The last few months have brought remarkable change to Washington, as well as many State Houses. Many in the science community have expressed alarm at policy statements, actions, and potential actions taken by the federal government.
The Sleep Research Society wants to make a clear statement that we support evidence-based policy decisions, community education about science, and increased science funding. Additionally, as an international society, the SRS views the global exchange of ideas as key to scientific progress and societal benefit. As such, we support US policies that promote the free exchange of ideas and scientific communication across international boundaries.
We also want to encourage everyone to remember the best way to influence government policy and priorities is through consistent advocacy efforts and outreach to key agencies and Congress. The best way to influence the public and raise awareness of the value of science in our everyday lives is through community outreach and education.
Both of those elements, government advocacy and community outreach, are key nodes in the SRS Strategic Plan, and we have been engaging in both while implementing that Plan.
In addition to having the SRS Board and Advocacy Task Force work closely with our partners in Washington, the Health and Medicine Council of Washington (HMCW), we want to make it easier for our members to engage with Congress and policy makers. Most of us have no idea how to do that. To help overcome that obstacle, HMCW has drafted a letter our members can send to Congress. All you have to do is download the letter, make any personalized edits you wish, include your full signature, especially address and Zip Code, sending it to our Washington partner at HMCW, Mr. Dane Christiansen, (firstname.lastname@example.org). Dane will, in turn, send it to the appropriate person in your Representative’s and Senators’ office. You can also send the same letter to anyone in government you desire. HMCW and SRS will make these types of letters available whenever there is an important issue upon which the SRS wants to take a stand.
To provide evidence of the difference this kind of consistent advocacy makes, here are some recent successes we have had based on our advocacy with members of both political parties, NIH, PCORI, VA, DoD, DoT, and NHTSA.:
- Multiple RFAs from NIH focusing on sleep and/or circadian science (NIDDK, NICHD, NHLBI, NHLBI, NHLBI, NCATS)
- Inclusion of sleep as a specific topic for funding for 3 straights years in DoD RFAs
- Several other RFA/PAR from NIH that mention sleep and/or circadian rhythms ( NCI, NIDA, NIDA )
- Continued strong support for sleep programs at CDC
- Sleep and circadian science featured prominently in the strategic plans of multiple NIH institutes
- A SRS member serving on the NHLBI SDRAB Advisory Council
- A significant focus on drowsy driving at NHTSA. A national Drowsy Driving plan is about to be announced and we are planning a Congressional Briefing around this issue to raise awareness and lobby for evidence-based policy on this issue.
While the SRS cannot take singular credit for all these accomplishments, we believe this demonstrates our advocacy efforts make a difference, and we know our efforts made the difference for a few of these. We can accomplish even more if more members write and call their representatives to advocate for the importance of science in general, and sleep/circadian science in particular.
The SRS has partnered with the AASM and CDC on the National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project for the last 4 years to raise awareness of sleep health among the community and health professionals. We are developing additional initiatives and will announce those as we are ready to implement them.
The SRS also has a wide communications strategy, with a heavy focus on social media. If you as a member are engaged in a community education or outreach effort, please let us know by contacting email@example.com. We will help spread the word to maximize your reach and increase awareness of the value of sleep and circadian science among the community.
Finally, as many of you are no doubt aware, there will be a March for Science in Washington DC and more than 300 other cities on Earth Day. Several members have requested the SRS consider joining as a sponsor of the March. The Board recently debated this issue. There was unanimity on the fact the SRS supports the broad goals of increasing public awareness for the value of science and encouraging evidence-based policy decisions, in a non-partisan way. At the same time, we recognize there are concerns related to the timing of the March, the high likelihood of the March being perceived by some as partisan, and the effectiveness of demonstrations to influence policy (especially relative to direct advocacy efforts). In the end, we decided to encourage our members to follow their conscience with regard to participating in the March, to make this statement in support of the broad principles, and to persist in our efforts to influence policy.
As always, thank you for your support of SRS.
Sean P.A. Drummond, PhD