federal leaders understand how very much is at stake right now, we must all get involved in illustrating the impact slashing research funding will have on individuals, families, careers and business. The AAAS has launched an initiative enabling you to submit a comment and/or a video about current threats to R&D funding, information that will then be used for advocacy. Please take a moment to add your voice!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

Images from Research!America’s Post-Election Briefing and Garfield Awards

Some group shots from yesterday’s events:

From left, Catherine Tucker, PhD; Research!America Board member Mark McClellan, MD, PhD; and Amalia Miller, PhD. Tucker and Miller are the recipients of the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award.

From left, Research!America Board member, Hon. Kweisi Mfume; Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley; National Journal Daily editor Matthew Cooper; and Research!America Chair Hon. John Edward Porter.

From left, Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley; National Journal Daily editor Matthew Cooper; Research!America Board member and chief executive officer of the American Association for the Advancement of Science Alan Leshner, PhD; and Research!America Chair John Edward Porter.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: From rhetoric to decision-making

Dear Research Advocate,

Nine times. That’s how often the word “research” was used in Monday’s third and final presidential debate. Clearly, both candidates recognize the importance of research and the role it plays in keeping our nation competitive. The election and decision-making around deficit reduction will put this rhetoric to the test. I was thankful for the opportunity to contribute to an article in Nature on the outlook for research and the candidates’ sometimes competing, sometimes intersecting visions for our nation. Many indicators point to the need for a “grand bargain”  to avoid the fiscal cliff we have talked so much about. Rumors have it that informal talks are taking place now and will go into high gear during the lame-duck session of Congress beginning November 13. This is a critical time, and I urge you to participate in the biomedical and health research community’s Week of Advocacy, taking place November 13-16. Check out our new webpage (www.saveresearch.org) and join us on a conference call this Monday, October 29 (for details, click here), to hear our plans and to brainstorm ideas on how to maximize our collective impact.

Money matters! Every year, we release our U.S. Investment Report, which tracks domestic spending – public, academic, industry, voluntary health organizations and philanthropic – on biomedical and health research. This year we not only look at the most recent investment numbers, but review the stakes going forward. On both fronts, the news is not good: 2011 saw a drop in overall investment – the first in a decade. And as you well know, the policy landscape is treacherous. Click here to view the report.

Every week, we are learning more about the local impact that sequestration could have on a sluggish economy. The state of Maryland, home to the NIH and Johns Hopkins University, is a powerhouse of research. It stands to lose a staggering $5.4 billion in federal funding under sequestration. That alarming statistic, which comes from a report produced by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), was highlighted in a story by the Baltimore Sun. Another article, in The Scientist, cites a United for Medical Research (UMR) report to highlight the impact on California, which stands to lose 33,000 jobs and $4.5 billion in economic activity if sequestration goes forward.

If we are to help steer our nation in the right direction, researchers must commit to political advocacy. That was the top-line message from a piece published by Dr. Thomas Pollard, professor of cell biology at Yale University, in the journal Cell. The article provides an excellent introduction to the advocacy landscape and ideas for getting more involved – I hope you will circulate this piece to as many researchers as you can!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley