All Hands on Deck: Standing Up for the Value of Research

By Ann Bonham, PhD

This blog is a fitting place to respond to the surge in activity which resulted from last week’s Senate Appropriations Committee hearing on driving innovation through federal investments in research and development; and this week’s House Energy and Commerce Committee’s 21st Century Cures Roundtable. The Wing of Zock, recognized by the American Society of Healthcare Publication Editors for its editorial excellence, is a unique destination for medical students, trainees, faculty, health care enterprise leaders, and everyone in between to exchange ideas on innovation in academic medicine.

Innovation capacity in the United States is heading toward the rocks and with it our potential for future job creation, economic growth, international competitiveness, national security, new cures, and better medicine.

In the buildup to the sequester beginning last spring, and at every important legislative juncture since, the AAMC, its member institutions, and the faculty and trainees they represent have heartily advocated for the essential role of biomedical research in the health and prosperity of this country.

The rhetorical shift of focus to the innovation deficit has recaptured momentum, positioning federal research and development as a whole in the public’s eye, with medical research an important and prominent discipline along with computing technology, engineering, materials science, and climate and environmental science.

We are in the midst of a defining, if disruptive, scientific revolution, from the promise of precision medicine, to proteomics, massive database and registry-based trials, and crowd-sourced science, fueled by an unceasing tidal wave of informatics. It’s hard to think of a more exciting time to be a scientist. Yet the dividends of this revolution are threatened by short-sighted austerity.

Resolving the stagnation in federal investment in science and technology against many competing priorities is a long-term debate about who we want to be as a nation and the role we want to play in the major challenges of our day. However, we need to take action in the short term to effect needed change.

This is an all-hands-on-deck moment. We can’t do this without banding together as a community, and standing up for the value of research. Scribe an op-ed. Speak to local citizens about your work and what’s at stake. Participate in  letter-writing campaigns. Add your voice to the #innovationdeficit conversation on Twitter, or share the campaign’s videos and infographics with other influencers.

Together, let’s turn the tide and renew our nation’s focus on and commitment to innovation, research, technology, and education.

bonham-annAnn Bonham, PhD, is chief scientific officer at the Association of American Medical Colleges. She can be reached at abonham@aamc.org.

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