SPIN

Psychologists Talk up Basic Research at Latest Science Advocacy Workshop

Thirteen early-career psychologists came to Washington April 30 through May 2, 2005, to talk with congressional staff about why it's so important for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support basic behavioral research.

By Patricia Kobor

Thirteen early-career psychologists came to Washington April 30 through May 2, 2005, to talk with congressional staff about why it's so important for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to support basic behavioral research. The workshop participants are themselves basic researchers who are all less than ten years past their doctoral degrees.

While in Washington, the participants underwent media training by Kevin Schultze of Soapbox Consulting, and learned more about how Congress shapes the laws that govern their research. Members of the APA Science Policy Staff helped orient the group to pending legislation, namely the NIH reauthorization bill that will likely be introduced soon by the leadership of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

A highlight was a session in which federal research managers and policymakers spoke about what has and has not changed regarding NIH's support of basic behavioral research. Participating in that session (on a Sunday, no less-these people are dedicated!) were Susan Brandon, PhD, of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Virginia Cain, PhD, of the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research; David Shurtleff, PhD of the National Institute on Drug Abuse; Richard Suzman, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging; and Kevin Quinn, PhD, of the National Institute on Mental Health.

Before heading off to Capitol Hill for their congressional meetings, the group met with Michael Zamore, Policy Adviser to U.S. Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI). Zamore praised the scientists for taking the time to learn how to communicate better with the congressional offices that represent them, and encouraged them to maintain relationships with those offices.

The researchers met with key congressional staffers who have responsibility for NIH related issues. Workshop participants were chosen in part because they live or work in the district or state of one of the members of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, or the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, the authorizing committees for NIH. Half of the group met with Energy and Commerce Committee staff, the other half met with Democratic staff from the Senate HELP Committee. Their message was that NIH needs to support a balanced portfolio of basic research and applied, clinical research, and any legislation on NIH should retain the infrastructure, for example, the Office of Behavioral and Social Sciences Research, that is needed to support a balanced portfolio and enable the institutes and centers to work together on cross-cutting initiatives.

Participants in the Science Advocacy Workshop were: Abigail Baird, PhD, Dartmouth College; Dan Bauer, PhD, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill; Mary Boggiano, PhD, University of Alabama-Birmingham; Christopher Braun, PhD, Hunter College; Lowell Gaertner, PhD, University of Tennessee; Kelly Goedert, PhD, Pacific Lutheran University; Adam Goodie, PhD, University of Georgia; Susan Hespos, PhD, Vanderbilt University; Heejung Kim, PhD, University of California-Santa Barbara; Dan Kimball, JD, PhD, University of Texas-Arlington; Keith Payne, Ph.D., Ohio State University; Cynthia Pietras, PhD, Western Michigan University; and Eric Shumacher, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology.

The participants left with new information and new contacts. Dan Kimball wrote, "One thing I learned was that communicating with policy makers in Congress and elsewhere need not be so daunting a task as I had supposed. I intend to follow through with the contacts I made to press the issue of preserving a place for basic behavioral research at NIH."