The 113th Congress will be sworn in on Jan. 2, and there is quite a bit of work to be done on a wide range of issues. The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology remains committed to voicing the concerns of our members to those on Capitol Hill. To this end, the ASBMB Public Affairs Advisory Committee has begun work on an ambitious plan to develop a sustainable biomedical research enterprise. The goal of this endeavor is to develop a research enterprise that is insulated against boom-and-bust funding cycles, prepares trainees for the jobs available and ensures that the benefits of research are brought rapidly to market. Developing a sustainable biomedical research enterprise will be a multiyear process that will require significant legislative action. The ASBMB legislative agenda for 2013 will merge our current advocacy efforts with the legislative needs of a sustainable research enterprise.
Funding: Federal funding is an essential component of biomedical research in the U.S., and increasing the appropriations for research agencies is always a priority for the ASBMB. Funding for the National Institutes of Health has been stagnant over the past 10 years, and the ASBMB will be advocating for increases to research funding to ease the financial strain on biomedical investigators. Federal funding for biomedical research still will be an essential part of the sustainable research enterprise, and the ASBMB will begin discussions with legislators about a consistent and predictable federal investment in biomedical research that compensates for inflationary changes.
STEM education: The ASBMB is collaborating with several organizations to convince Congress to invest in innovative programs that improve science, technology, engineering and math education around the country. Improving STEM education will ensure that students have the knowledge needed to get jobs once they graduate. An education with a strong STEM component is also necessary for the sustainable biomedical research enterprise, as it trains the next generation of scientists to make the advancements required to improve public health.
Regulatory affairs: The convergence of academia, industry and governmental research forms myriad opportunities to develop treatments and cures that improve the livelihood of all Americans. However, unnecessary governmental regulations and uncertainty around the ownership of intellectual property, for example, often slow the exchange of information between research sectors. In 2013, the ASBMB will be advocating for legislation that removes many of these barriers while ensuring that the outputs of a sustainable research enterprise — cures, treatments and new technologies — are properly vetted before release to the general populace.
Immigration: The immigration of gifted scientists from around the world is essential for the U.S. to remain competitive with rising international competitors. The ASBMB is working to make it easier for foreign scientists to work and stay in the U.S. after obtaining their degrees. The American research enterprise requires having excellent scientists working in all research sectors, and an immigration policy that ensures that the best scientists from around the world do their innovative work here is an integral part of this endeavor.
The ASBMB also will be pursuing legislative action on a number of other fronts, including training and workforce issues, animal use in research and travel restrictions for federal scientists. We will be making a concerted push to achieve significant legislative gains that will improve the abilities of our members to do their important scientific work in the short term while laying the groundwork for the establishment of a sustainable biomedical workforce in the long term.
Chris Pickett (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the science policy fellow at the ASBMB.