The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) has released a new report, Sustaining Discovery in Biological and Medical Sciences: A Framework for Discussion, detailing FASEB’s most recent analysis of the problems/issues facing the biomedical research enterprise.
From the executive summary: “FASEB….is concerned about the future of biological and medical research. Inconsistent investment policies, growing demands for research funding, and outdated policies are jeopardizing current and future progress in this important area of research. This is a serious problem for the nation, and requires immediate attention and action.”
Options for mitigating the multitude of problems discussed in the FASEB report include: 1: Maximize research funding; 2: Optimize funding mechanisms; and 3: Improve workforce utilization and training.
ScienceInsider writes, “Although it echoes previous reports, FASEB’s analysis breaks new ground for the society because it provides “a comprehensive view of the problem and recognizes that an increase in funding is not the way out of this dilemma,” says Howard Garrison, director of FASEB’s Office of Public Affairs. He said FASEB’s board now hopes to collect feedback from its membership.”
From the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Science Network Workshop Series:
101: Science & Policy Change: Using your expertise to influence the policy making process
Wednesday, September 10, 2014, 3:00 p.m. EDT
Presenters: Kate Cell, Senior Outreach Coordinator, UCS Climate and Energy Program; Dr. Dave Cooke, Vehicles Analyst, UCS Clean Vehicles Program; Dr. Daniel Pomeroy, AGU Congressional Science Fellow, Office of Senator Edward Markey
In today’s partisan political climate and noisy media landscape, science doesn’t always get an equal seat at the table in the policy making process. But for experts who want to make a difference on the issues they care about, there are opportunities to be a voice of influence and reason at all levels of policy making. This webinar is a guide for scientists and other experts who are interested in learning how they can use their expertise to make an impact on the policy process at the local, state, or national level. We will cover an approach to the theory of social change as it relates to the policy process, what it takes to create policy opportunities and how to identify them, strategies for working with coalitions, and advice on how to be a resource for decision makers. You’ll have the opportunity to ask questions to experts who have been involved in every step of the process, from organizing to coalition-building to advising a legislator.
ECS: So You Want to Work in Science Policy: What the experts wish they knew when they were students
Thursday, September 25, 2014, 3:00 p.m. EDT
Presenters: Christopher Boniface, UCS National Advisory Board member and molecular biologist; Emily Boniface, UCS National Advisory Board member and cell and molecular biologist; Andrew Rosenberg, Director, the Center for Science and Democracy at UCS
Whether you’re a grad student, post-doc, or early career scientist, if you’re interested in a career at the nexus of science and policy, it may be hard to know where to look for guidance. Join us for a Google+ Hangout with three scientists who have been in your shoes. Our experts will share tips on how to make the most of the resources that are available to you, and personal stories about what they wish they knew when they were finishing their degrees. During this interactive Hangout you’ll have plenty of time to ask your questions about building your network, finding a mentor, and where to look for resources and guidance as you take the next step in your career.
“Given that the budget allocated to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which funds the non-commercial, basic medical research required to develop new medical treatments and cures, is actually lower this year than it was in 2012, it has never been more important to fight for NIH funding. To help ensure that this unique federal agency receives the resources needed to support research at universities, hospitals and other research institutions across the country, Representatives Peter King (R-NY), Susan Davis (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), and David McKinley (R-WV) are circulating a sign-on letter in support of critically needed funding for NIH.”
In addition to the NIH budget being lower this year than in 2012, as a recent NatureEditorial points out, due to inflation and continued flat funding, the NIH’s budget has decreased by 10% in the last 10 years! Inflation for biomedical research is high, which means flat funding is actually a funding cut when inflation is taken into account. For example, while President Obama requested a 0.7% increase in his FY2015 budget for the NIH, inflation is projected to rise by 2.2% in 2014, translating into an actual 1.5% cut for NIH spending. Likewise, by FY2019 the Department of Health and Human Services is projecting biomedical inflation to be at 3.3%, which would mean Congress would have to approve at least a 3.3% budget increase just for the NIH’s purchasing power to remain flat!
While these numbers are quite disheartening, a bipartisan group of Congress members are now recognizing what flat funding for NIH actually means. The McKinley-Davis-Carson-King Letter for Medical Research currently being circulated reads, “As Members of Congress who value the critical role played by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in better health outcomes, job creation, education, and economic growth, we respectfully request that the NIH receives at least $32 billion for Fiscal Year (FY) 2015. We feel this amount is the minimum level of funding needed to reflect the rising costs associated with biomedical research. At a time of unprecedented scientific opportunity, it is critical that the United States make forward-thinking investments that promote medical breakthroughs as well as our international leadership in biomedical research.”
The McKinley-Davis-Carson-King Letter for Medical Research’s $32 billion ask for FY2015 would be an additional 5.5% budget increase over Obama’s request. Please consider contacting your US House of Representative to urge them to sign on to the letter.
Crossposted from SciencePolitics.
One of the greatest issues that scientists face during uncertain financial times and in advancing scientific understanding is determining how best to craft a message surrounding our work. Recently, Nature published a list of Twenty Tips for Interpreting Scientific Claims. Among the topics addressed are understanding the influence of chance and cause in variation, the understanding that correlation does not imply causation, and that feelings influence risk perception.
This list was published as guidance for policymakers to determine how best to interpret scientific claims, but as someone who has worked in laboratory screening and basic research for 15 years, these are also excellent reminders for guiding consumption of science and discovery of subjects outside of my area of expertise!
In response, Chris Tyler from The Guardian published a list of 20 things scientists should know about policy making. While this is specific for the UK and Parliament, the lessons here can be extrapolated to the US Congress. Among things scientists need to consider is the understanding that policy making is hard. I have done some work with policy-makers at the local level, and lobbying at the state and national level so I understand the push and pull of different views on a topic. It’s important to remember that not everyone will be happy with the outcome of a particular piece of legislation – and sometimes those people are the scientists who fight so hard to get legislation passed. For better or worse, public opinion does matter – a directive that tells us, as scientists, that we need to do better with making science approachable for everyone regardless of age and educational level. And at the very end of the day, politics and legislation boils down to money. If you can make a strong argument for how your policy initiative is not going to be a waste of time, and even better will be budget neutral, you’re sure to win hearts and minds.
These days it seems misunderstanding of science is not just restricted to policy makers, but is popping up all around us. This is made worse by groups using information to mislead the public, so I view these lists as excellent additions for anyone thinking about scientific discovery and how to make reasonable decisions about how to interpret scientific claims, and an excellent reminder of how policy making works.
Do you agree? What do you think is missing from these lists?
By: Corey Snelson
While Washington state aready has results on I-522, the Initiative to label GM foods, we still wanted to review the GM food panel a few weeks ago co-hosted by GPSS and FOSEP. (See the video link if you missed it).
We had a full house with a diverse representation from various University Departments, as well as people from the general public, reflecting the general passion about this issue. Paraphrasing one of our panelists, Flavia, GM food and issues surrounding it are convoluted with some of our deepest values. The panel had a goal of presenting a scientific discussion of genetic modification.
Update: Due to overwhelming negative (and quite angry) feedback received by the NIH from researchers across the country, the NIH released a “Revised Guidance on Resumption of NIH Extramural Activities Following the Recent Lapse in Appropriations” on Oct. 22, 2013. “Responding to input from applicants and reviewers, NIH has reevaluated the plans for rescheduling initial peer review meetings that were cancelled due to the government shutdown. NIH will now reschedule most of the 200+ missed peer review meetings so that most applications are able to be considered at January 2014 Council meetings.” This is wonderful news, and also a great example of how change can occur if enough people make their voices heard! From Dr. Sally Rockey’s blog: “My colleagues and I have heard from many of you since Friday, expressing significant concerns regarding delaying the review of applications to the May council round due to the Government shutdown. Applicants faced with a four month delay in a funding decision described serious consequences to their research programs. Additionally, many reviewers contacted us saying they are ready and willing to do anything to get these reviews done. In light of this feedback, our review staff have risen to the challenge, and will be working with reviewers to go the extra mile in exceptionally creative ways to reschedule as many of the 200+ missed October review meetings as possible.” Dr. Rockey is the NIH’s Deputy Director for Extramural Research.