2023 ARVO Advocacy Day Summary
On Feb. 28, ARVO held its 2023 Advocacy Day, organized by the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR). Participants included members of ARVO’s Annual Meeting Planning Committee (AMPC) and Advocacy and Outreach Committee, the 2022 ARVO Emerging Advocate Award winner, 2022 Science Communication Training Fellows, accompanied by ARVO and NAEVR staff. ARVO’s domestic and international advocates conducted 36 Congressional office visits, both virtual and in-person, with delegations that included several Members assigned to key committees overseeing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and governance structure in the 118th Congress.
Once again, vision researchers were amidst the first advocates to show their support and appreciation for the $17.38 billion in NIH’s funding increases from fiscal year (FY) 2016-2023, “helping the agency regain lost ground and build on past basic and clinical research discoveries.” They thanked them for the 5.6% increase in NIH funding from FY2022-2023 and for the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) FY2024 enacted funding of $896.55 million. They also asked their delegates to:
- Urge Congress to allocate $50.924 billion towards FY2024 funding for NIH, an increase of 7.3%. This increase would allow NIH’s base budget to keep up with the biomedical research and development price index (BRDPI) leading to a meaningful growth of 5%.
- Appeal to Congress to allocate $975 million for NEI in FY2024. Since FY12, the “NEI has continued to operate below inflation-adjusted dollars” while receiving the base increase for all institutes (3.8% in FY2023). Even though the current NEI investment is 27.6% greater than the FY2012 funding level, “it lags the over 30.3% inflation that has occurred during the same period.” This increase will account for inflation and help tackle the rising crisis of age-related vision disorders in the U.S.
ARVO’s Chief Marketing & Communications Officer Julene Joy and Manager of Science Communications Salewa Akintilo joined NAEVR’s Director of Government Relations and Education David Epstein and Executive Director Dan Ignaszewski in overseeing the advocacy event.
The advocates met virtually with NEI’s Associate Director for Science Policy and Legislation Shefa Gordon, PhD. Gordon shared some of their congressional activities, crucial NEI projects, NEI strategic planning and implementation, and why the role the members were playing was essential.
Many advocates had great success in connecting with their policymakers. 2022 Science Communication Training Fellow Khaled Elmasry, MD, MSc, PhD, expressed that his meeting with Rick W. Allen, the Representative from Georgia, was marvelous and that they agreed to request the funding increase. Elmasry stated the delegate was supportive and appreciated the research that he and others were conducting at Augusta University (Augusta, Ga.). Representative Allen could understand the importance of eye research on a personal level due to his aging induced cataract, Elmasry noted. The Representative also agreed to visit Augusta University.
In addition to connecting with their delegates, the advocates appreciated the diverse viewpoints of their fellow participants. 2022 Science Communication Training Fellow Yanhui Ma, PhD, of Ohio, who partnered with Yoshiaki Yasuno, PhD, from Japan, shared how much she enjoyed teaming up with him. As she reported on the happenings in the U.S., he supplied crucial international perspectives that enlightened the delegates.
Overall, Advocacy Day was an excellent experience for the participants, especially the first-time advocates. “I want to express my gratitude for the opportunity to participate in this advocacy visit,” said 2022 Science Communication Training Fellow Xiao Lin, MBBS, MS, PhD candidate. “I believe the actions and decisions we make today have a direct impact on our future. Your vision today sets the vision of the future.’”