Tag Archives: State of the Union

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Science and the State of the Union

Dear Research Advocate:

The State of the Union (SOTU) message is the annual opportunity for the President to outline his goals. Read my statement on it here. The SOTU historically provides a platform for the executive and legislative branches to identify commonalities, or sharpen differences. Topics in our sights on which Congress and the Administration can work together should they choose (meaning if their constituents demand it!) include innovation, research and development, and 21st century business success. In his speech and in a more detailed proposal, the President calls for a significant increase in funding for antibiotic discovery, Alzheimer’s research, the BRAIN Initiative and precision medicine. We urge the President and Congress to go further, working together to advance a strategic “moonshot” that re-energizes our national commitment to science, very much including basic science. Basic discovery is truly the foundation for all of our nation’s scientific advances. It’s pretty simple. As Dr. Roger Perlmutter, Executive Vice President at Merck, said this week in The New York Times: “Since we don’t know how the machine [the human body] works, we don’t know what to do when it breaks.”

Investment in basic and clinical research isn’t a “nice to have” proposition; it’s essential, leading as nothing else will, to good news for patients. An op-ed this week from Executive Vice Chancellor for Medical Affairs at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Research!America board member Dr. Larry Shapiro discusses the university’s work, funded by the federal government, which has led to advances in early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before symptoms are perceptible. Continue reading →

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 Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Americans say scientists aren’t communicating the impact of science

Dear Research Advocate:

Since President Obama declared 2014 as a “year of action” in his State of the Union address, several people have asked my view on how the president might advance science by executive order. Some options that come to mind: the president can (1) pump up the budget for NIH and other science agencies in his FY15 budget blueprint, scheduled for release in early March; (2) require an assessment of the impact on innovation, access and economic growth before making any administration-initiated cuts to drug, biologic or device reimbursement; and (3) designate a task force to formulate a national science strategy.

As several Members of Congress noted after the president’s address, American progress can’t be achieved solely by executive order. But rather than debating constitutional authority, it’s past time for the administration and Congress to work together to advance the priorities of the Americans who hired them. Congress is reportedly getting a jump-start on the FY15 appropriations process, so this is perfect timing for advocates to make the case for science funding levels that capitalize on the multi-faceted return on that investment. Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Breakthrough year?

Dear Research Advocate:

During his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama acknowledged the important role federally funded research plays in maintaining our global competitive edge and referenced the harm done to basic science by sequestration. Using the example of vaccines, he highlighted the importance of applied research, not only for our health but for the strength of our economy. See my statement about the address here. For the president to succeed in achieving a “breakthrough year for America” — a theme in his address that he is repeating in appearances across the nation — we urge him to put science and innovation at the forefront. I emphasized this in a letter we sent to him today.

During the State of the Union Congressional Debrief sponsored by The Atlantic and National Journal, I asked Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO-01) whether Congress would work with the president to undo the damage done to basic research. She said that she and others are working in a bipartisan way to assure that “America is the top nation for research in the world.” In an effort to combat the underfunding and underappreciation for federally funded science, our award-winning voter education initiative is launching shortly —  “Ask Your Candidates! Is Medical Progress a Priority?” It is critical that we all ask congressional candidates their views about assuring medical progress. I encourage you to participate in this important campaign as we enter the primary and then general election season.

Last week, the attention of the business community and other leaders was trained on Davos, Switzerland. Comments by Harvard economist Larry Summers at the World Economic Forum put U.S. underinvestment in medical progress into context. It’s a message worth repeating. “We are spending 25 [percent] less on research in the life sciences than we were five years ago. That is a deficit with huge human consequences. We have to move on from viewing deficits in terms of financial debt and focus on the deficits we are bequeathing to our children.”

Please join me in extending hearty congratulations to Research!America Chair and former Congressman John Edward Porter, who will receive the National Academy of Sciences’ most prestigious award, the Public Welfare Medal, at a ceremony this spring. This award, rarely given to a non-scientist, recognizes John for decades of advocacy on behalf of medical research and salutes his many accomplishments, including leadership in the Congress for medical and all scientific research, resulting in increased federal support of our nation’s science agencies.  He continues his leadership for science today!

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Are you satisfied with the State of the Union?

Dear Research Advocate:

Anticipating the 2014 State of the Union address next Tuesday evening, I have been searching for the right descriptor — the union is “in a state of resignation”? “The state of the union is not as bad as it could be”? “The union is in a state that falls short of its potential”? “The Americans forming this union are in a state of disappointment regarding their elected leaders”? A headline from The Washington Post last week addresses the latter point: “Congratulations on your budget, Congress. America still hates you,” i.e. no uptick for those low ratings for congresspersons of either party! The president’s rating with the public is a bit better (though not high) as he takes the annual opportunity to discuss the nation’s progress relative to enduring objectives such as economic strength, robust national defense capability, a balanced budget and, implicitly, global leadership and influence. As we all know, the state of our nation’s science and technology enterprise intersects all of these objectives, but the odds are against that point being made. The pols don’t believe there are votes in talking about science, and this year is all about rounding up votes. Yet there are a number of reasons voters should question candidates about their position on research and innovation: because of the good jobs and revenue today; because our global competitiveness in export markets extends into the future; and because medical and human progress remains an enduring and defining contribution that our nation makes to its people and to the world.  Continue reading →

President Obama announces BRAIN Initiative

President Barack Obama unveiled the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative on Tuesday. Described in a White House press release as one of the administration’s “Grand Challenges,” the goal of the initiative is to bring private and public sector research together to accelerate the development and application of technology and research into the function of complex neural networks. President Obama laid the ground work for today’s announcement during his State of the Union address in January, calling for an increased investment in research to achieve “a level of research and development not seen since the height of the space race.” Continue reading →

A Weekly Advocacy Message from Mary Woolley: Stop Sequestration, Take Action TODAY

Dear Research Advocate,

The debate over how to stop sequestration rages on, with the president weighing in this week even as some influential Members of Congress hold fast to a do-nothing strategy. Now it’s time for us all to speak out! Along with our partners, we are pulling out the stops TODAY with a coordinated Day of Action. In just 10 minutes you can call and email your representatives, as well as congressional leadership. Then ask everyone in your networks — professional and personal — to do the same. Use this link to find our e-action alert and click here for access to congressional emails and phone numbers. Congress pays attention to volumes of communication; act now to assure that they know that sequestration is no way to drive the economy or improve health.

Research!America Board members and former Congressmen John Porter and Kweisi Mfume are speaking out with a timely op-ed in The HillThe bottom line? Our nation must find its way to a fiscally sustainable path without sacrificing programs that improve our health and our economic prosperity. Former Governor John Engler, CEO of Business Roundtable (BRT), is calling for a pro-growth solution to the nation’s deficit; he points out that failure to act, and moving from one fiscal crisis to another, is counterproductive to sustained growth. A new report from BRT also speaks to the importance of our nation continuing to invest in STEM education and federal R&D.

Until the sequestration battle is resolved, likely at the 11th hour as usual, the media will be hungry for stories and examples of how sequestration could affect your community or your institutions. The Boston Globe has been providing ongoing coverage of impact in the greater Boston area, but media outlets in other parts of the country have yet to follow suit. It’s time to pitch your story to the media! Fortunately, compelling data and persuasive arguments for your op-ed, article or letter to the editor are easy to come by. United for Medical Research has just released a new report detailing what’s at stake: more than 20,000 jobs and $3 billion in economic output. Science Works for U.S. has put together an excellent video resource featuring research leaders from across the country speaking out about sequestration. See also this new report from the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, providing chapter and verse on how federal funding pays off.

Media attention to State of the Union address on February 12 provides another opportunity to emphasize sequestration’s potentially devastating impact on research. Join Research!America and the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network for a pre-SOTU Twitter chat on Monday, February 11, 1 to 2 p.m. ET. Visit @ResearchAmerica and @ACSCAN on Twitter to follow me and ACSCAN President Chris Hansen as we discuss important facts about sequestration and answer questions from participants. Use the hashtag #curesnotcuts in your tweets to join the conversation.

In case you missed it, Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) delivered a speech extolling the cost-controlling, as well as healing power, of research and called for cutting unnecessary red tape and for the repeal of the medical device tax. He described the federal government’s vital role in supporting basic medical research “appropriate.” But his remarks also called for “re-prioritizing” existing research spending, away from the social sciences. His remarks make it clear that advocates have our work cut out to connect the dots between social science research and controlling health care costs and saving lives.

Dr. Carolyn Clancy is stepping down from AHRQ after a distinguished 10-year record of improving health care delivery and ensuring that medical providers use up to date evidence-based practices. Read our press statement here. NSF Director Dr. Subra Suresh is also leaving his position. Dr. Suresh has been instrumental in fostering interdisciplinary collaborations throughout NSF and has worked to broaden participation in NSF-supported activities. You can read our press statement here. The Board of Research!America and I salute them for their outstanding public service, dedication to research and regular participation in our forums and other programs.

Sincerely,

Mary Woolley