Tag Archives: Arlen Specter

Why Scientists Should Embrace Political Advocacy

In an October article from Cell magazine (subscription required), Yale biologist Thomas D. Pollard, MD, explains his views on “why all scientists should feel obligated to do their part to support the community by advocating for the benefits of government investments in scientific research and training.”

Pollard illustrates how the political climate has changed in the past decade. No longer can scientists leave the advocacy to others in favor of lab work. That shortsightedness could have potentially disastrous effects on funding for a lab or institution.

The fact is that, as Pollard states, “weak tax revenues and growing deficits have led politicians to compromise funding for research in spite of the established benefit of basic research for stimulating economic growth.” The scientific community “must take responsibility to convince politicians that funding biomedical research will benefit not only human health, but also our economic well-being.”

Advocacy is particularly important due with government funding for scientific research in jeopardy with pending across-the-board budget cuts under sequestration. It is vital that scientists take the time to communicate with policy makers. In the past, Members of Congress such as Research!America Chair John E. Porter or the late Sen. Arlen Specter used their influence on Capitol Hill to champion funding for research. But it’s time for a new generation of politicians willing to speak on behalf of scientists.

Finally, Pollard notes several obligations of scientists which will enable successful advocacy both locally and in Washington. Those obligations include joining a professional society with an advocacy program and participating in their grassroots efforts. Scientists should also visit their representatives to explain how science is important to both individuals and communities at large. Finally, scientists should let their elected officials know about the funding of grant applications, whether by thanking them when a grant is funded or by explaining the impact of the lack of funds. These steps will help to promote science as a valuable cause for better health and economic prosperity.

Pollard’s article should serve as a wake-up call to scientists who believe that their funding will remain stable or increase without a significant effort on their part. Scientists must educate lawmakers about the benefits of biomedical and health research and step up efforts to find new champions for the research enterprise.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: This just in…

Dear Research Advocate,

If we cut back our investments in science and research, we will lose out on the companies and innovation that come with it. That was the message President Obama delivered Tuesday night during the second presidential debate. Governor Romney mentioned the wisdom of keeping STEM graduates in the U.S. by “stapling a green card” to their diplomas. In addition, Governor Romney responded to our Your Candidates – Your Health voter education initiative with a statement that stresses his commitment to ensuring government plays a role in supporting life sciences research and asserting that medical innovation must be a national priority. Please share both Governor Romney’s and President Obama’s responses with your networks and encourage other candidates to complete the questionnaire before Election Day.

“Are we too numb to care about the Nobel prizes in science?” That was one of the headlines of my op-ed in response to the Nobel Prize announcements, published in nine McClatchy-owned newspapers across the country to date, including the Sacramento Bee. Headlines assigned by other editors tell the story: “Invest in science? A no-brainer,” “Why won’t we make a commitment to science?”; “World-class investment brings world-class science,” and “Science still needs support.” I describe how science is being given short shrift by policy makers as unprecedented budget cuts loom. Click here to read the op-ed and see a full list of the papers that have run it — this is a made-to-order opportunity for you to submit a letter to the editor. Keep the momentum of our message going! For something fresh to use in your letter, cite new data from Pew Research indicating that, asked about ways to cut the nation’s deficit, 54% of Americans are opposed to reducing funding for scientific research.

Finally, I note with sadness the passing of Senator Arlen Specter. He will be sorely missed and long remembered for his steadfast championship of NIH. Research!America had the opportunity to honor him twice – in 2000 with the Whitehead Award and again in 2009 with our rarely given Legacy Award.  His is indeed a grand legacy of significance to the health and well-being of the American public and people everywhere.


Mary Woolley

Statement from Research!America Chair John Edward Porter and CEO Mary Woolley on Passing of Senator Arlen Specter

We extend our deepest condolences to Senator Arlen Specter’s family, friends and colleagues as they mourn the passing of a loved and respected statesman and a true champion of medical research.  Specter’s leadership in generating critical support for medical and health research is a testament to his dedication to improving the health of all Americans and securing our position as a global leader in science and innovation.  As a congressional leader, Specter played a pivotal role in the doubling of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over five years and two Administrations and in 2009 assured that funding for the NIH and other health agencies were included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  He was also a stalwart advocate for embryonic stem cell research and worked to secure U.S. funding for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.  Research!America was proud to honor Specter with our rarely-awarded Legacy Award in 2009 for his noteworthy contributions and the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy in 2000. His remarkable achievements as an advocate for scientific discovery will be long remembered and greatly appreciated by future generations.