The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) brought 55 research advocates to Washington for the FASEB Capitol Hill Day on March 9. Attendees came from 28 states representing 25 FASEB societies and all but one of the Basic Biomedical Science Chairs associations. It was the largest Capitol Hill Day in the Federation’s history, breaking the previous attendance record achieved in 2015.
Participants met with 113 congressional offices to strongly urge legislators to pass the fiscal year (FY) 2017 appropriations bills. During their meetings, the researchers explained that the continuing resolution currently funding the government severely constrains the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) ability to release funds for new grants and prevents the agency from fully funding existing research. They noted that the bipartisan increases for NIH and the other science agencies that were approved by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees last summer will be forfeited if a final 2017 budget is not passed.
Attendees thanked senators and representatives who signed letters to the Appropriations Committees last year requesting increased funding for NIH and the National Science Foundation as well as those who voted in favor of the 21st Century Cures Act. In addition, each congressional office received FASEB factsheets updated with FY 2016 data. The factsheets summarize the impact of federal science investment on states and districts. FASEB’s FY 2018 funding recommendations for the federal science agencies were also presented.
The meetings with members of Congress and their aides were encouraging. Many offices expressed appreciation for the updated FASEB state and district factsheets and indicated interest in visiting a local research lab. Although several offices shared doubts about Congress’s ability to complete work on the FY 2017 funding legislation, they encouraged the research community to keep up the pressure on legislators over the next few weeks.
Participants’ in-person efforts on Capitol Hill Day were enhanced by an e-action alert FASEB distributed on the same day. These combined activities had an immediate impact: In less than 12 hours, scientists from across the country sent more than 7,500 emails to Congress and made over 100 phone calls to House and Senate offices.