Scientists Advocate for Federal Research Funding During FASEB’s Virtual Capitol Hill DayBy: Ellen Kuo
Wednesday, March 24, 2021
FASEB advocates from around the country took part in a virtual Capitol Hill Day on March 9 and 11, meeting with their Senators and Representatives to present FASEB’s fiscal year (FY) 2022 funding requests of $46.11 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and $10 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF). This effort was part of a multipronged approach among many groups to keep basic research on a strong footing with the U.S. scientific enterprise as Congress begins the annual appropriations process. In addition to the congressional visits, FASEB highlighted materials available for the policy community that provide justifications for government funding in FY 2022, including factsheets on federal research funding by state and district, NIH-NSF Partners in Research, and biomedical research breakthroughs in the past decade.
Fifty scientists representing 29 states and 26 FASEB societies told personal stories of how federal funding for biomedical research supports scientific collaboration and the efficient use of appropriated dollars to advance biological and biomedical research. For example, Michael Friedlander, PhD, explained how federal science agency funds are an engine of growth for local communities and can fuel new business opportunities as basic science opens up new frontiers of understanding in the biological sciences. Friedlander also talked about how biological research has created startup biotech companies such as Tiny Cargo. This company applies one of nature’s courier systems derived from cow’s milk to deliver a potentially life-saving medication to patients with damaged hearts after a cardiac event.
Also contributing to the team of scientists’ outreach was Dianne Duffy, PhD, who serves as Professor of Physiological Sciences at Eastern Virginia Medical School and is an expert on fertility and contraception issues and a FASEB Board member. Her research lab also plays a critical role in supporting the pipeline for the next generation of early-career researchers. She also stated her research lab provides medical school students with hands-on research opportunities to make them more competitive for residencies after graduating medical school. She ended with a strong example of the role of research at the school’s Jones Institute for Reproductive Medicine, which was the first in-vitro fertilization clinic in America.
Jay Fox, PhD, Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the University of Virginia School of Medicine and a frequent international traveler, expressed to congressional staff how other countries are investing heavily in science and the need to remain globally competitive. He noted that the U.S. provides some of the best training ground for scientists, emphasizing that these scientists can contribute to our scientific enterprise if they see a promising career path here rather than returning to their home countries. Not only is sustained and increased federal funding important for science an important component to this, but it is also critical for the U.S to maintain a welcoming environment.
The stories Friedlander, Duffy, and Fox shared, as well as stories from all the participating Capitol Hill Day scientists, demonstrate the continuity of investment in the scientific enterprise. When FASEB was created in 1912, life expectancy was 50 years old, penicillin had not been discovered, and the polio virus had not been isolated. Scientific understanding has come a long way, but there are still many unknowns in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.
FASEB thanks the scientists and member societies who supported the virtual Capitol Hill Day.