A rundown of FASEB's latest advocacy efforts, including the annual Capitol Hill Day, a letter urging the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee to increase in the NIH budget, and FASEB's involvement in promoting improvements in scientific training.
|FASEB president-elect, William Talman (middle), and SPC subcommittee chair, Kevin Kregel (left), pose with Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Seventeen Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Board of Directors and Science Policy Committee members from 14 states and Canada came to Washington, D.C., in May to participate in FASEB’s annual Capitol Hill Day. Led by FASEB President Mark Lively, the scientists talked to members of Congress about the importance of sustaining support for biomedical research, and presented FASEB’s fiscal 2011 federal funding recommendations of $37 billion for the National Institutes of Health and $7.68 billion for the National Science Foundation.
“Fiscal year 2011 is a critical year for science. Our goal is to continue the pipeline of innovative medical and technological advancements,” stated Lively. By the end of the day, FASEB members had attended a total of 40 congressional meetings, including breakfast events with U.S. Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and visits to the offices of six other Senate Appropriations Committee members.
The response to FASEB’s mission largely was positive. Congressional staff members appreciated the rationale behind FASEB’s funding recommendations, and many were grateful to receive specific information about the impact that NIH funding has on their state. Nearly all who met with FASEB acknowledged the importance of biomedical research, and many expressed support for boosting funding to the agency.
Nonetheless, the difficult fiscal environment left some offices less than optimistic about the ability to provide significant funding increases. For many members of Congress, the top priority continues to be economic recovery and job creation. This was evident when staff inquired about the short-term economic impact of biomedical research funding, the number of jobs retained and created by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the number of grants and positions that would be lost if NIH does not receive the full $37 billion appropriation FASEB recommended.
FASEB’s advocacy for increased research funding did not end with Hill Day. FASEB also sent letters to the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations subcommittee leadership urging a fiscal 2011 increase in the NIH budget, and signed a letter supporting a strong 302(b) allocation (the top-line budget number) for the subcommittee.
In addition to advocating for increases to the federal research budget, FASEB has been promoting improvements in scientific training. As part of an effort to develop a strategic plan for training and career development, the National Institute of General Medical Sciences solicited community input on its training portfolio this past spring. In a letter on this issue, FASEB urged the institute to broaden scientific training opportunities. FASEB believes that the goal of NIGMS training programs should be to prepare trainees for a range of scientific careers, and that scientific training should be broad-based and incorporate training in teaching and mentoring and preparation in professional skills.
FASEB noted that NIGMS could encourage training in all of these areas by expanding programs to help both trainees and established investigators acquire teaching and mentoring skills, requiring institutions to provide educational training to students and postdoctoral fellows supported on training grants and providing funding for institutions to develop professional skills workshops. In addition, NIGMS policy should allow all trainees to devote time to these activities in the course of their research training. NIGMS hopes to complete its strategic planning effort in early 2011.
Jennifer A. Hobin (email@example.com) is associate director for scientific affairs in the Office of Public Affairs at FASEB and Karen R. Mowrer (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the legislative affairs officer at FASEB OPA.