Tag Archives: science

Statement by Research!America president and CEO Mary Woolley on President Obama’s State of the Union Speech

In his State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the important role of research and innovation in growing a more prosperous and healthier nation. We’re excited about the launch of the Precision Medicine Initiative, which comes at a time when the challenge of conquering disease – all along the research spectrum, from discovery to translation to innovation and application – has never been more within our grasp. The inspiring story of William Elder, Jr. a medical school student and cystic fibrosis survivor, shows that science can deliver breakthroughs for patients with cystic fibrosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s and other diseases. The remarkable ability of our nation’s researchers to advance precision medicine to hone targeted treatments to improve individual patient outcomes is a compelling example of what can be accomplished with federal support. We’re getting closer and closer to achieving treatments that save time, save money and save lives because they are right the first time.

We can’t afford to ease up on our commitment to research, to assure we can put a whole range of diseases in the history books. A further reason, noted by the President, is that we need robust funding and policies to ensure we’re not behind the eight ball addressing domestic or global outbreaks like Ebola. Current funding levels for federal health agencies put researchers at an extreme disadvantage in pursuing studies that have the potential to cure disease and improve quality of life, and tax policies have stymied the development of new drugs. Policymakers must pivot from short-sighted thinking to formulating a long-term strategy that will bring new treatments across the finish line and spur growth in quality jobs. We think it’s past time to adopt a national strategy that will assure the U.S. retains its world leadership in science and innovation. A new Blue Ribbon Commission established by Congress to explore how science is perceived by the public will help stimulate a meaningful conversation with Americans about the societal and economic benefits of science. Continue reading →

A Wish List for the 114th Congress to Consider

By Caleph B. Wilson, Ph.D., a biomedical researcher at the University of Pennsylvania, logistics director of the National Science Policy Group, science communicator and STEM outreach advocate. Follow him on Twitter as @HeyDrWilson.

CalephWith the 114th Congress underway, the scientific community is looking forward to sharing new research breakthroughs and advocating for STEM during a series of congressional visits to Capitol Hill. In some instances, scientists and trainees will assist writing congressional briefs and give testimony to House and Senate committees on science, technology and health.

While Congress is considering science policy initiatives, positions and funding, there are a few things in the early-career scientist “wish list” that would make improvements and maintain the United States’ leading position in the scientific enterprise.

Throughout 2014, early-career scientists discussed specific issues in science policy groups, on social media and in articles that need to be addressed. These are some of the highlights of the conversations that have been put in a “Wish List” that hopefully Congress and policymakers will strongly consider.

  • National Science Foundation (NSF) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding that is predictable and keeps pace with inflation.

In the early 1990s, the NIH budget increased dramatically. However, over the last 10 years the NIH budget has flat-lined and even decreased at times. Unfortunately, the budget has not kept pace with inflation and rising costs of executing experiments. With changes in the economy and the sweeping budget cuts that came in with sequestration, government agencies, institutions and investigators can better plan with predictable budget appropriations that keep pace with scientific opportunity. Continue reading →

A Worthy New Year’s Resolution for the New Congress

Excerpt of an op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in the Huffington Post

mary-woolley-webAs the new Congress sets priorities, there are strong indications that the political climate is ripe for a surge in science. Bipartisan support for the 21st Century Cures Initiative, a comprehensive study of roadblocks to medical innovation and development of new disease therapies and treatments, is slated to move forward with draft legislation early next year. The measure is expected to address six areas of reform: integrating patients’ perspectives into the regulatory process, modernizing clinical trials, fostering the future of science, investing in advancing research, incentivizing the development of new drugs and devices for unmet medical needs and supporting digital medicine. Research stakeholders ranging from academia to industry to patient groups are working closely with the architects of this initiative, Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), to ensure the measure will remove barriers to getting new treatments and cures to patients more quickly.

There is also bipartisan support to reform tax legislation, a light or heavy lift depending on the tax package. All signs point to a repeal of the medical device tax in the new Congress but the jury is still out on whether the R&D tax credit can be made permanent and ultimately whether Congress is ready to tackle tax and entitlement reform overall. A favorable tax climate and strong investments in research are critical to improving our population’s health, boosting the economy and spurring further private sector innovation. With sustained federal funding at risk in a deficit reduction environment, alternative funding models to augment appropriations should be considered including but not limited to a mandatory trust fund dedicated to steady growth in research.

Read the full op-ed here

Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Confirmation of U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy

We applaud the confirmation of Dr. Vivek Murthy as U.S. surgeon general, a visionary thinker who is well-equipped to assume the role of America’s doctor. Throughout his career he has demonstrated a strong commitment to improving public health and unwillingness to accept the status quo: invaluable traits for such challenges as combating Ebola, the obesity epidemic, tobacco-related disease and other complex health issues that confront our nation. His determination to hit the ground running to address health disparities and reduce the stigma of mental health, with a clear understanding of the role of science and innovation in improving health outcomes, is also critically important to advancing public health. We look forward to working with Dr. Murthy to alleviate health threats that impact the health and well-being of all Americans.

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A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Talking about science at election time

Dear Research Advocate:

Ebola remains in the news. In the midst of the demoralizing finger pointing that seems to have taken the place of unity of mission that ought to characterize our nation, we are occasionally reminded that science is a problem solver. That’s a useful message to convey if we hope to keep the current politicization from worsening. But more of us have to speak out. Don’t stand on the sidelines when you could make a difference at this important time when people are paying much more attention to research than usual.

With the election only a little over a week away, take the time to ask candidates a question or two. Email or tweet in questions to debates and contact campaigns via social media. You might talk about Ebola, keeping your request in the moment.  But consider, too, that your candidates’ views on investing in medical progress may be influenced by yesterday’s news about the federal deficit.  The deficit is $483 billion, or 2.8 percent of GDP — its lowest level since 2007. Reasons cited include lower unemployment, higher tax revenues and stable government spending. Still, the budget gap forecast by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is expected to widen again as an aging population leads to more spending on Social Security and health care. It isn’t surprising that rising health care costs are cited as a force behind projected future deficits.  What is surprising is that our nation doesn’t have a plan to harness research as a means of responsibly reducing health spending. You will hear more from us about advocating for a national plan to address this and other solutions only science can provide.  Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Nobel prizes this year and in the future

Dear Research Advocate:

The 2014 Nobel Laureates will be announced next week. I hope you will consider amplifying the news via social media, op-eds and letters to the editor. The Nobel prize is so iconic that it provides an entrée to the broader public, one that can be used to connect the dots between the process of scientific discovery, the power of ingenuity, and the role of science in human progress. And if a winner has been funded by a U.S. science agency or company, all the better from an advocacy perspective!

In the years ahead, will the United States be home to more Nobel Laureates in the sciences, or will those honors go to scientists in countries that place a greater emphasis on research and innovation? This chart compares the R&D commitment of 19 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) nations, the metric being R&D as a percentage of GDP. The next time you are speaking with a member of Congress or his/her staff, you may want to mention that, in relative terms, Estonia assigns a higher priority to R&D than does the United States. Bravo to Estonia, but do we as a nation truly expect to remain a global powerhouse as we drain our own power source? Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Can we put a dent in the costly toll of suicide?

Dear Research Advocate: 
 
The loss of American Icon Robin Williams has riveted national attention on suicide, one of the 10 most common causes of death in the United States. Today, we are releasing our updated fact sheet on suicide that you can use when meeting with lawmakers and educating others about the impact research can have. Efforts to prevent suicide rightly draw on research findings. But progress has been painfully slow, stymied by serious gaps – partly due to severely limited funding – in the basic research base that precedes private sector development, and stymied by the equivalent of handcuffs placed on social science research.

The notion promulgated by some in the Congress that social sciences research doesn’t add enough value to merit federal funding is not just unfounded, it’s holding us back. Social sciences research saves lives. Case in point: behavioral research guided the development of a suicide intervention that was pilot tested in schools in Georgia and Connecticut and resulted in a 40% reduction in attempted suicides. It has since been implemented in schools across the country. This is just one example of social sciences research at work.

Research moves faster when patient advocates engage. This is the history of the nation’s commitment to defeating polio, to ramping up HIV/AIDS research, to prioritizing breast cancer research and women’s health research overall. Writing in the New Yorker last month, Seth Mnookin described the impact that “dedicated … well-informed families” can have in pushing progress. In his responsive letter to the editor, Peter L. Saltonstall, CEO of the National Organization for Rare Disorders, focused on the use of social media by patient groups to establish global registries, taking full advantage of abilities we didn’t have just a few years ago, and in so doing, saving lives. But there is another message here. The research community must work more closely with patient advocates in order to drive medical innovation. As one of the researchers in the Mnookin article said, “Gone are the days when we could just say, ‘We’re a cloistered community of researchers, and we alone know how to do this.’” Continue reading →

Communicating Your Science to the Non-Expert

On July 23, the Society for Neuroscience held  its first interactive webinar titled “Communicating Your Science to the Non-Expert.” During the webinar, speakers discussed how to effectively describe the health and economic impact of your research to a nonscientific audience including policymakers and the media. The presentation covers the basics of crafting an elevator speech and a question and answer session with scientists.

Watch the entire recording online or one chapter at a time:

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Member Spotlight: The American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education

By Ellen L. Woods, President of the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education

EWoodsThe American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) is a national nonprofit organization located in Arlington, VA. AFPE was founded in 1942 and is the oldest pharmacy foundation in the nation. Now for more than 70 years, AFPE has provided fellowships, scholarships and grants to help educate thousands of the very best and brightest students in the pharmaceutical sciences in preparation for distinguished careers.

AFPE fellows engage in important, cutting-edge drug research that affects health outcomes in areas across the spectrum, from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s and other life-threatening conditions to medication adherence, arthritis, pregnancy, aging and smoking cessation. This sort of research lays the foundation for the health of generations to come.

The nation’s promising pharmaceutical scientists and their academic institutions have been significantly impacted by the diminished funding from federal agencies. AFPE and other nonprofit organizations attempt to fill that void. Students enrolled in pre-doctoral, PharmD and undergraduate programs in pharmacy look to AFPE to support their research endeavors. When not burdened by continuously seeking funding, researchers can more effectively spend time on research and innovation to improve public health. The investments AFPE makes in U.S. schools of pharmacy ultimately have a positive impact on patient health and fuel the economy.

AFPE is grateful for the unified voice and the partnership that Research!America provides to ensure that investment in research continues to keep pace with the need.

Visit AFPE website for more information or follow/like us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Rallying more defenders of science

Dear Research Advocate:

In recognition of his many accomplishments as a champion for research, Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Edward Porter was honored by the National Academy of Sciences with the Public Welfare Medal, the Academy’s most prestigious award. This well-deserved acknowledgment of Porter’s tireless efforts to advance innovation and engage scientists in advocacy should motivate advocates to follow his lead and speak up about threats to our nation’s research ecosystem. Read our statement on the award ceremony here.

In his remarks, Mr. Porter noted that “political judgment should never be allowed to be substituted for scientific judgment.” This point was particularly well-timed as political attacks on science, particularly health services research, continue unabated.

A case study from Louisiana highlights the importance of health research in saving lives. Children’s Hospital in New Orleans had an outbreak of a deadly hospital-acquired infection, mucormycosis in 2008-09. In response to several outbreaks in recent years, the CDC launched new targeted initiatives to help hospitals and health departments share information with the public about hospital-acquired infections.This type of public health work, based on health services research findings, is critical to delivering high quality care, reducing medical errors and protecting patients. Continue reading →

Statement by Research!America Chief Operating Officer Michael Coburn on Public Welfare Medal Recipient John E. Porter

Research!America salutes Board of Directors Chair John Edward Porter, the 2014 recipient of the Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the Academy’s most prestigious award to honor the extraordinary use of science for the public good. Porter’s leadership in advocacy for research has strengthened our nation’s global competitiveness in science and technology and advanced medical innovation to new heights.  As chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Porter demonstrated tremendous foresight, calling on policymakers to support robust investments in research to improve quality of life, combat debilitating and deadly diseases and stimulate private section innovation. With the doubling of the National Institutes of Health budget (FY99 – FY03), Porter helped usher in a new era of improved health and longevity for all Americans. A lifelong public servant, Porter continues to champion biomedical research in the U.S., urging researchers, patients and the public at large to become stronger advocates for science.  As an inspirational force in the scientific community, Porter joins a distinguished group of medal recipients who leave a strong legacy for future generations.

 

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: First things first

Dear Research Advocate:

Washington isn’t ignoring research; far from it. Legislation was recently signed into law that allows appropriators to reallocate federal funding from the Republican and Democratic conventions to children’s health research; proposals have been introduced that could ultimately provide supplemental federal funding streams for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and several other health research programs; and some Members of Congress have once again launched an attack on the National Science Foundation, demonizing certain projects as a means of casting doubt on scientific freedom. Unless you’re playing Jeopardy!, answers do not precede questions. Science without freedom is not science. More on that in future letters.

Washington isn’t ignoring research, but the spotlight keeps missing the most pressing question: Will Congress do something now to accelerate medical progress, or will FY15 mark another year of neglect?

The NIH budget is lower today than it was in 2012. How have we fallen so far behind? Is it no longer important to conquer diseases that kill children, to do more for wounded warriors, to stop devastating conditions like Alzheimer’s and cancer? Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Research!America: Are we on the right path to protecting innovation?

Dear Research Advocate:

The budget and appropriations process typically reveals stark differences in funding priorities among the two parties. And this year is no exception. House Budget Committee Ranking Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-08) introduced the Democrats’ 10-year budget plan this week, which stands apart from the Republican proposal introduced by Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) most notably by ending sequestration. The Ryan budget, which won House approval today, is on its way to the Senate but is considered dead on arrival. Note that there’s still time to urge your Members of Congress to support medical and health research as this year’s appropriations process continues!

Teen “whiz kids” profiled in the latest issue of People magazine personify the future of science and medical innovation. Among them, Jack Andraka, who at age 15, created an affordable diagnostic test for pancreatic cancer that provides results in five minutes. He faced tremendous obstacles securing funding for his breakthrough innovation, a problem we see all too often in medical and health research. Such ingenuity propels our best and brightest to take risks but the funding to support their revolutionary ideas is not within their grasp.

Discussing these innovative projects with candidates and elected officials is key to elevating science and technology in the national conversation. In Research!America’s newly released poll data summary booklet, America Speaks, Volume 14, two-thirds of Americans (66%) say it’s important for candidates running for office to assign a high priority to funding medical research. Now is the time to ask future and returning Members of Congress if they believe that medical progress is a high national priority as part of our new national voter education initiative Ask Your Candidates!, which was formally launched this week. More details about America Speaks and the campaign can be found here. As the number of lawmakers with a background in science diminishes, it’s more important than ever to engage with your representatives. Michael S. Lubell writes in Roll Call that if we don’t elect a new scientist in the upcoming elections, it will mark a six-year decline from five to two Members of Congress who have a PhD in a natural science.

National Public Health Week, which wraps up tomorrow, provides another opportunity to engage policy makers about the benefits of health research. Don’t miss our recent blog post celebrating public health — an often underappreciated facet of our research ecosystem.

A new video highlighting backstage interviews with our 2014 Advocacy Award Winners illustrates the passion and drive of these extraordinary leaders who have contributed greatly to medical progress. We encourage you to nominate individuals and organizations whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research for the 2015 Advocacy Awards.

As you’re aware, members of Research!America’s management team will guest-author this letter in Mary’s absence. This week’s author is Research!America’s vice president of communications, Suzanne Ffolkes.

Sincerely,

Suzanne Ffolkes

Fighting for American Priorities

Tell the House to Reject the House Majority’s Budget Plan

In response to President Obama’s budget proposal, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI-01) released a budget plan titled, “The Path to Prosperity.” In this 10-year budget, Rep. Ryan proposes drastic cuts to the funding used to support medical progress among other national priorities. If this budget became law, it is a near certainty that our nation would lose its global lead in science and innovation, undermining jobs, sabotaging any progress toward economic stability, and stalling research that is addressing deadly and disabling health threats.  Research reduced cancer deaths among children by 2.1% per year from 1975 to 2010 — an overall decline of more than 50%. Is that going to be the end of the story when cancer and other childhood illnesses still take the lives of hundreds of thousands of children each year? When the incidence of Alzheimer’s is exploding, when chronic conditions are proliferating, when Parkinson’s and ALS and MS and thousands of other illnesses are causing untold suffering?  The Ryan budget laser focuses on one type of government spending, not even the largest or fastest-growing segment of the budget, and cuts it so deeply that it would place desperately needed medical progress on hold and our nation’s very future at risk. Send a message to your representative in the House and say NO to the Ryan budget.

Take action now!

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: We’re all in this together

Dear Research Advocate:

Fostering research and innovation has long been a multi-pronged effort — government, industry, academia, patients and patient organizations, foundations, and individual philanthropists — all working to advance research. The current interest shown by private philanthropists in advancing science is an echo of a phenomenon witnessed a century ago — and a sign of the opportunity available in some way to all of us to accelerate medical progress and maintain our nation’s competitive edge. As reported in a recent front page New York Times article, private donors are stepping up in a big way at a time when scientific opportunity has never been greater. But it is worth noting that even as philanthropic spending is surging, and while it has historically been an important, often energizing component of U.S. leadership in science, the most robust philanthropic support imaginable would still not be sufficient — nor is it intended to — replace federal support.

In tracking medical R&D spending across all sectors over time, Research!America’s annual investment reports not only support the NYT finding that philanthropic spending is growing, but place that spending in perspective. For example, in 2011, NIH spending dwarfed medical- and health-related philanthropic research spending by nearly $29 billion. That does not mean philanthropic giving isn’t important; rather, it demonstrates that the magnitude of funding needed to drive medical progress is too large to rely on individual or foundation giving. Public and industry dollars are quite simply indispensable to the research pipeline. We call on every sector, every individual (including you billionaires out there!) to step up and increase support. We urge you to fund basic as well as translational research, to identify new approaches and new partnerships, to show us all how to take risks and demand accountability, and to work with and for the overall research enterprise. And — perhaps most important of all — commit to giving confidence to young scientists that their work is valued and will be sustained.

There’s no question about it: We all play a role in achieving better health and quality of life, very much including those who volunteer to participate in clinical trials. We are proud to spread the word about a new campaign initiated by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF). The “I’m In” campaign aims to increase diversity in clinical trials and give patients the opportunity to connect with trials in their communities. Research!America polling shows that while Americans are interested in clinical trials, levels of participation are low, especially among African-American, Asian and Hispanic populations. Advancing medical progress means participating! Our newly released America Speaks, Volume 14 poll data summary booklet includes relevant information on public attitudes about clinical trials.

One time-sensitive way you can exercise your responsibility for advancing medical progress is by asking your representatives in Washington to join the chorus of legislators who support strong, continued funding for research. Members of the House and Senate have the opportunity to share their priorities with the appropriations committees until April 4. Send a note to your representatives urging them to submit appropriations requests that support robust medical research funding in FY15.

Finally, I encourage you to review our just-released 2013 Annual Report, which thanks all our members and supporters — you! — for working with us to inform and engage policy makers, media and the public.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley