Many of us are heading home for the holiday, which means food, fun, friends and family. Amidst the festivities, the conversations with Uncle Jim may transition to talk about current events and politics. To help you prepare for a hard-nosed debate, the Policy Blotter is here to suggest some talking points about how Congress influences science research conducted in the U.S.
Start with the appetizer:
- Explain that taxpayer dollars pay for the research that scientists across the U.S. are conducting in university laboratories.
- Explain the role of the federal science funding agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, in distributing federal money to fund science research. For example, of the NIH’s $29 billion budget, 7/8 funds research nationwide.
- Explain your research using non-scientific terms, and how your discoveries may one day help the average American.
Gorge on some turkey, rolls, and veggies:
- Basic scientific research is the foundation upon which many start-up companies are based. Without the discoveries made in government-funded labs, most drug companies would not exist and novel therapeutics for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer, would not be available for patient care.
- It is estimated that U.S. life sciences companies support more than 7 million jobs and account for $69 billion in U.S. economic activity.
- After seeing the NIH budget “double” in the late 90’s, scientists are facing a decade’s worth of flat budgets.
- Sequestration, or across-the-board budget cuts, worsens the already poor funding situation. Thus far, sequestration has resulted in 640 new NIH grant applications not being funded and 750 patients being turned away from clinical trials.
- Sequestration will come at the end of a decade that has seen the NIH budget fall by nearly 20 percent after inflation.
- If science funding continues on this downward trend, many labs will be shut down and years of research will be halted. This would mean a loss in economic investment, new ground-breaking discoveries, and future trainees in science and engineering.
Finish with pumpkin pie and whipped cream:
- Overturning sequestration is a real possibility. ASBMB and others have been very active over the last year educating Congress and scientists about the detrimental effects of sequestration.
- Budget negotiations are going to be the highly-discussed topic in Congress through the winter. Now is the time to spread the word about how Congress needs to start focusing on how to improve the economy by overturning sequestration.
- Encourage your friends and family to talk to their district Congressional members about the importance of science funding and ending sequestration. ASBMB is here to help with materials and talking points to bring along to the meetings.
Follow the Policy Blotter for new posts when we return from the holiday weekend. Happy Thanksgiving!