2024 ARVO Advocacy Day Summary


On Jan. 26, ARVO held its 2024 Advocacy Day, organized by the National Alliance for Eye and Vision Research (NAEVR). Participants included members of ARVO’s Annual Meeting Planning Committee (AMPC), Advocacy and Outreach Committee (AOC) and Animals in Research Committee (ARC), Advocacy Award winners, 2023 Science Communication Training Fellows, and previous participants of the Alliance for Eye and Vision Research’s (AEVR) Emerging Vision Scientists. The ARVO members were accompanied by ARVO staff Julene Joy, Salewa Akintilo, Jason Spessard, Kiyah Morrison, John Saville and Cathy Conley, along with NAEVR’s Dan Ignaszewski, David Epstein and Judy Hill.  

Domestic and international advocates conducted over 80 Congressional office visits, both virtual and in-person, with delegations that included several Congress members assigned to crucial committees overseeing the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funding and oversight jurisdiction.  

ARVO members had a chance to virtually meet the National Eye Institute’s (NEI) Associate Director for Science Policy and Legislation, Shefa Gordon, PhD. He shared the NEI strategic plan and implementation, important NEI projects and some of their congressional activities. Additionally, he explained how essential the advocates were.  

Eye and vision researchers were the first advocates to show their support and appreciation for past funding increases for the NIH and NEI. They also requested that Congress work on finalizing fiscal year (FY) 2024 funding since the government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that makes federal spending remain at the previous year’s funding levels. Thus, the advocates requested Congress to finalize appropriations for the NIH at $49.22 billion and $896.5 million for the NEI. They also urged Congress members for robust funding increases for FY2025, including $1 billion for NEI, an 11.5% increase over FY2023 to reflect the urgent need to fund vision research with the doubling of vision conditions expected by 2050. 

Several advocates experienced remarkable success in establishing connections with their policymakers. The AOC Chair, Kevin Chan, PhD, FARVO, commented that the staffer they met on behalf of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand willingly agreed to their requests for both FY2024 and FY2025 budgets and shared her personal connection to “visual impairments and the value of NEI funding support for reducing vision loss and improving quality of life.”

Poonam Naik, PhD, a SciComm Fellow shared that her team's diversity "enriched the event's collaborative spirit" as it allowed them "to pool [their] insights from various stages of [their] careers." She said she found Advocacy Day to be "inspiring and enriching. It has ignited a deeper interest in research advocacy, and I am eager to contribute more actively to these efforts."