The Gert Quigley Fellowship was an unforgettable six week advocacy experience. During my time in Washington, DC I was able to participate in several important facets of advocacy. For example, I attended coalition meetings; observed hearings and bill mark-ups; visited the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research; helped develop a call to action to inspire students to perform grassroots advocacy during the Congressional August recess and I met with members of Congress and their staff to discuss the importance of oral and craniofacial research.
I am currently a fourth year dental student at Indiana University School of Dentistry, but have been active in research since I attended Butler University, where I received my bachelors of science in chemistry. However, at that time I never got involved or took an interest in politics. I was unaware of the intricacies of Congress and its role in providing funding for research via annual appropriations bills to help curb prevalent disease in America. Early in my research career all I knew is that my proposals would “magically” get funded and I was allowed to conduct my research. Due to my experience in Washington, DC I better understand the role Congress plays in funding the federal governmental agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research.
In my short time here I have seen advocacy work first hand. Specifically, the Senate proposed legislation that would require Federal agencies with research expenditures over $100 million to develop a policy for free online public access to peer reviewed manuscripts no later than six months after publication in peer reviewed journals. It is important to note that the IADR and AADR Journal of Dental Research adhere to the current embargo period of 12 months established by NIH. As a result of advocacy efforts of the broader community and AADR compromise legislative language was developed–to preserve the current embargo period–in partnership with the Senate. The revised version of the bill will move forward this week.
In addition, since coming to The Hill I have noticed how Congress is trying to increase funding dedicated to research with the Senate and House Appropriations Committees approval of the fiscal year 2016 appropriations bills. While this attention is great for research it should also increase caution with advocates. These proposed increases in funding are coming at the expense of other important public health programs due to the continued tight budget climate. I was able to witness how AADR works with a broad coalition of research, public health and science advocates urging Congress to lift the caps on discretionary spending so the entire public health continuum can benefit.
Now that I understand more of the process of Congressional decision making I realize that advocacy is needed more than ever. Many members of Congress know only what they are told by their constituents which them helps prioritize how limited resources are spent by the federal government. Therefore researchers, dentists and students play a vital role as advocates to carefully and thoroughly explain the importance of dental research and discovery to help Congress understand the value and importance of their work. Though advocacy can seem overwhelming at first it can actually be very simple. There are a variety of venues to start advocating, such as responding to action alert emails, sending letters of support, or students can schedule a meeting with their members of Congress. Getting involved in advocacy can help make a difference for the future of research.
I look forward to continuing my work as the Gert Quigley Fellow this year as an active member of the AADR government affairs committee and National Student Research Group. If you want to become more involved with AADR advocacy please contact Carolyn Mullen, director of government affairs at firstname.lastname@example.org