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. Among them were two BDRP members: Christine Perdan Curran, BDRP Past President, and Mona Dai, BDRP Student Member and 2020 Howard Garrison Fellow. Below are reflections from their experiences.
Christine Perdan Curran, PhD: For the last several years, I have enjoyed my role as the BDRP Board Rep to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology, including the annual FASEB Capitol Hill advocacy event. The pandemic forced a switch to virtual meetings to get across our message about the importance of funding biomedical research and basic science research at NIH and NSF. Although I felt better prepared after Zooming through a year of online meetings, I have to admit virtual advocacy in today’s political climate challenged us all. Working with FASEB policy expert Dr. Yvette Seger and Dr. Michael Lehman from Kent State, we visited with aides for Ohio Senators Sherrod Brown, Rob Portman and Rep. Brad Wenstrup. We were delighted to learn they were all strongly supportive of biomedical research and understood the importance of our Society’s work to protect pregnant women and their babies. One aide was even excited to get a video link about our research and a news item about work at Cincinnati Children’s. But crossing over the virtual Ohio River into the Commonwealth of Kentucky with University of Kentucky colleague Dr. Beth Garvy brought a wave of uneasiness. We met with representatives from some of Congress’ staunchest fiscal conservatives (Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Thomas Massie) as well as an aide for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Rep. Andy Barr. Despite my concerns, everyone was deeply interested in the impact of biomedical research on our economy and public health. Every one clearly understood that the success of the COVID-19 vaccines would not have been possible without a strong foundation of basic research. I strongly encourage all BDRP members to take the time to contact their representatives to show their appreciation for their support of NIH and NSF funding and to let them know about the great work you’re doing. (Pictured above: 2017 FASEB Hill Day Photo)
Mona Dai: This was my first year attending the annual Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Capitol Hill day event. I have had little advocacy experience in the past and so it was extremely rewarding to speak to my representatives from Missouri and Massachusetts about the importance of NIH and NSF funding. I met with both Republican and Democrat congressional members but everyone was receptive to what we had to say and interested in the science we were pursuing. Although everything was either online or via phone, I still appreciated having the opportunity to connect with someone about why science is important and sharing my excitement.