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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 →

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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 →