Scientist Talking Points for CongressCritters: The $$, duh!

Jun 25 2009 Published by under Uncategorized

Now and again I urge my US readers to call or write their Congressional delegates (find yours here) to advocate for one science-related topic or another. One of the things that I would encourage you including as part of each and every letter is a statement about the amount of NIH funding that flows into his or her State or District.
So it might be worth a stroll on over to RePORTER to do some quick research on NIH funding by State and Congressional District.

The interactive map is fun, but kind of hard to generate the full picture without a little digging. Nevertheless we can identify the top State recipients of NIH funds for Fiscal Year 2008 rather quickly*. The Magnificent 7 are:
California: $3,151 M(illion)
Massachusetts: $2,252 M
New York: $1,876 M
Pennsylvania: $1,354 M
Texas: $1,074 M
Maryland: $972 M
North Carolina: $931 M
So take a look at your State's NIH allocation and rank and use that to your advantage. In the top-10? Brag on that. In the lower half? Talk about how you need to catch up. Just talk straight up about the dollars and insist that is a significant taxpayer interest. Whatever makes sense when contacting your Senator.
Now we can move on to Congressional Districts. There is no easy way to do this in a comprehensive that I can find so far; I just spot-checked my gut suspicions based on research Universities and the State rankings. Feel free to identify other big-player Congressional districts in the comments (Update: and I'll add them in).

  • MA08 (Capuano): $1,584 M (Harvard/H. Med, Bigham and Woman's Hosp, BU/BUMed, Dana Farber Canc Inst, etc)
  • NC04 (Price): $802 M (Duke, UNC, RTI, etc)
  • CA53 (Davis): $773 M (UCSD, Salk Institute, TSRI, SDSU, Burnham, LJIAI, etc)
  • MD07 (Cummings): $763 M (Johns Hopkins, UM Baltimore, an unusually extensive list of smaller recipients)
  • NY14 (Maloney): $639 (Mt Sinai, NYU Med, Rockefeller, Sloan-Kettering, Weill Med (Cornell), etc)
  • PA02 (Fattah): $631 M (U. Penn, Child Hosp Penn, Wistar Inst, Drexel U, Fox Chase Canc Cent, etc)
  • NY15 (Rangel): $527 M (Columbia Health Sci, Yeshiva U, NY State Psychi Inst, etc)
  • PA14 (Doyle): $477 M (U Pitt, Magee-Women's Res Inst, etc)
  • TX07 (Culberson): $472 M (Baylor Coll Med, UT Health Sci, UT MD Anderson, etc)

Of course the correlation between where you live and where you work will not be perfect when it comes to Congressional Reps. You may live in a Congressional district adjacent to the one that actually contains your University. No biggie. Just point out that many of the people who work at the local University, such as yourself, live in your Critter's district and that s/he should therefore take an interest in the doings of that constituency**.
* You may wish to Copy the website HTML tables and Paste (Special; as unitext) into Excel and thereafter using the sort function
** Some University websites brag on useful stats such as total number of employees or even some study they once did estimating impact on local economy. These are also good numbers to have in hand and mention every time you call or write a Critter.

8 responses so far

  • neurolover says:

    So, should we also tell them what part of the budget they should cut or which taxes they should raise, in order to increase the funding for our preferred project?
    Yes, I'm being a bit sarcastic, but I do honestly think that if we're going to advocate for more money, that we can't do it in an isolated way that ignores consequences. I think a scientist might be able to make a good case for why science is more deserving of funding than an alternative (or that taxes should be raised to support both). But I think it's disingenuous to argue for more $$ for science without thinking about the consequences to other programs and revenue.

  • JohnV says:

    MD08 (Van Hollen), which includes Rockville and surrounding areas, has many more recipients (58 to 14) but one tenth the money (70m to 762m) as MD07.
    On the plus side, my employer has a decent sized NIAID contract that's more than half the size of our districts entire NIH awards. Sadly I'm not paid off of it, but what fun would it be having guaranteed funding for 5 years, right?

  • DrugMonkey says:

    neurolover, I think this principle is a good idea whether one is asking for more money or non-cost policy changes or whatever. The point is to get your Congressional delegate to make it worth his/her time to engage a given issue. I mean if your Congressman is in the top 5 recipients and doesn't actually serve on any committees relevant to the NIH budget..isn't that a problem? or, as a colleague was pointing out, if a Critter in the high NIH-recipient category enjoys vote-record kudos from extremist animal rights organizations or woo-peddles or some such...shouldn't this be brought to their attention?
    It isn't about micromanaging the budget it is about getting your Congressperson paying attention to you.
    I will also note that I've had an experience in the past dealing with a staffer who was tasked with the research side of things. These individuals need arguments to get their member to pay attention to them. So part of your audience may be a sympathetic member of the staff...

  • neurolover says:

    "It isn't about micromanaging the budget it is about getting your Congressperson paying attention to you."
    I understand, and understand what you're getting at, too, a key point being that if they're going to be making research related decisions, they should have access to people they trust who know something about research.
    But, my problem is that I don't really know what I want to say when I have a congressperson who is paying attention to me, when they're actually making the zero-sum decisions about funding.
    I was more intrigued by your previous post, where you talked about how the research enterprise could be changed, rather than just asking for more money.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    I was more intrigued by your previous post, where you talked about how the research enterprise could be changed, rather than just asking for more money.
    This post is a direct follow on from that one. If you call up and try to get your Congress critter involved in whatever will be the next version of the America COMPETES act, you need a lever. For many of my readers this top-10-NIH funded stuff will apply.
    One of my prior attempts to educate my critter led to a call-back from a staffer who listened, seemingly, to my points about the future of the academic workforce that lived within his district. I dream that if a mere 100 other scientists bothered to call about NIH-related business we'd start seeing some interest from our Critter. We're talking a community that has many thousands of people directly or indirectly on the NIH dime.

  • DrugMonkey says:

    MD08 (Van Hollen), which includes Rockville and surrounding areas, has many more recipients (58 to 14)
    Indeed. brain-fark. I was looking at the list in MD08 when I made that comment about many smaller recipients.

  • D says:

    Equally interesting is the $/capita. It changes up the Magnificent 7 a bit.
    This leaves out DC (not on the NIH list because no Congressional Rep?) and the US territories.
    Massachusetts $346.59
    Maryland $172.60
    Connecticut $133.38
    Rhode Island $132.01
    Washington $116.26
    Pennsylvania $108.78
    Vermont $104.09
    The US average is $68.89
    The bottom 7
    Oklahoma $18.68
    Alaska $16.83
    Wyoming $13.87
    West Virginia $13.64
    Mississippi $9.58
    Nevada $7.67
    Idaho $6.53
    Assuming I got all of my numbers right of course.

  • BP says:

    NC04 is big; $802 million mostly from Duke and UNC Chapel Hill.