Tag Archives: Lamar Smith

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Risky business

Dear Research Advocate:

What does the current political impasse in Washington have in common with deadly or disabling diseases? They will not cure themselves, and the harm escalates until the “patient” gets expert treatment. There is no place for miracle cures or wishful thinking. The solution isn’t what a given individual or party wants it to be, it’s what solves the problem. Right now, it’s by no means clear what or who will solve the problems — which now include the debt ceiling as well as the lack of funding to run the government. Fasten your seat belts for more turbulence between now and October 17th.

You may have heard that the House passed a bill yesterday to fund NIH, along with several other stand-alone appropriation bills (funding it at an unacceptably low level, I might add — below FY12 levels). Beyond the fact that this piecemeal, slow-walking avoidance tactic of finding a solution to the government shutdown is dead on arrival in the Senate and the White House, this “Sophie’s Choice,” cherry-picking approach to better health has no place in a functioning research and innovation ecosystem, and we spoke out against it. That said, it was gratifying that NIH was singled out as publicly popular and good to see the possibility of new champions emerging who recognize the importance of NIH funding during the floor debate on the bill. But make no mistake, had we and other advocates supported this ill-conceived measure, we would have been supporting the decline of science in this nation. Continue reading →

Advertisements

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A bad year to have a good idea?

Dear Research Advocate,

“2013 is a bad year to have a good idea,” was the bleak statement Laura Niedernhofer, MD, PhD, made about the impact of sequestration in a recent FASEB report. None of us want this year, or this country, to be a bad starting point for good ideas … but that’s what’s at stake. Think about telling someone with a serious illness that this isn’t a good year, or a good decade, for research. Think about telling them that from here on out, it may always be a bad year for a good idea.

Is there hope for turning this around? We have bipartisan support and we have champions; that we need more is a reality, but by no means an impossibility. Cancer research advocates gathered last evening to honor Congresswoman DeLauro (D-CT-03) and Senator Shelby (R-AL). Several other Members of Congress gave inspiring remarks, with an emphasis on adopting a positive, can-do approach, focusing on the local impact of research and stressing the profound and enduring consequences of backtracking. They counseled advocates, “Don’t take no for an answer!” In yesterday’s NIH appropriations hearing, Chairwoman Mikulski (D-MD) vowed to “work her earrings off” to make sure the agency gets the funding it needs. Strong bipartisan support for research was the byword for the session. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Misleading titles, or misunderstanding of science, or both?

Dear Research Advocate,

House of Representatives Science Committee Chair Lamar Smith’s (R-TX) proposed legislation, the “High Quality Research Act,” would undermine, rather than achieve, “high quality” in research, since it would create several new hoops for approval of NSF-funded grants. These appear to be based on the mistaken idea that science follows a linear path to a single metric for success or failure. And the bill requires the NSF director to attest in advance to the success of each funded proposal! Letters penned by former NSF directors and National Science Board chairs and former NSF assistant directors warn of the “chilling and detrimental impact” this legislation could have on the current merit-based system. In order to rebuff this outright attack on science, many more advocates must weigh in. The Coalition for National Science Funding (CNSF) will send a letter addressing the concerns of shifting away from “scientific merit” as the ultimate criteria for determining which science to fund. If you are a part of an organization that would like to sign on to this letter, please contact Sam Rankin. Or write your own. In any case, join us in taking action!

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s (R-VA) new bill, H.R. 1724, known as the “Kids First Research Act of 2013,” aims to “eliminate taxpayer financing of presidential campaigns and party conventions and reprogram savings to provide for a 10-year pediatric research initiative …” The bill’s text would limit scientific freedom, as Section 4 is a ban on NIH-funded health economics research. Health economics research is crucial to efficient, effective health care and health care systems, and it also has a significant role to play in ensuring the efficiency and effectiveness of research itself. Especially if you perform, benefit from or use findings from health economics research, but also if you care about the future of science, please reach out to your elected officials to call for eliminating Section 4 of H.R. 1724. 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