Tag Archives: New York Times

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

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Resolved: Research for Health a Higher National Priority in 2014

Dear Research Advocate,

This is the time of year when many of us attempt to translate our successes, defeats, observations and unfulfilled goals into New Year’s resolutions. I have some thoughts about resolutions in the context of advocacy for research to improve health. I welcome your feedback as Research!America continues to fight for funding and a policy environment that propels medical and health progress forward.

1) We will not only push for pro-innovation policy making, we will push for policy making itself. In other words: leadership, bipartisanship and compromise. The recent bipartisan, bicameral budget action in Congress is a small step in the right direction, but it is just the beginning of a long journey. Without a clear vision of the future and a cooperative spirit across parties, across disciplines and across sectors, support for research will continue to stagnate.

2) We will not only fight to end sequestration and dispense with draconian budget caps, we will fight for tax and entitlement reform. Without the latter, some manner of assault on discretionary budget priorities is inevitable.

3) We will fight to ensure that the voices of Americans are heard when it comes to making research and innovation a higher priority. In launching our election-year voter education campaign, we will reach out to the hearts and minds of Americans nationwide, seeking media as well as policy maker and would-be policy maker attention to a topic that is taken too much for granted.

4) We will not lower our expectations. The budget compromise is a good thing, but the most essential thing is making research for health a much higher national priority. Other nations are doing this; why not the U.S.? We must not tiptoe around the truth: Our global leadership and competitiveness in the research arena is slipping away from us; young scientists crucial to future medical progress are leaving the profession (or moving to China); Americans are dying prematurely or living with chronic pain, severe mobility limitations and other profoundly challenging disabilities; and health care costs remain a difficult issue. Investing in an environment that empowers public and private sector funded research is the appropriate countermeasure to these grim realities; why is it being ignored? The most eye-opening report on the impending loss of U.S. global leadership that I have read of late is Michael Specter’s “Letter from Shenzhen” in the current New Yorker; it follows on my “Sputnik moment” LTE in The New York Times almost eerily, although this time it’s not about space science but the genome.

Our work plan for 2014 — the year Research!America marks as our 25th anniversary — is to work in close collaboration with our members and our colleagues in the advocacy community to build and execute strategies around these resolutions. Together, we will work to achieve higher funding for our federal health agencies; smart policies that empower, rather than impede, private sector innovators; and, most importantly, unleash the palpable potential for making unprecedented medical progress. Please join me in kicking off the new year by reaching out to policy makers, especially appropriators working against a tight deadline, with messages of resolve for 2014.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley