Tag Archives: Alan Leshner

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Promising process; disappointing progress

Dear Research Advocate:

The omnibus appropriations bill about to become law demonstrates that bipartisanship and pseudo-regular order is achievable. We won’t know for sure if we have true “regular order” until Congress proceeds through the FY15 appropriations process in a timely manner — something that hasn’t happened for many years. The importance of regular order is that the public’s interests are heard from in hearings, and every Member of Congress participates in priority-setting instead of only having the opportunity to cast a single up-or-down vote. Regular order is worth working toward, since at least one priority we all care about did not fare well in the omnibus.

The omnibus has failed to fund NIH at a level that fully reverses the impact of sequestration on the agency’s baseline funding level, much less establishes a growth trend that can fully unleash the potential inherent in the sequencing of the human genome and other research breakthroughs. As Drs. Paul Stoffels and Alan Leshner make crystal clear in an op-ed in Politico Magazine, we can’t settle for “better than sequestration.” If our nation wants to thrive, we need to grow our investment in science. Between 2010 and 2013, U.S. federal investments in science fell to less than 1% (.82%) of the economy. That’s the lowest it’s been in 50 years! As you know, this comes at a time when foreign nations are rapidly ramping up their R&D programs and taking a page from our playbook. Remember that global competitiveness in medical research is a pivotal determinant of our global economic competitiveness overall. We aren’t just talking about the future of our scientific enterprise, we are talking about the future of our economy. Are we truly willing to cede leadership in global R&D? (See also our statement cited in The Hill and other media outlets, as well as my interview today with UDC.) Continue reading →

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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 →

Canada’s Research Funding Also Facing Cut Backs

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

Alan I. Leshner, PhD

In a recent op-ed published in the Toronto Star Dr. Alan Leshner, Research!America board member, writes that federal deficits in the United States and Canada “pose a significant threat” to basic research.

He notes that “some policy-makers seem to value near-term, industry-focused science more highly.” But adds that basic science has larger potential payoffs than applied research. “The most well-known example of life-changing basic research is of course Sir Alexander Fleming’s accidental 1928 discovery of a mould (penicillin) that seemed to repel bacteria. German physicist Wilhelm Röntgen’s 19th century efforts to pass cathode rays through glass now allows doctors to see inside the human body without surgery, using X-rays. More recently, a $250,000 study on “the sex life of the screwworm” — a title that prompted the late U.S. senator William Proxmire to mock efforts to better understand a lethal livestock pest — has so far saved the U.S. cattle industry more than $20 billion.” Continue reading →

NIH Career Symposium educates young scientists on range of career opportunities and burgeoning responsibilities of scientists

Now, more than ever, young scientists are grappling with important career decisions. For newly minted PhDs, there are fewer and fewer academic faculty positions available. These coveted “tenure track” positions have been the “typical” career path for research scientists in a variety of biomedical fields. Yet in an environment with flat funded research budgets combined with sequestration, a decade of cuts, more scientists are pursuing ‘alternative’ careers.

This desire to learn about the diversity of career options for scientists prompted nearly 1,400 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other scientists-in-training to register for the recent Career Symposium hosted by the Office of Intramural Training and Education (OITE) at the National Institutes of Health on May 14. This was the 6th such symposium and it featured sessions on not only the traditional academic track—still a popular career path—but also industry, policy, communications, education and research career options for medical doctors as well. The event also included rapid “skills blitz” sessions on topics like the basics of job searches, resumes and interviewing skills. Continue reading →

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: Week of Advocacy Underway

Dear Research Advocate,

With a stellar team of advocates from across the research community, we have been blitzing Capitol Hill this week with our message that we need cures, not cuts. Research!America and our partners have participated in more than 60 meetings with Members of Congress, including key leadership and their staff. My thanks to the 140+ groups that signed on to our community letter to congressional leadership. Many partners have activated their grassroots to join the call Congress day, and there is still time to join the In-District Drop-In day (today) and a social media push on Friday. We also encourage you to keep up the drumbeat with emails and phone calls to Hill offices. Beltway media have taken notice of our ads and the coordinated activity, with articles appearing in The Hill and National Journal.  

Based on our meetings this week, the message is definitely getting through that across-the-board cuts or more stringent caps on discretionary spending would hurt our nation far more than help it. But it was also clear that continued, outspoken advocacy is crucial. No option is off the table, and that means we must keep making the case. Staffers told us that providing concrete examples to illustrate what’s at stake is crucial, and no community is better equipped to drive the point home than ours. We saw that yesterday, when, for example, leaders of the Society for Neuroscience gave concrete examples of research at risk, and when advocates from the Parkinson’s Action Network who are living with this incredibly challenging illness described what stalled progress means for them. I am certain – 100% certain – that their advocacy influenced influential people.

The need for many more of us to engage was the message in the lead editorial in Science I co-authored with Research!America Board member and CEO of AAAS, Dr. Alan Leshner. In the editorial, we urge scientists not to stand back, but to speak up for research and make it clear to Congress that “No Science = No Growth,” quoting the words of former NSF Director Neal Lane. Research!America Chair The Hon. John Porter penned a letter to the editor expanding on Lane’s recent op-ed in The New York Times, reminding readers that research dollars are distributed based on peer review to every state and nearly every congressional district in the country. He calls on the lame-duck Congress to overcome partisan divides and step up now to prioritize research.

This afternoon, we are holding our post-election forum and award ceremony for the 2012 Garfield Economic Impact Award at AAAS. We’ll hear from Research!America Chair John Porter, Congressman Mfume, Dr. Mark McClellan and Matthew Cooper of the National Journal Daily. We will be reviewing what we learned about areas of common ground in the Congress from responses to our voter education initiative, Your Candidates-Your Health, and discussing advocacy strategies going forward. View full event details here and join us if you are in DC.

I was saddened to learn of the death of former Congressman Joe Early (D-MA). Rep. Early served for nearly 20 years, championing funding for NIH on the Labor, Health and Human Services appropriations subcommittee, and at every other conceivable opportunity. He was an ardent supporter of Research!America in its start-up phase. We extend our sympathies to his family on their, and the nation’s, great loss.

Monday next week is Public Health Thank You Day, our annual salute to the unsung heroes of public health who keep us safe in so many ways. Please take a minute on Monday of Thanksgiving Week to do a shout-out to people you know who are making a big difference for health. Check out this link for details. And do enjoy Thanksgiving.  My letters will resume on Thursday, November 29.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: The $6 billion dollar election

Dear Research Advocate,

By far the most expensive, and arguably one of the most divisive, election seasons in history is behind us. A lot of money was spent to find out that Americans continue to hold divergent views on many issues. We heard very little about research during the election because, in most ways, it is not a divisive issue; support is both bipartisan and grounded in common sense. The problem is that it can be taken too much for granted. At a time when Americans are looking for an end to standoff politics and want action on things we can feel good about as a nation, prioritizing research for health can be the perfect healing issue — something we can all be proud of. But let’s be clear: Action to prioritize research will only happen if we speak out to put it in the spotlight as policy makers regroup to address the fiscal cliff. We need to convince policy makers that prioritizing research is the smart thing to do as well — smart for job creation and to drive the economy, smart for assuring our global competitiveness, smart for patients, and smart for maximizing innovations that will save lives and drive down the cost of health care.

We must unite and speak with one voice that we need cures, not cuts! If you are not already on board our week of advocacy November 12-16, I encourage you to add your organization to our list of partners and engage your networks to participate in the various strategies that are planned, including a call-in day, a day for visits to district offices, an email-in day, and a Hill day entailing visits to a number of DC offices. All these strategies are supported by an inside-the-Beltway advertising campaign designed to get maximum attention. Click here to see the latest schedule of events for the week ahead. If you would like to sign up for the Hill day, have other events that you would like to include in the calendar, or would like more information, contact Ellie Dehoney at edehoney@researchamerica.org. As an important part of this effort, we are circulating a sign-on letter urging Congress to prioritize research in a deal averting sequestration or any other plan for addressing the deficit. Read the full letter here, and contact Jordan Gates at jgates@researchamerica.org for an updated list of cosigners and/or to sign on. The deadline is fast approaching — be sure to sign today!

Post-election, it is instructive to take a look at the responses of various candidates who responded to Your Candidates–Your Health, our voter education initiative. I recommend taking a quick look at President Obama’s responses here, noting his commitment to doubling funding for federal research agencies. As a sampling of other responses take a look at those of Rep. Dr. Dan Benishek (R-MI), who held his seat, here. In Massachusetts, Joe Kennedy won a seat in the 4th District – judging from his responses here, he will be one of our new champions. Medical research champion Brian Bilbray (R-CA) is locked in a not-yet-called election in San Diego. For more on what this election means, be sure to attend our post-election event on November 15th.

I have had the chance to talk about the post-election prospects for research as they impact all the elements of the research enterprise on BioCentury This Week. This program can be viewed here. Maybe you will watch it with a copy of the latest (tomorrow’s) issue of Science magazine in hand. In the lead editorial, AAAS CEO Dr. Alan Leshner and I urge the science community — as individuals as well as through their institutions and associations — to speak out now to Congress or face the decline of research in this nation. This is not a time to hold back! As you reach out, make use of resources on the website for the Week of Advocacy, www.saveresearch.org, including op-ed and letter-to-the editor templates, sample tweets and a new fact sheet on the economic impact of NIH. There are also links to many extraordinary resources produced by FASEB, UMR, AAAS, Ad Hoc and many other organizations. We thank you all for uniting in saying to Congress and the administration: WE NEED CURES, NOT CUTS!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley