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AARP criticizes – and yet benefits from – federally funded basic research

BETHESDA, Md., July 5, 2011 – The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is troubled by the latest attack on federally funded, peer-reviewed research grants as interest groups, for their own political gain, continue to characterize allocations for the scientific endeavor as wasteful Washington spending. 

On June 16, 2011, AARP, formerly known as the American Association of Retired Persons, released a new TV advertisement in its “Protect Seniors” campaign.  In the ad, a montage of actors tells viewers, “Instead of cutting waste, or closing tax loopholes, next month, Congress could cut a deal that cuts Medicare – even Social Security.”  The actors go on to decry specific examples of waste in Washington, lambasting federal funding for research projects such as “treadmills for shrimp” and “pickle technology.” 

ASBMB Director of Public Affairs Benjamin Corb said he understands the concerns of the AARP but that the advocacy group should rethink its targets.  “While the members of ASBMB – some of whom are AARP members as well – can understand the frustrations with the partisan political atmosphere and difficult fiscal environment, AARP’s attacks on groups like the National Science Foundation and National Institute of Food and Agriculture are simply misplaced,” Corb said. 

“Has AARP forgotten that NSF research led to the development of retinal implants – bringing vision back to more than 6 million Americans with retinal degenerative diseases?  Or tissue engineering that promotes bone growth in osteoporosis patients? Or improving a technician’s ability to read a mammogram to identify breast cancer at an earlier stage?” 

Emphasizing that support for scientific research ultimately yields benefits for the entire population, including Medicare recipients, Corb added that “instead of trying to micro-manage federal research agencies, we encourage the AARP to work with the scientific community to promote policies that will both improve human health and strengthen the American economy.” 

For more information about ASBMB’s advocacy efforts, contact Corb at bcorb@asbmb.org or 240-283-6625.               

About the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology   

The ASBMB is a nonprofit scientific and educational organization with more than 12,000 members worldwide. Most members teach and conduct research at colleges and universities. Others conduct research in various government laboratories, at nonprofit research institutions and in industry. The Society’s student members attend undergraduate or graduate institutions.  For more information about ASBMB, visit www.asbmb.org.