Research fellow climbs Capitol Hill for funding

Originally published in the Spring 2015 issue of ARVONews

Communicating science to experts on policy requires a different vocabulary than we use with each other. ARVO Member-in-training Adiv Johnson, PhD, discovered this firsthand as he prepared for his first visit to representatives on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. A research fellow at the Mayo Clinic, Johnson was there to talk about his work and the role government funding plays in his current and future career.

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Adiv Johnson, PhD, has the opportunity to meet
NIH Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD, at the
Rally for Medical Research.

At Mayo, Johnson is studying inherited retinal degeneration caused by mutations in the gene BEST1. He had to prepare a new description of his research — one without technical jargon that policymakers could understand.

“I am able to more effectively communicate my research and the value of biomedical research to nonscientists,” he said after his preparation.

Johnson’s visit to Capitol Hill was in conjunction with the Rally for Medical Research. The event brought together more than 300 advocates from national organizations, including ARVO and the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR), as well as hundreds of medical researchers to call upon U.S. policymakers to make funding for research a national priority. 

Representing ARVO and NAEVR, Johnson met with a Minnesota delegation, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-MN ) to reinforce the value of National Eye Institutefunded research. “Interaction with various policymakers left me with a sense that Capitol Hill is eager for scientists to share their expertise and that this sharing of knowledge plays an important role in the shaping of science policy,” he said.

Johnson also had the opportunity to meet and talk to National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, MD, PhD. The experience of influencing policymakers is one Johnson hopes other researchers will join in the future.

“It was rewarding to use my scientific background to participate and gain insight into the realm of science and politics.”

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