November 2010

The ASBMB PAAC

A look at the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Public Affairs Advisory Committee and what they are doing for you.


PAACThe American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Public Affairs Advisory Committee is one of the society’s standing committees. It is comprised of 15 elected members serving overlapping three-year terms, as well as the ASBMB public affairs staff. In the simplest terms, the PAAC’s goal is to enhance the ability of ASBMB members to do the innovative, ground-breaking research that will lead to a greater understanding of the molecular basis of life and ultimately improve the overall quality of life for society. To accomplish this goal, the PAAC utilizes the collective strength of the ASBMB community to embolden its ongoing advocacy efforts at the national, state and local levels. In other words, the PAAC works for you.

But how do we do this? PAAC members are in constant communication with each other, brainstorming and developing strategies on how best to advocate for increased support of biomedical research. We meet with members of Congress to lobby for sustained funding for federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, presenting sound arguments for the support of basic and translational research. We also visit the NIH campus several times a year to maintain a constant dialogue with institute directors and staff members, a dialogue we hope leads to increased support for individual investigators.

The committee also responds to current public controversies. Our response to the recent flare-up regarding stem cells (see the October issue of ASBMB Today) is a particularly poignant example. But our efforts are not limited to broad issues that dominate the national news; local issues also are on our radar. Often these issues end up with national implications. What might seem like an isolated local issue (e.g., board of education rulings on what ought to be in a high school science textbook) actually is a common problem in multiple communities throughout the country.

Other issues close to home include impending changes in the Medical College Admission Test and the United States Medical Licensing exams, conflict of interest, difficulties with animal rights activists, regulatory burden in the grant process, the role of internal review boards in both safety and in education and efforts to educate the public. As should be evident, the PAAC attempts to deal with a large number of issues, with the overarching theme of focusing on what we can do to ensure that current and future generations of scientists will be able to productively do research.

For more information

You can check out the advocacy resources on the public affairs website, where you also can find information on how to communicate directly with the PAAC, either through its members or by contacting the ASBMB public affairs staff — Benjamin Corb and Geoffrey Hunt.

BUT, this only is part of what the PAAC does. For all of these activities, input from the membership is needed. In plain language, this means you! After all, we are representing YOU in a variety of venues, and we very much value your input (to make sure we’re doing it right). Furthermore, your ideas and contributions are vital, as the 15-member committee likely has overlooked certain points of view.

So, what can you do? To start, become an active part of the process. Visit your local rotary club or church forum and tell folks what science really is and what its benefits can be. Visit your congressional representative at home, or set up a visit in Washington, D.C. during the 2011 ASBMB annual meeting.

The true strength of the society lies in the willingness of its members to participate in all facets of the scientific process, either as reviewers for the society’s journals, panel members for NIH study sections or as participants on the various ASBMB committees. The ASBMB PAAC is dedicated to representing the best interests of ASBMB members. It is through these efforts that we seek to make ASBMB your society, and to make it better every year.

William C. Merrick (wcm2@case.edu) is a professor of biochemistry at Case Western Reserve University. He also is chairman of the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee.


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