Recently, Michael Cooper, a Ph.D. student in Neuroscience and a new member of the Kansas City chapter for the Society for Neuroscience participated in a Capitol Hill Day sponsored by the American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.  

 

American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Capitol Hill Day

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With the August Congressional recess wrapping up last Friday, it was crucial to begin advocating for National Institutes of Health (NIH) immediately. Thus, I spent this Tuesday on Capitol Hill with the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) meeting with congressmen from Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indiana. Students and PhD’s in industry and academia from over thirty different states were sponsored by ASBMB to hold meetings with their representatives with all expenses paid.

 

Prior to the meetings with our representatives, ASBMB’s head of public affairs, Ben Corb, along with Chris Pickett and Erica Siebrasse provided all of us with a plethora of information and specific statistics for the individuals we were meeting with. Then, on Monday night we had a final preparation seminar to get everything set for our meetings; the main focus during our meetings was to advocate for the increase of the NIH budget by 3% to $32 billion from the current level of $30.1 billion for FY2015. In advocating for this increase, we tried to give the offices we were meeting with a better understanding of how the decrease of 20% in purchasing power by the NIH over the last decade has truly affected the immediate and long-term future of biomedical research and society.

 

Through this sponsorship, I was able to personally meet with a number of Congressmen including: Senator Jerry Moran, Senator Pat Roberts, Representative Kevin Yoder, Representative Emanuel Cleaver, Senator Roy Blunt, Senator Claire McClaskill, Senator Joe Donnelly, Representative Tim Griffin, and Representative Andre Carson.

 

 

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Most of the congressmen from the direct Kansas City area are proponents of increased biomedical research funding. Senator Moran, Representative Yoder, and Representative Cleaver all publically support increases in research spending.

 

Senator Moran is on the appropriations committee responsible for writing the proposed budget for NIH and his committee has suggested an increase of $600 million for this coming year. While this proposed increase is well beneath the needed $32 billion increase it is still well above what other groups are proposing. Sadly, when I met with his aid, he said they are pessimistic that the appropriations bill at $600 million will even make it out of committee, and he went on to say that we should expect a much smaller increase in NIH funding for FY2015.

 

Senator Blunt’s office seemed extremely receptive to our meeting He was especially interested in the alternatives to increasing appropriations spending such as, continuing the R&D tax credit, increases in STEM programs across the country, and an immigration reform proposal that would allow the international students that come to train in NIH funded labs to have an easier path to staying in the country for employment after their training. Senator Roberts’ and Senator McCaskill’s offices were the least receptive to an increase in funding, and they were unreceptive to nearly all of our suggestions with the exception of a continuation of the R&D tax credit.

 

Overall, ASBMB was a fantastic organization to work! The organization was extremely well organized and provided wonderful information that I can forward to anyone interested if they email me at mcooper4@kumc.edu. This information included diagrams and explanations of the problems in NIH funding decreases, the rates of decline in Grant approvals, the decrease in purchasing power, and even the economic specific to the states of Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Indiana.

 

 

I would suggest looking here for more great advocacy information.

 

Author: Michael Cooper, SFNKC

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