Tag Archives: scientists

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 →

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Statement by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley on the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act

Research!America applauds Senator Tom Harkin for taking bold, decisive action to heal fissures in our nation’s research pipeline with legislation that will strengthen the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget over the next six years. The Accelerate Biomedical Research Act will establish a pathway for sustained growth in the NIH budget. That budget has remained virtually stagnant over the last decade, jeopardizing promising research to combat disease and deflating the aspirations of early career scientists. NIH-funded research fuels the development of lifesaving therapies and treatments, and creates opportunities for public-private partnerships to better understand Alzheimer’s, cancer, heart disease and other major health threats here and abroad.

Senator Harkin and other congressional leaders recognize the potential of innovative research, but it is Senator Harkin who is taking the lead at a time when too many elected officials appear to have taken their eyes off the ball with our global leadership in science and technology at risk. China and other countries are aggressively increasing their research and development investments, luring scientists to their shores and challenging our dominance in medical research and innovation. According to polling commissioned by Research!America, a majority of Americans are skeptical that the U.S. will maintain its pre-eminence in science by the year 2020, and many policy experts agree. We urge Congress to support the Accelerate Biomedical Research Act to improve the health of Americans and ensure our global competitiveness.

Working Together for Research

By Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (h.c.), Chief Executive Officer, American Association for Cancer Research

fotiEach year, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) is pleased to support and highlight May as National Cancer Research Month. Throughout this special month, the AACR celebrates the accomplishments of the scientific community, advocates for funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and spotlights the need for continued improvements in patient care.

There’s no doubt that tremendous progress has been made against cancer. People who have been diagnosed with cancer are living longer today than ever before. The five-year survival rate among adults who have had cancer (all cancers combined) is about 68 percent—an increase of 19 percent since 1975. For all childhood cancers combined, the five-year survival rate is 83 percent, an increase of 30 percent since 1975.

But much remains to be done. Almost 1,600 people in the United States die from cancer every day. The toll in medical costs, lost productivity, and human suffering is immense and will in fact grow as the “baby boomer” generation gets older. Continue reading →

Measuring Economic Growth: R&D Investments

Guest blog post by the  American Chemical Society.

ACSHow has the Super Bowl’s economy-driving market impact grown thanks to scientific research?

Can a value be placed on innovation? What is the economic impact of science and technology research? What is the return on investment of research and development?

These questions were addressed at the January 30, 2014, American Chemical Society Science & the Congress briefing, Measuring Economic Growth: R&D Investments, held on Capitol Hill. Moderated by the National Academies’ Stephen Merrill, PhD, panelist Steve Landefeld, PhD, of the Bureau of Economic Analysis spoke on how R&D numbers are now included in gross domestic product reports. Carol Corrado, PhD, of The Conference Board and Georgetown University explained how this captures “intangible” portions of the economy.

Researchers and scientists discover knowledge. Inventors and engineers apply understanding into tangible products like medicines, cars and computer software. Artists use technology from pens and paints to instruments and computers to produce works of entertainment. R&D thus seeds economic impact.

To illustrate R&D’s economic impact, IBM Chief Economist Martin Fleming, PhD, remarked that the Super Bowl attracts more viewers thanks to computer science: The 1st down line appears as “paint” on the field and not moving players. This TV “magic” results from scientific research of light and information. Camera sensors turn images into data, the Internet exchanges big data packages, then computer graphics paint on the TV screen in real time [with credit to Hollywood for development]. That the Super Bowl’s marketing power translates into significant consumer spending is hard to deny.

Andrew Lo, PhD, of MIT’s Sloan School of Management shows how R&D numbers are candy to financial markets to drive investment decisions that provide for economy-growing business. He showed that billions of dollars put into scientific and medical research in the War on Cancer has led to lifesaving drugs. The lives saved by these drugs contribute trillions of dollars to the economy. When considering multi-billion dollar federal spending, Lo states, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure.”

ACS Science & the Congress Project holds briefings in Washington, DC, to educate and inform Members of Congress, their staffs and policy professionals on issues of science and technology. Previous installments are available at https://vimeo.com/channels/acssciconhill and https://vimeo.com/channels/sciencesocietychallenges. For more information on these events open to the public, contact science_congress@acs.org.

Opinion: Who We Work For

Op-ed by Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley published in The Scientist.

On winning hearts, minds, and votes for science

mary-woolley-webIn chartering the National Academy of Sciences 150 years ago, President Abraham Lincoln had the wisdom to establish a body that would provide scientific advice to the nation. Lincoln also had the wisdom to know that science doesn’t advance in a vacuum; he knew that there are political frames for science, which must serve—and be perceived to serve—the public’s interest. “Public sentiment is everything,” he said in 1858. “Without it, nothing can succeed; with it, nothing can fail.”

Public opinion polls document strong support for scientific research, including for basic research, but few Americans can name a living scientist or a place where research is conducted. Researchers, with careers on the line, can and must do a better job of articulating the value of science, because the virtual invisibility of our enterprise is not destined to activate general sentiment in our favor.

It’s tempting to think that biomedical science has “won” the hearts of the public, but that would be wrong. To say we have won the hearts of the public would be to imply that we have worked at it. In fact, researchers rarely work to win the hearts and minds of the public, rarely demonstrate accountability to the public in ways non-scientists can understand, and rarely talk about how science affects the quality of life of all Americans. To the contrary, researchers rely too much on the assumption of unspoken alignment, and—what’s worse—when questions arise, are quick to marginalize and malign those who don’t immediately agree. And even if we stipulate that we have mostly “won the hearts” of the public, it’s pretty clear that we haven’t won the minds of those who are making decisions about the future of the scientific enterprise in this country. And win votes we must if we are to assure that American preeminence in science continues. The challenge of winning hearts, minds, and votes is a collective task, and it is high time we embrace it. Continue reading →

Heroes for scientific knowledge

By Benjamin Caballero MS, PhD Candidate, Department of Developmental and Molecular Biology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine

caballeroAlthough science is perceived to have a fundamental role in addressing major problems of modern society — from climate change to global healthcare — the persistent dwindling of its funding by government agencies is a global trend.  It seems that the betterment of humankind is in jeopardy if this trend continues. But who is responsible for this? And more importantly, how can it be changed?

During the “Research Matters Communications Workshop for Early Career Scientists” at the George Washington University (GW) on October 9 organized by Research!America, Elsevier, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory,  Society for Neuroscience and GW, this was among many questions sought to be answered. Nearly 100 scientists in different career stages felt that it was us, scientists, responsible for why science is poorly understood by general audiences, hence it is not a priority when decisions to fund it are made by elected officials.  Scientists need to understand that the work performed cannot stay in laboratories. We need to cogently communicate our research, its importance and the implications that could have in the future to a broad public. We need to engage ourselves with society, advocacy and public outreach to explain why basic research is essential for the health and economic prosperity of every man, woman and child.  This will be the first crucial step for science to become more engaged in the public agenda and away from the ivory tower. Continue reading →

Budget sequester squeezes scientific research

Excerpt of an article by Ariana Eunjung Cha, published in the The Washington Post.

A year ago, Yuntao Wu was on a roll. The George Mason University researcher had just published a study hailed by the scientific press as “groundbreaking” that reveals why HIV targets only a specific kind of T-cell and, separately, found that a compound in soybeans seemed to have promise for inhibiting infection.

These days, Wu — one of thousands of scientists who lost his grant in the wake of sequester cuts — says he spends much of his time hunched over a desk asking various people and organizations for money.

The deep across-the-board cuts in government spending that took effect March 1 have sent shock waves through the nation’s research labs, delaying research and forcing layoffs.

The budget for the National Institutes of Health, the world’s largest funder of biomedical research, shrank 5.5 percent. The National Science Foundation budget was trimmed by 2.1 percent. Research funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, NASA, the defense and energy departments, and other parts of the government that conduct research also were cut significantly.

The sequester has affected all parts of the government but the impact has been especially painful to those in biomedical research, where federal investment in inflation-adjusted dollars has decreased every year since 2003.

Describing the scientific and medical community as “deeply demoralized,” NIH Director Francis Collins said in an interview that the budget cuts are delaying innovation and resulting in more American lives being lost. Continue reading →

The Seattle Forum on Science Ethics & Policy

Current FOSEP leaders: Renee Agatsuma, Cyan James, Bish Paul, Abigail G. Schindler, PhD, Corey Snelson, PhD, Christopher Terai. (James and Schindler are the main authors)

FOSEP logoFounded by Melanie Roberts in 2004, the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy (FOSEP) brings distinguished speakers to campus, builds community science literacy, and trains future leaders in science policy and advocacy. While there can be a dearth of opportunities at the university level to educate scientists in policy, advocacy, and communication, FOSEP aims to explore the intersection of science and society and to educate its members to become future leaders and innovators. At FOSEP we provide unique leadership opportunities for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows and support developing leaders in learning to better communicate advances in science and technology at the University of Washington and its partner institutions.

FOSEP-led discussions and lectures are a place where students, professionals, and community members of all levels can exchange views on issues as diverse as food policy, health care, and astronomy. Sequestration and continued budget cuts to federal research funding are an increasing concern among FOSEP participants. In response, we have held discussion groups regarding sequestration and science funding, have encouraged our 300+ members to contact their elected officials, and have allied FOSEP leaders with ASBMB and ASPET’s science policy and advocacy activities. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Dispelling a Few Myths

Dear Research Advocate:

Myth #1: Congress doesn’t pay attention during the August recess. Not true! Many town hall meetings are planned. Since the debt ceiling and appropriations negotiations are coming up in September, the August recess is actually a very important time for advocacy. Use this month to drive the point home that medical research should not be subjected to budget cuts by attending a town hall meeting, meeting with district staff and participating in our social media campaign, #curesnotcuts. Click here for sample messages, or draw from a recent op-ed penned by The Honorable John Edward Porter, Research!America chair. The op-ed ran in several McClatchy-Tribune newspapers across the country last weekend. In it, he highlights the dangers that indiscriminate budget cuts pose to our medical and health research ecosystem.

Myth #2: It makes no difference when scientists speak out. On the contrary, one of the most effective strategies for promoting and protecting research is public engagement by scientists. It may seem like a waste of time or an unjustifiable obligation, but if scientists don’t speak up about their work, the funding that allows that work may evaporate. In a recent entry on his website, David Eagleman, a PhD researcher who recently received an award from the Society for Neuroscience, makes the case that the benefits (such as inspiring critical thinkers, stemming the flow of bad information, informing public policy and more) clearly outweigh the cost of time to engage in outreach and advocacy. For those ready to engage, some important points and valuable tips on how to communicate clearly and effectively were highlighted in yesterday’s Nature blog. Research!America Board member and AAAS CEO Alan Leshner is among the experts quoted. Continue reading →

Cuts to NIH research squeezes young scientists out

Op-ed by Abigail Schindler, PhD, postdoctoral fellow at the University of Washington, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and co-leader of the Seattle Forum on Science Ethics and Policy published in The Seattle Times.

Abigail1When I think about not being a scientist anymore my heart hurts. But sadly, due to continued budget cuts to biomedical research, within the next few years that is most likely exactly what I will be — no longer a scientist, no longer a researcher searching for cures for disease.

And I am not alone. The number of young scientists being forced out of basic biomedical research in the United States is increasing at an alarming rate, and when this next generation of scientists leaves, it is not coming back.

Like me, these are early career scientists trained in the United States by U.S. tax dollars. We are scientists whose life goal has been to one day have our own research program at an academic institution committed to the search for breakthroughs and cures. Yet because of these budget cuts, catchphrases such as the “brain drain” are proving true. This is a bad omen for U.S. global leadership in biomedical research and the future health and wellness of our nation.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the nation’s premier biomedical research agency and the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world. Despite numerous public polls showing strong support among Americans for government funding of basic biomedical research, NIH’s budget was cut by $1.5 billion this year, or 5 percent, from $31 billion. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: “Ordinary Americans” at risk

Dear Research Advocate:

Yesterday, I joined Diane Rehm and other guests on her nationally syndicated radio program to discuss how sequestration impacts “ordinary Americans.” I was struck by how deep and distressing the damage is, in so many sectors, including but not limited to our own. Yet somehow the pain is not acute enough to force action.

What strikes me is how low our collective expectations have sunk when it comes to reinvigorating U.S. economic growth and prosperity. Our nation can do better; why don’t we maintain high expectations and hold our elected officials accountable for setting the policy stage to accomplish them? Policy makers should protect discretionary spending, make hard tax and entitlement reform decisions, and commit to policies that foster economic growth and societal (including health) progress. Part of that equation is ample, stable federal funding for medical research and policies that spur private sector medical innovation.

A glimmer of hope for policies creating such an environment can be seen in the Senate agricultural appropriations bill, which provides the FDA an increase of $96 million above FY13 and full access to collected user fees, previously subject to sequestration. The House also provides a modest increase for FDA. But don’t jump for joy; these increases still leave FDA worse off than FY12 and grossly underfunded. That we think of this as an increase is another example of lowered expectations. Meanwhile, the Senate 302(b) allocation levels for FY14 appropriations were adopted today. As expected, the Labor/H budget is significantly higher than the House’s. The Senate and House numbers are so far apart that reconciliation seems unlikely; the odds are still on flat funding minus sequestration. This is a low-expectation, low-outcome scenario, to be sure, and we should all fight against it. If we don’t, “ordinary Americans” will continue to suffer. Continue reading →

Your Data Matters. But So Does Your Story.


A tenet of Research!America’s advocacy has always been to implore scientists to tell their stories – not their data. Stories connect with other people, i.e., non-scientists, in a way that data cannot. A hundred heartfelt words do more than 100 million data points.

We know this because people, i.e., non-scientists, have told us. They have demonstrated it to us.

Alan Alda’s improv classes at Stony Brook University turned scientists into storytellers. We’ve heard from Members of Congress that stories keep them engaged. And if that’s not enough, we have an in-person demonstration from part of the crew at the traveling show/podcast called The Story Collider.

Ben Lillie, PhD, is the co-founder and director, and Erin Barker is the senior producer for the show that brings stories of science to the public. During a recent talk at TEDMED, first noted at io9.com last week, Lillie explains the stress and anxiety of earning a doctorate in theoretical physics from Stanford University – and it’s easy to imagine that stress, right? Continue reading →

Invest in America’s health

By Olivera J. Finn and Robert E. Schoen

An excerpt of an op-ed by Olivera J. Finn, PhD a distinguished professor and chair of immunology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Robert E. Schoen, MD, MPH professor of medicine and epidemiology at Pitt’s School of Medicine and Graduate School of Public Health published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Olivera J. Finn

Olivera J. Finn, PhD

Robert E. Schoen, MD, MPH

Robert E. Schoen, MD, MPH

Every day, physicians and scientists see the hope and promise that medical research brings to patients and families. For nearly 70 years, research funded by the National Institutes of Health has increased understanding of the causes of disease, contributed to longer life expectancy and improved the health and well-being of all Americans. With such a proud record of economic and social benefit, it is shocking that the House Appropriations Committee has proposed a drastic cut of nearly 20 percent to NIH funding in 2014. This outrageous proposal must be stopped.

Research is a dynamic process. New, life-improving advances are constantly within reach — but only with uninterrupted effort, commitment and funding. NIH Director Francis Collins says these cuts would be a “profound and devastating” blow at a time of unprecedented scientific opportunity. Continue reading →

On the role of scientists in advocacy: what interning at Research!America has taught me

By Megan Kane, PhD

Megan Kane

Megan Kane

As reported on Research!America’s blog and in numerous media channels, scientists are facing a difficult funding environment made even worse by sequestration. I am one of the members of the “entire generation of scientists at risk” that NIH Director Dr. Francis Collins and others have referenced in their warnings about the long-term harm of sequestration. Due to tightening budgets in research laboratories, I was forced to make a decision earlier this year: either delay my graduation from my doctoral program or look for immediate employment outside of a lab environment and possibly never get back to the bench.

A colleague pointed me to the advertisement for a communications internship with a non-profit: Research!America. I was in the midst of pondering alternative careers with my science background and was leaning towards science writing or communication. This communications internship seemed to be a tremendous opportunity to write about science and issues relevant to researchers and advocates in a non-technical format. And it has been an incredible experience. Continue reading →