May 2010

PAAC Visits Hill, NIH in Busy but Productive Week


National Science Foundation Director Arden Bement and Daniel Weinreich at the Coalition for National Science Funding’s annual exhibition. Photo credit: David Scavone.

The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Public Affairs Advisory Committee’s spring meeting was held from April 11 to 14, in Washington, D.C. Attendees spent a day doing committee business and then two days doing advocacy on the Hill and information gathering at the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

There were 30 scheduled visits with members and staff in the both the House and Senate. Almost everyone on the PAAC met with his or her member of Congress and two senators (or staff representatives). We also met with several key committee staffers in both the House and Senate appropriations committees.

While most of the committee was walking the halls of Congress, four members spent a soggy day walking around the NIH campus, visiting with senior institute staff from the National Eye Institute, the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. This makes the total 13 institutes that the PAAC has visited over the past year. The committee hopes to meet with all the other NIH institute directors during the next year.

We encouraged the NIH to continue to provide robust support for investigator-initiated research. We also discussed the recently passed healthcare bill, specifically the “Cures Acceleration Network” discussed in the article on p. 6 of this issue.

Two members of the PAAC met with senior staff at the BIO Directorate at NSF, as well as with the director of legislative affairs. These meetings were productive and helpful, although there was a surprising lack of understanding of the amount of advocacy ASBMB has done for the NSF over the years.

ASBMB President Gregory Petsko’s testimony on the NSF budget for fiscal year 2011 went extremely well; U.S. Acting Subcommittee Chairman Mike Honda, D-Calif., spoke with Petsko for an extended period of time. He agreed that even though the President’s request for NSF was a good one this year (an 8 percent proposed increase), the NSF could use more money – our testimony characterized it as one of the most underfunded agencies in the Federal government.

Finally, the week’s events wrapped up with our participation in the Coalition for National Science Funding’s Exhibit Day. This annual event features a reception in the Rayburn House Office Building with posters presented by NSF-supported scientists from the various organizations that are members of the CNSF. Daniel Weinreich, Brown University, presented a poster on behalf of ASBMB. 

Peter Farnham ( is director of public affairs at ASBMB.

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