Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Start at the Top

Profile: Dr. Robert Wells, PhD

Robert A. Welch Endowed Professor of Chemistry
Director, Center for Genome Research at the Institute of Bioscience and Technology, Texas A&M Health Science Center, Houston, Texas

Here in the second part of Dr. Wells’ profile I will describe when Dr. Wells used his considerable expertise in the policy arena to get an audience with the Vice President and increase the amount budgeted for science research. The first installment of Dr. Wells’ profile is here.

After participating in the policy discussions that resulted in the passage of the Excellence in Mathematics, Science, and Engineering Act of 1990 Dr. Wells continued his involvement in science advocacy. Between 2000 and 2002 he served as President of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. Next he was elected to the post of president at the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) where he served from 2003 to 2004.

During the years that Dr. Wells served in these organizations, the scientific community had been suffering through consistently flat funding. Dr. Wells realized that the NIH budget, the vast majority of federal dollars for research, begins in the hands of the president of the United States. We have heard a similar message recently from the Honorable John Porter. Dr. Wells decided to shake things up and take his message to the White House, where the initial budget recommendations are made.

With assistance from the Hon. Robert Michel, the former House Minority Leader, Dr. Wells and four Nobel Laureates visited the White House. To hear Dr. Wells tell it, President Bush slipped through their fingers, but he was able to meet with Vice President Dick Cheney in an hour long interview where they made the case for increased funding for the NIH. Vice President Cheney approved an increase of approximately $800 million for the NIH after hearing the case those bold scientists made for biomedical research.

Dr. Wells explains his years of successful science advocacy with the statement that “it takes one person to stand up and say ‘let’s do it!’” Taking this message to heart, we can each make a difference in science policy. Here at New Voices, we’ll do our best to help you by providing advocacy opportunities, examples of what other scientists have accomplished and the tools you’ll need to “do it.”

1 comment:

  1. This is an amazing and encouraging example of advocacy!