Once the results of the 2020 presidential election became clear, the ASCB sent a letter to President-elect Biden raising some of the issues of importance to ASCB members and the U.S. biomedical research community. In particular, the letter was shared with the scientific portion of the Biden transition team, a group responsible for overseeing the smooth transition between the two administrations. Transition teams also work with individual federal agencies to make sure the incoming administration understands the issues currently being dealt with by the various agencies.
While the ASCB had a number of matters to raise with the incoming administration, the first to be addressed was the four-year-long effort by the Trump Administration to block cutting-edge biomedical research by federally funded scientists. In particular, the letter mentioned concerns about actions by the current administration to block research using human fetal tissue by both intramural researchers at the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) and NIH-funded extramural researchers across the country. The ASCB asked the incoming Biden administration to allow NIH peer review to, once again, “be the process that decides which research is eligible for funding by the NIH.”
The ASCB is also concerned that, in its closing days, the Trump White House will take harmful actions to halt research using human embryonic stem cells and humanized mice. After over a decade of legislative and judicial battles, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed an executive order permitting the use of federal funds for research using human embryonic stem cells, and that area of research has thrived ever since. Humanized mice have also been the subject of ideological opposition for the last four years.
In its letter, the ASCB also expressed its belief that a properly functioning immigration and visa system is critically important to the American biomedical research community. In a January 2020 survey of ASCB members, over 90% of the respondents said that international students and scientists had, at some point, been members of their lab. When asked why, respondents said it was important to have the best scientists and also to have a diverse lab.
The immigration-related policies and restrictions of the Trump administration have had a very harmful impact on the American biomedical research community. Without the work of scientists from around the world, who come to the United States to learn and add to our research, the American research community will suffer. As the letter says, “Instead, they are searching out other nations to study in and in the process are making the science in those nations better. It is the U.S. that will suffer. Without these top-notch scientists from around the world, our research community will not be the leading community it is now.”
The letter to the incoming U.S. president also raised our concerns about recent administrative efforts by the Trump administration to put a halt to efforts to combat race and sex discrimination within federal government agencies and prohibit federal grantees from receiving funding to educate and raise public awareness about these matters.
You can see the complete letter at https://www.ascb.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/Letter-to-Biden-Transition-Team.pdf.
About the Author:
Kevin M. Wilson serves as Director of Public Policy and Media Relations for The American Society for Cell Biology. He's worked as the Legislative Director for U.S. Congressman Robert Weygand (D-RI) and as a Legislative Assistant for U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell (D-RI). He has a BA in Politics and American Government from the Catholic University of America. Email: email@example.com