Tag Archives: NSF

Tell Congress to Protect Medical and Health Research

To protect medical and health research, policy makers must eliminate sequestration. This remains Research!America’s top-line message, because it is sequestration that poses the greatest threat to all discretionary funding, including medical and health research conducted by NIH, CDC, FDA, NSF, AHRQ, DOD … and the list goes on. Advocates for medical and health research have made a huge impact over the years on funding and policies supportive of medical and health research, including playing a key role in reducing sequestration in 2013. We are asking you to weigh in again to help address sequestration in FY14 and FY15.

On Wednesday, the co-chairs of the committee charged with establishing an overall budget number for FY14 struck a deal that would establish this top-line number for both FY14 and FY15. Under this agreement, the sequestration cuts would be reduced by $50-$60 billion over the two-year period (a reduction of approximately 30% each year). While this modest reduction is less than hoped for, it does signal progress in the fight against sequestration. The task now is to assure this or a better deal passes both the House and Senate by December 13.

Please contact your representatives in Congress and urge them to vote in favor of a significant reduction in sequestration for FY14 and FY15 as a down payment on eliminating sequestration.

Take action now.

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It’s Time to Kick Sequestration to the Curb, Not Down the Road!

Urge your Members to protect medical research in upcoming Budget Conference Committee discussions

Sequestration’s arbitrary, across-the-board budget cuts to defense and non-defense spending have ravaged (and will continue to ravage) our research enterprise. The Budget Conference Committee, which was negotiated as part of reopening the government and preventing the U.S. from defaulting on debts, has an opportunity to replace sequestration as they develop their “long-term budget solution” by December 13. Sequestration is rendering it virtually impossible to maintain, much less increase the budgets of NIH, NSF, FDA, and CDC; if it is not stopped, their budgets will almost certainly decline for the next nine years, regardless of scientific opportunity, public health needs, or the preferences of Americans.  Funding cuts are stopping highly promising research in its tracks, squandering exciting new potential for treatments and cures for millions of Americans who are waiting for them.

Deficit reduction is important, but there are ways to achieve it that do not compromise American lives and American competitiveness. Arbitrary budget cuts that abandon medical research are wrong, and it’s time we kicked them to the curb and not down the road!

Take action now.

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Does Congress care if Nobel laureates of the future are put at risk?

Dear Research Advocate:

Like most Americans, we are alarmed by the ongoing government shutdown. Since the shutdown began, I have been in Georgia, Massachusetts and Ohio, speaking to business and academic leaders, state and local elected officials, philanthropic leaders, and working scientists. Everyone is outraged! Clearly, biomedical and health research — already compromised via sequestration — is not the only priority placed at risk by the impasse, but it is a critical one. From limiting access to clinical trials to undermining the ability to protect our food supply or investigate disease outbreaks, Americans are put at unnecessary risk when government employees are furloughed. We sent letters at the end of last week to Members of Congress and the president, urging action. We received responses from offices on both sides of the aisle: Many spoke passionately of their support for medical research; some hewed the party line; others lamented the budget impasse.

We are doing everything we can to keep the spotlight on the damage done to medical and health research when the government is shut down. When the public and its policy makers look back on the 2013 shutdown, we want them to remember which government functions most tellingly exemplified the cost — fiscal and societal — our nation incurs when the ability to function is derailed. Continue reading →

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 →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley- Warning: A government shutdown could be dangerous to your health

Dear Research Advocate:

Congress is on the brink of forcing a government shutdown on Tuesday, October 1. The implications of a shutdown are being subsumed by coverage of the political theater taking place. That is an injustice to Americans, who will be affected.  History is illustrative on this point.

During the 1995 and 1996 shutdowns, the NIH turned away new patients at the Clinical Center. Research studies housed at federal institutions ceased for the duration of the shutdown; researchers and leaders of industry, academia as well as in government agencies were unable to plan effectively, wasting time and money; the CDC was forced to stop disease surveillance programs, leaving us unacceptably vulnerable to emerging health threats and even pandemics; NSF could not release grant funds, resulting in a backlog of thousands of proposals, and those were just a few of numerous effects. Compounding the impact this time around is the costly toll that sequestration — on top of a decade of stagnant funding — has already taken in undermining the promise of research and innovation.

A recent New York Times op-ed by Thomas Friedman that was published in other newspapers underscored for me exactly how high the stakes are right now, and a Roll Call op-ed by Morton Kondracke provides additional context.  These two voices are prominent among this week’s sampling from an increasing number of informed individuals who are articulating what all the trends show:  the US is on a path to scientific, and potentially general, decline.  Add to this that the US is already ranked far below where we should and aspire to be in health indicators.  The question is:  why are these twin realities not receiving more attention from our elected officials? Too few Americans are demanding common sense from Washington; please raise your voice louder and longer, and do it now. Then urge everyone in your network to do the same.  Help us deliver this message to your members of Congress — we want #curesnotcuts! Continue reading →

Sequestration Forces Scientist To Euthanize His Genetically Modified Rabbits

Excerpt of an article published in The Huffington Post with first-hand accounts of how sequestration is impacting scientific research.

When The Huffington Post published an in-depth look at how budget cuts were affecting scientific research, we encouraged readers to offer reactions and share personal experiences.

Responses varied. There were some in the political world, primarily conservatives, who believed the issue was overblown. Funding for the National Institutes of Health, they noted, remained robust at $29 billion. And while the agency’s budget has decreased because of sequestration, it is still dramatically higher than it was under Bill Clinton, even when adjusted for inflation.

Reactions from academics and advocates were decidedly different. If anything, they thought the piece undersold the problem. Michael Lubell, Director of Public Affairs at the America Physical Society, one of the world’s largest organizations of physicists, noted that the NIH budget “stagnated and in purchasing power declined significantly” in the past few years. And it isn’t just the NIH feeling the pinch, he added. The Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and other government agencies are all slashing support for grants.

The most illustrative feedback, however, came from scientists, researchers and students from throughout the country who offered their own personal experiences with funding cuts, ranging from being forced to move their families to other countries to find work, to euthanizing the bunnies on which they’d been conducting experiments. Continue reading →

Join us (again!) for a Social Media Engagement Campaign for August Congressional Recess

The August congressional recess is here! Members of Congress are back home for the month long break. Now’s the time to speak up and urge policy makers to make research for health a higher national priority before they return to Capitol Hill and make decisions that will affect the health and prosperity of our nation. Join Research!America’s social media congressional recess campaign, Medical Research is at Risk. We Need Cures, Not Cuts! Customize your messages with statistics, patient/researcher stories, examples of innovative research, and descriptions of the impact of sequestration to help make research part of the national conversation on social media and beyond.

Follow us on Twitter @ResearchAmerica and use the hashtag #curesnotcuts. We will also be posting updates on our Facebook page and we encourage you to engage your representatives on social media channels as well.

Sample Twitter messages:

  • .@RepJohnDoe, sequestration=fewer doses of vaccines for the flu, measles, whooping cough & hepatitis. We need #curesnotcuts!
  • If we don’t act soon, #sequestration & additional cuts will endanger private sector innovation. #curesnotcuts  http://bit.ly/19dKiHZ
  • .@AHRQNews is the lead agency funding research that has reduced deadly hospital infections, which kill 100,000 each year. #curesnotcuts
  • Impact of #sequestration & other budget changes to @CDCgov = $40 million reduction in HIV prevention. #curesnotcuts http://1.usa.gov/18vU19O
  • If user fees paid by industry are subject to sequestration, @US_FDA’s budget will lose $85M, slowing access to breakthroughs. #curesnotcuts Continue reading →

Join us for a 4th of July Congressional Recess Social Media Engagement Week, July 1-5

U.S. Capitol

U.S. Capitol

As July 4th approaches, we have another opportunity to contact elected officials via social media during the Congressional recess (July 1 – 5) to drive home the message that medical innovation should be protected from further cuts.

Each day we will highlight a specific theme that can be customized with your statistics and patient/researcher stories. For example, on Wednesday we’ll focus on the drug discovery pipeline because basic research fuels private sector innovation which translates into new diagnostics, devices and products to improve the health of all Americans.

Follow us on Twitter @ResearchAmerica and use the hashtag #curesnotcuts to join in the national conversation. We will also be posting updates on our Facebook page and we encourage you to engage your representatives on Facebook and Twitter as well. Please take time out of your holiday weekend to help make medical and health research a higher national priority. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: #curesnotcuts

Dear Research Advocate:

I invite you to join me in speaking out during the Memorial Day congressional recess (May 27-31) as part of a social media campaign using the hashtag #curesnotcuts. Our goal is to continue to position research and innovation to improve health where it belongs: as a fundamental national priority that Americans can count on because their elected representatives rank it so highly. In our social media campaign, each day of the recess has a specific theme that can be customized with your information and patient/researcher stories. We have made it easy to get involved: click here to see sample social media messages, a list of selected congressional offices and their Twitter handles, and other resources. Also during Memorial Day recess: the first of several opportunities to participate in open meetings NIH is holding as planning of the BRAIN Initiative goes forward. You can participate in person or by phone. Learn more here.

The House Appropriations Committee has released its 302(b) allocations, setting funding levels for all 12 subcommittees. In a clear calculation that other appropriations bills can be passed at flat or even increased funding levels, one was singled out to absorb the lion’s share of the pain. The Labor-HHS subcommittee, which funds NIH, CDC and AHRQ, was allocated funding 18.6% below its final FY13 number — which already included the FY13 sequestration cut! It is estimated that if this allocation were signed into law, $5.38 billion would be cut from NIH and more than $1 billion from the CDC. While, at the end of the day, a cut of that magnitude is unlikely, the fact that it is even being suggested is of great concern. Think about the classic pattern of “splitting the difference” between House and Senate budgets: If an extremely low number is used by the House, any “compromise” could result in a very steep cut. Research!America is part of a large coalition of more than 900 health, education and workforce training organizations that has sent a letter expressing opposition to the proposed cuts. Please draw on the text to bang the drum loudly on this point to your elected officials! (The committee overseeing FDA fell within “standard” funding allocation levels, but “standard” does not mean adequate. Remember that all federal funding is subject to sequestration, and even without sequestration FDA is grossly underfunded today, given the breadth and complexity of its critical mission.) 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

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: What FAA furloughs mean for science…

Dear Research Advocate,

Media attention to the impact of sequestration-forced furloughs at the FAA, causing airport delays, has put both Congress and the administration on the defensive. Senate Majority Leader Reid has introduced legislation to delay sequestration until a broader deficit reduction solution can be negotiated, and there is a Republican-led effort to prevent the closure of towers and stop the furloughs. It is unclear where these efforts will lead, but there clearly is power in showcasing concrete damage to our citizenry and our economy as a way to illustrate the larger problem: Sequestration isn’t just a delayed flight issue, it is huge, strategic mistake for our nation. More of us must call on Congress to dispense with Band-Aid discussions and negotiate a deficit reduction solution that encompasses tax reform and entitlements and restores crucial discretionary funding to the many government functions that are being senselessly compromised by sequestration. Our imperative is to showcase research as a prime example of a public priority strangled by sequestration and tight caps on discretionary spending. We must work to put damage to medical and health research funding in the headlines and for advocates to be seen and heard on Capitol Hill and around the nation. A diversity of research advocacy organizations are working to initiate joint, in-district advocacy in selected districts during the Memorial Day recess. We urge your participation; the larger the numbers involved, the stronger the impact. Please click here to access an information form you can use to let us know if your organization may be able to participate. You can email the form to edehoney@researchamerica.org. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Champions at work, advocates at the ready

Dear Research Advocate,

Senators Casey (D-PA) and Burr (R-NC), recently honored with our Whitehead Award for Research Advocacy, have joined forces again with a bipartisan letter calling for a strong commitment to NIH funding in FY 14. Please take a moment now to urge your senators to sign on to this letter. And say thank you to Senators Burr and Casey for being champions for research!

In past letters, I’ve written about attempts by Congress to micromanage and in some cases, attack critical components of our nation’s research portfolio. The social sciences have been targeted time and time again despite the immense value of these programs and the return on investment they represent. In response, the NSF has released a report, “How Social, Behavioral, and Economic Research Addresses National Challenges.” It will prove useful in your advocacy for these important avenues of research. Next week, COSSA invites you to a briefing on the role social sciences play in improving our response to national disasters – a topic that seems more relevant than ever in light of recent events.

Meanwhile, there has been yet another blow to our nation’s public health capacity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which has recently been in the news as a first responder to the emergence in China of a human strain of a potentially deadly flu previously found only in animals, reportedly received another fiscal year 2013 funding cut. This $374 million cut, the result of a decision by the Administration to execute a shift in funding away from the Prevention and Public Health Fund, is just the most recent of a series of devastating budget cuts to CDC, an agency with a broad and important mission held back by a tiny budget. The nation at large won’t notice the diminution of CDC until the next public health disaster strikes home; and by then, it could be too late. For more information and suggestions for advocacy, contact the Campaign for Public Health Foundation. Continue reading →

Health Economics Research: where social and medical sciences meet

How much financial benefit do we reap from biomedical research? What are the economic gains that result from introduction of new medications, changes to personal health behavior or reworking the Medicare and Medicaid health systems? These and other questions were discussed at a recent Capitol Hill briefing on health economics research co-sponsored by Academy Health, Research!America and other organizations. In an era of skyrocketing medical costs, this type of research can provide vital information to policy makers and health care providers to reign in the costs of healthcare without compromising the quality of patient care. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: A thorn-laden rose

Dear Research Advocate,

The President’s budget is out and it’s a mixed bag. First, the good news. NSF was given a significant funding boost, $593M over 2012 levels, NIH funding was increased by $470M, and AHRQ, via budget trade-offs, looks to have been boosted by $64M. The increases are from FY12 to FY14, since the President’s budget replaces sequestration in a different way than either Congressional body (see more below). The not so good news in the President’s budget is that other health research agencies did not fare well. The CDC budget was cut deeply, especially prevention programs. FDA was essentially flat -funded. And entitlement-reform may pose a challenge to innovation.

The different ways the three budgets, President, Senate and House, deal with sequestration is symptomatic of the continuing failure to reach agreement on anything resembling comprehensive legislation, including so-called “grand bargains.” The fact that there is so much attention to medical research in the President’s budget, as well as on the floor of the Senate recently, and from a number of Members of Congress, speaks to the progress the research advocacy community is making in bringing medical research to the forefront. But success to date has not diminished the need for heightened advocacy for public health and social sciences research, nor the imperative of carefully evaluating the full consequences of changes to entitlements. The three budgets deal with entitlements in different ways, but with similar ill-effect when it comes to innovation. There is no question that we need tax and entitlement reform, and no question that sequestration must be eliminated; however, we cannot thrive as a nation or succeed at deficit reduction if entitlement reforms come at the expense of private sector innovation.  See our statement on the President’s budget here.

Speaking of social science research — so clearly under fire —  it is not too late to RSVP to a Capitol Hill briefing we are co-hosting tomorrow on economic research. There is a terrific lineup of speakers.

I know many of you attended the Rally for Medical Research on Monday here in Washington,  a coalition effort led by the AACR. Thousands of like-minded research advocates and a wonderful array of speakers, including our board chair, The Honorable John Porter, gathered to crank up the volume for research. In his remarks, Mr. Porter urged advocates to get fighting mad or we risk continued cuts from Congress. Review his remarks here; then, take a moment to participate in the Rally’s on-going text messaging campaign to urge Congress to assign a high priority to medical research. You can view press coverage of the event and the full list of speakers. During the event, social media attention was strong — messaging trended #2 globally on Twitter.  That’s the level of volume and attention we must continue to maintain if we want to see a happy ending to budget negotiations.  Please do your part!

More than 50 Nobel laureates are doing their part; they have joined forces to send a letter to Congress urging them to fund, rather than freeze or cut, research and development. In the letter, the Laureates cite their deep concern over reduced funding levels and the negative impact this will have on the next generation of scientists and ultimately, upon our nation’s economic vitality. It’s a good reminder that the full science community is in this battle together.  Take a moment now to echo their message by urging your representative to sign on the Markey-McKinley letter calling for a $1.5B boost to NIH funding. Click here to see the list of current signers. If your representative is on the list, be sure to thank them for standing up for research. If they haven’t signed-on yet, click here to send them a message.

On Monday, we released our latest national poll, focused on chronic pain and drug addiction. Surprisingly, only 18% of the poll respondents believe chronic pain is a major health problem, yet two-thirds know someone who has sought relief from chronic pain. Huge majorities are concerned about  abuse or misuse of prescription medications; the need for better understanding of how to address chronic pain literally cries out for research. You can view our media release here.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley