The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) has released a National Bioeconomy Blueprint, which states the administration’s intent to strengthen life sciences research as a method for growing the economy. In the fall of 2011, OSTP released a Request for Information that asked the public to contribute ideas for the creation of the blueprint. The documents outlines five objectives, including: supporting investments in R&D, facilitating the transition from lab to market, reforming government regulation to reduce barriers to commercialization, better aligning education and training programs with national workforce needs, and creating/enhancing public-private partnerships. The document speaks to many of challenges outlined in previous analyses of the future of the U.S. research and development enterprise, such as the Rising Above the Gathering Storm reports (version 1 and 2) from the National Academies. However, ironically, it is released at a time when policymakers are advancing significant reductions in the federal research agencies.
On April 19th, AADR members representing 27 institutions in 17 states and the District of Columbia took to Capitol Hill to hold 70 individual meetings with Congressional offices. The meetings were a part of the 2012 AADR Advocacy Day on the Hill. Advocacy Day began with a Key Issues Briefing that featured remarks from inside of the Congressional budget process. Rep. Mike Simpson, DMD (R-ID) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), two Members of Congress who play pivotal roles in the appropriations process, addressed the group. Rep. Simpson, who serves as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior-Environment and Co-Chair of the Congressional Oral Health Caucus, explained that the FY13 budget process is fluid at present, and that tough budget decisions will need to be made that will displease most involved -likely after the November elections. Congresswoman DeLauro, who serves on the House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education, noted her own successful battle with cancer, while calling on participants to speak-up and be relentless in their advocacy for federal investments in biomedical research. She explained that individual researchers in their roles as voters and the creaters of high-skill jobs often have considerable influence on Capitol Hill. The morning session also included an update on scientific activities at the National Institute for Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR), provided by Director Martha Somerman, DDS. PhD. Dr. Somerman touched on the economic and health impacts of research conducted at or enabled by the NIDCR. She also touched on current and anticipated genomic studies, orofacial pain, health disparities, HPV-related oropharygeal cancer, as well as the recent announcement of the National Dental Practice-based Network.
The Message – Participants in Advocacy Day carried forward a message that reductions in spending need to be coupled with strategic investments in research in order to truly grow the economy and improve health. More specifically, participants called on Congress to fund the National Institutes of Health at a level of at least of $32 billion and NIDCR at a level of $450 million in FY13. Participants were armed with the AADR FY 2013 Federal Agenda, which articulates that budget cuts set into motion last year by the Budget Control Act of of 2011 (BCA) could result in a reduction of 2,300 research grants in FY13 alone. The AADR Federal Agenda also provides several examples of critical NIDCR-supported research in order to justify the investment. Just recently, the House of Representatives advanced a Budget Resolution that would provide even deeper cuts than what is included in the BCA. The House budget has been dismissed by the Senate and White House as “dead on arrival,” but it captures the challenge ahead.
Participants were reminded that Advocacy Day can take place on any given day throughout the year and from very close to home, as research institutions should consistently invite Members of Congress and their staffers to campus to see federally-supported work. Further, AADR staff can facilitate interactions with Congress during virtually any visit to DC by a member of the dental and craniofacial research community.
After the close of the AADR Day on the Hill, participants reported positive feedback from Congressional offices on both sides of the political aisle. However, participants also noted a continued skepticism among Congressional staffers that increased investments would be seen in FY13, indicating that even more effort in advocacy is necessary in the months ahead.
The National Advisory Dental and Craniofacial Research Council will meet on Monday May 21st on the NIH campus (Building 31C, 6th Floor Conference Room) beginning at 8:30 a.m. The meeting will be videocast. Additionally, members of the research community are encouraged to attend the open portion of the meeting. AADR staff will be present.
AADR has selected Matthew Oishi, first-year student from the University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine, as the 2012-13 Gert Quigley Public Policy Fellow. According to AADR Director of Government Affairs, Jonathan Nurse, “Matthew has a strong interest and academic background in both dentistry and public policy making him an ideal Fellow for AADR.” Mr. Oishi is a native of Hawaii and has deep roots in the dental profession.
Matthew obtained undergraduate and graduate degrees in the nation’s capital at Georgetown University. While at Georgetown he majored in biology as well as minored in theology and history. At the graduate level, he completed a Masters degree in Biomedical Science Policy and Advocacy.
The Gert Quigley Fellow fellowship provides a unique learning experience both in Washington, D.C. and through grassroots efforts at the Fellow’s local university or institution. This fellowship is designed to familiarize dental school, Ph.D., or dual degree students with the federal legislative process as it relates to basic and translational dental and craniofacial research, as well as research on the oral health care delivery system. Applications are made available in March of each year.
AADR Advocacy Day on the Hill will take place on April 19th (Cannon House Office Building Room 122). The event is certain to be an important one for the dental and craniofacial research community. Participants will hear from a distinguished group of speakers, including: NIDCR Director Dr. Martha Somerman, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (Ranking Member of the House Subcommittee on Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations), and Congressman Mike Simpson (Co-Chair of the Congressional Oral Health Caucus). After a short morning briefing, participants will then spread out on the Hill to articulate the importance of dental and craniofacial research, in the offices of their Members of Congress. It’s not too late to join the effort! E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to participate.
Participating organizations include (As of April 12th):
ADA Foundation, Paffenbager Research Center
American Dental Education Association
Case Western Reserve University
The Forsyth Institute
Friends of NIDCR
Medical University of South Carolina
Nova Southeastern University
Stony Brook University
University of Alabama
University at Buffalo
University of Colorado
University of Florida
University of Illinois at Chicago
University of Kentucky
University of Louisville
University of Maryland
University of Michigan
University of Minnesota
University of Nebraska
University of Pennsylvania
University of Pittsburgh
Washington University, St. Louis
West Virginia University