While scientists might feel gratified that the pursuit of knowledge keeps them out of the politics of Washington, researchers must learn to advocate for their projects. Especially with the increasing competition for federal grants where even outstanding proposals do not receive funding, one concrete step scientists can take is to lobby Congress to support the NIH.
To that end, FASEB, the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology has developed a Congressional Visit Toolbox. It describes how to contact a legislator, plan for a visit, and present the case for more research funding. For the nervous novice, the site even includes videos of how to interact with elected officials.
There’s a reason that corporations employ lobbyists–their influence works to direct funds toward favored projects. I heard one state representative explain once that he didn’t have time to learn about every issue, so he appreciated it when lobbyists came to inform him. That said, he was open to any constituent coming to his office with specific arguments for a bill.
Biomedical researchers already have enough to juggle, but it may be worthwhile investing some time in talking to the decision makers who control the flow of federal funds. A small investment now will increase the chances of long-term research success later.