Over this past weekend, members of the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee flew into Washington DC for our semi-annual visits with the leadership of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) followed by our student and postdoc Hill Day.
On Monday, Sep. 10, members of the Public Affairs Advisory Committee (PAAC) conducted meetings with the leadership of a variety of institutes at NIH. Headlining our visits were meetings with Dr. Gary Gibbons, the newly appointed director of NHLBI, NIGMS acting director Dr. Judith Greenberg, and NINDS director Dr. Story Landis. Our conversations were highly productive and covered a variety of topics. Regarding sequestration, the leadership of each institute stated the uncertainty surrounding the Obama administration’s plans for these cuts has made their job of budgeting for FY13 quite difficult. Nevertheless, they were committed to funding as much extramural science as the budget would allow.
In addition to meetings on the NIH campus, four members of the PAAC Executive Committee traveled to downtown Washington to meet with Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP). This was our first meeting with Dr. Holdren and, by all accounts, it went very well. Dr. Holdren was very encouraging of our efforts to engage members of Congress in discussions about the benefits of research through our Hill Days and 100-Meeting Challenge.
On the evening of Sep. 10, PAAC members and the students and postdocs participating in the Hill Day came together for a brief reception to get acquainted, and ASBMB Public Affairs staff held a training session on how to conduct a meeting on the Hill. Afterwards, everyone was revved up and ready to advocate on behalf of the truly extraordinary things that researchers do on a daily basis.
On Tuesday, Sep. 11, ASBMB took over 30 people to the Capitol to conduct over 70 meetings with their representatives. Each group was able to explain to their elected representatives what NIH funding means for their job, the local economy, and the health of our nation. Furthermore, we left each office with information about how NIH funding benefits the state or district their member represents, and the potentially devastating effects of budget cuts. In all, we had meetings with representatives from 26 states that covered most of the country from Hawaii to Maine and Washington to Alabama effectively demonstrating that NIH funding is a national concern.