The Rally for Medical Research is a truly inspiring event that was established in 2013. Held every September, this event organized on Capitol Hill continues to grow, bringing together national organizations and people in support of Medical Research. The purpose of the rally is to call on the nation’s policy makers to make research funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) a national priority and raise awareness about the importance of research funding.
This year, I had the opportunity to attend the Rally and share my own story with top IL policy makers on behalf of the Biophysical Society. The Rally brought together medical doctors, scientists, patients, and organizations to lobby for robust, sustained, and predictable funding for the NIH by increasing the current budget by 2 billion dollars for fiscal year 2018 and to ask Congress to increase the budget caps on non-defense discretionary spending that were imposed by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
I went to the rally as a former research scientist in order to speak out for the early career scientist that are and will be affected by sequestration. I, myself, was a scientist affected by this – having studied and worked in multiple labs that struggled to maintain their funding. As a result, I had to make a difficult decision for myself: to continue on in a field that does not seem to value me or to move on to something that will. I chose the latter. While meeting with the Senate and Congress Houses for my state, I was able to relay to key policy makers how sequestration and cutting the NIH budget affect scientists, like myself, and how many of us have already responded: scientists may leave, many of us already have; whether that be moving to the private sector moving to countries that have sustained funding. This also dissuades students from ever entering the field.
Through this experience, myself, a former medical research scientist, I’ve learned a lot, not only about lobbying but also about how politics in general works, and how as a constituent we can instill change. So last week, with my own personal story of the struggles of being a scientists in today’s market, I was able to convey my story along with the story of others (many of us from IL met with policy makers at the offices of congressman to the Senate Offices) with the hopes of reframing how these politicians see current policies involving medical research and helping to convert that idea into the language of government policy. I hope I was able to make a difference and hopefully give a face to the affected scientist.
–Vidhya Sivakumaran, BPS member