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The Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) calls on Congress to reject President Trump’s FY18 budget proposal released today. The budget request proposes draconian and careless cuts that will devastate the scientific enterprise by slashing...

The Coalition for the Life Sciences (CLS) would like to thank Congress for its commitment to the federally funded life science enterprise.

National Institutes of Health

The CLS is pleased to see that Congress supported a $2...

Legislative Alerts

Nobel Laureates Warn Against Going over the Fiscal Cliff

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 18, 2012

Nobel Laureates Warn Against Going over the Fiscal Cliff (Download President's Letter)
Bethesda, Maryland – Nobel Laureates from across the country are warning Congressional leaders and President Obama about the danger the fiscal cliff poses to research and innovation.

Starting December 3, the Coalition for the Life Sciences has sent a letter a day from a Nobel Laureate in either Chemistry or Physiology and Medicine. Twenty-one Nobel Laureates are engaged in this campaign. In these letters, each Laureate emphasizes the importance of federally funded research and the dire consequences of funding cuts. Of particular concern, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) will face an 8.2% across-the-board cut starting January 1, 2013, if Congress and the Administration refuse to agree on solutions to the fiscal cliff.

Coalition Board member H. Robert Horvitz, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, shared the 2002 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. He said, “This potentially very deep cut to the NIH as well as to all other federally-funded science would negatively impact job creation and seriously jeopardize the long-standing leadership position of the U.S. in research and innovation.”

Paul Berg, from Stanford University and the co-recipient of the 1980 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, agreed. “Past support of the NIH by the United States Congress has enabled the American scientific enterprise to rise to world leadership in the physical and life sciences. It is also why Americans have dominated as recipients of the Nobel and other illustrious Prizes.”

All the Nobel Laureates are concerned that cuts to the NIH will stifle discoveries that improve health, save lives, and drive our economy. NIH supports scientists and their critical work in every state across the nation, which means that every state would feel the negative effects of going over the fiscal cliff. Laboratories would shut down, scientists would be laid off, and local businesses that support research would close. Progress on developing promising new cures would slow, if not stop outright.

Coalition Director Lynn Marquis said the campaign arose from a shared anxiety among Coalition members about the future of the nation’s leadership in scientific output and innovation. “We felt strongly that voices from the scientific community needed to be heard and the Nation’s Laureates provide a unique voice that adds gravitas to the debate in Washington.”

The Coalition for the Life Sciences is an alliance of six non-profit professional organizations working together to foster public policies that advance basic biological research and its applications in medicine and other fields. For further information, please call Lynn Marquis, the Director of the CLS, at (301) 347-9309 or visit www.coalitionforlifesciences.org

August Recess Activities

It’s August and that means Congress is leaving Washington, DC,to spend the month in their congressional districts, a time-honored tradition called August Recess. Back in their district, members of Congress will be hard at work meeting with constituents, holding town hall meetings, and visiting schools, labs, and local businesses.

August Recess is an excellent opportunity for scientists to interact with their lawmakers.

Here’s why:

  • Scientific funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is at an all-time low, and funding for FY13 is expected to remain flat.
  • Devastating, automatic cuts in federal government spending are set to go into effect in January 2013. This action called sequestration resulted from the failure of Congress to agree upon a deficit reduction plan in 2011. In the event of sequestration, NIH could face an additional 8% funding cut. This could mean a reduction by a quarter in the number of new and competing renewal grants funded by NIH in FY13. Click here for more information on sequestration.
  • The defense industry is spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying to have the Department of Defense exempted from sequestration. If they succeed and DOD is carved out of sequestration, the cuts for non-defense agencies would huge and the consequences dire.NIH could face a 20% cut starting in January 2013.
  • NIH funding is critical for the health of the nation and for the health of local economies.

 

Three things you can do over August Recess to be an effective advocate:

  1. Schedule meetings with your Members of Congress or their staff.
    • To do so, either visit your Members’ websites or call their district offices. Click here to enter your zip code and obtain contact information for your elected officials. Do not be discouraged if your meeting is with a staff member. Treat your meeting with them just as you would a meeting with the Member, whom they represent.

Here are talking points to use for your meetings. Bring your colleagues—numbers show strength!

  1. Find and attend a town hall meeting. 
    • To find out when and where these are being held, check your Members’ websites, Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, local newspapers, or call their offices. Some town hall meetings are held telephonically or via the web. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the phone or in person.
  2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
    • We’ve made it easy. Here’s a template to customize and send to the editor of your local newspaper. We’ve bracketed and capitalized the areas for you to customize. Find out how much NIH funding went to your district and state in FY11 here. It’s especially important to include the name of your Senators and Representative in your letter to the editor. That gets the attention of the Members’ office. Also, please note that most newspapers have a word limit for letters (usually 200 words), so we’ve kept the message short and to the point. Although, we’ve provided a draft, if possible personalize and tailor your own letter to the editor.

Check your newspaper’s website or editorial/letters page for instructions on how to submit letters to the editor. Many newspapers have an automated letter-submission page on their websites, while others provide an email address for you to use. Remember to include the text of the letter in the body of your email to the newspaper. Emails with attachments go right into spam folders and are often not seen or considered.

Please let me know if you have conversations with your elected officials during the month of August. Feedback about those discussions aids me in better representing you in Washington. Finally, let me know if your letter to the editor is printed –I’ll post it on the CLS Facebook page! 

 

The Obligation for Biologists to Commit to Political Advocacy

Thomas D. Pollard

1Departments of Molecular Cellular and Developmental Biology, Yale University, PO Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520-8103, USA
2 Departments of Molecular Biophysics and Biochemistry, Yale University, PO Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520-8103, USA
3 Department of Cell Biology, Yale University, PO Box 208103, New Haven, CT 06520-8103, USA

The work of most biological scientists depends heavily on governmental funding, and this support stands in competition with every other program that receives government funds. Historically, biologists took for granted that politicians would provide adequate funding, given the virtue of advancing human health. Complacency was the norm because the budgets of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and National Science Foundation (NSF) generally increased at or above the level of inflation during the second half of the 20th century, and the budget of the NIH doubled between 1998 and 2003. Unfortunately, funding has stagnated since 2003, so taking inflation into account, the purchasing power of the NIH budget has declined about 20% over the last decade (AAAS (American Association for the Advancement of Science), 2012; also see http://www.aaas.org/spp/rd/ for regular updates.)

Times have changed for the worse for two reasons. First, the global economic recession has done real damage to science. Weak tax revenues and growing deficits have led politicians to compromise funding for research in spite of the established benefit of basic research for stimulating economic growth. The situation in the United States for 2013 is particularly dire. The failure of Congress to adopt a deficit reduction program in 2011 resulted in a fall-back option called sequestration, which may reduce federal funding across the board by 8% on January 1, 2013. If this comes to pass, we face widespread unemployment in the biological research community and the loss of many valuable research programs. Second, although US citizens still hold science and scientists in high esteem (Masci, 2009), some politicians use ideological opposition to scientific findings (evolution and climate change to cite two examples) to take anti-science positions.

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