Events

ARVO Advocates Among First to Request FY2021 NIH/NEI Funding Increases

The ARVO advocates included participants in its 2019-2020 Science Communications Fellows, a program managed by ARVO’s Erin Hering (far left), represented by Ruanne Vent-Schmidt, PhD (Canadian National Institute for the Blind Foundation), Andrea Waksmunski, BS (Case Western Reserve University), Jarrod Harman, BS (LSUHSC-New Orleans), Nilsu Atilgan, BA (University of Minnesota), Joshua Webb, BS (University of Maryland), Salma Ferdous, BS (Emory University), Konstantina Sampani, MD (Harvard Medical School), Amanda McLaughlin, PhD (UC Berkeley School of Optometry), and Edmund Tsui, MD (UCLA)

As in past years, the early February date for the NAEVR-managed Advocacy Day aligned with ARVO’s Annual Meeting Planning Committee (AMPC) meeting, resulting in vision researchers being among the first advocates on Capitol Hill to request Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 funding increases for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Eye Institute (NEI). Held on February 7, the Advocacy Day also preceded the February 10 release date of the President’s FY2021 budget proposal. 

ARVO’s domestic and international advocates—including AMPC members, Science Communication Training Fellows, and ARVO Advocacy and Outreach Committee Chair Peter Koulen, PhD (University of Missouri, Kansas City)––made 40  delegation office visits, including Members assigned to key committees with NIH funding and oversight jurisdiction.

The advocates first thanked Congress for passing the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019  in July 2019––which increased both defense and nondefense spending caps for FY2020 and FY2021 appropriations––as well as for Congress finalizing FY2020 appropriations in December 2019 which included funding increases of $2.6 billion for NIH and $27.6 million for NEI. The advocates proceeded to request continued, robust funding increases for FY2021 that include:

  • NIH funding at $44.7 billion, a $3 billion or 7.2 percent increase over the FY2020 funding level of $41.7 billion; and
  • NEI funding of $875 million, a $51 million or 6.2 percent increase over the FY2020 funding level of $824.1 million.

ARVO’s FY2021 NIH funding request mirrors that of the Ad Hoc Group for Medical Research, which has been endorsed by more than 335 member organizations, including NAEVR and ARVO.  Regarding the NEI request, the advocates described their research and highlighted potential breakthroughs. NAEVR specifically asked that advocates emphasize the training and research opportunities that have resulted from Congress increasing NEI funding by $148 million in the FY2016-2020 timeframe. The international advocates provided their unique perspectives on the global nature of vision research, identifying their collaborations with US investigators.       

As it was early in the appropriations process, the advocates heard several potential scenarios from staff about the timing of final FY2021 funding, especially due to this being an election year. Staff also anticipated the President’s FY2021 budget request, not only in terms of funding levels but also Administration priorities for funding. [Note: The President’s budget did issue on February 10 and proposes to cut NIH funding by $3 billion or more than 7 percent and NEI funding by $75 million or more than 9 percent).

NAEVR’s James Jorkasky and David Epstein were pleased to join ARVO’s Julene Joy, Erin Hering, and John Saville in joining Congressional office visits and taking the images accompanying this story.  

Cong. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), right,  with Jingyun Wang, PhD (Salus University of Pennsylvania)
Cong. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), right, with Jingyun Wang, PhD (Salus University of Pennsylvania)
Peter Koulen, PhD (University of Missouri, Kansas City) and Ruanne Vent-Schmidt, PhD (Canadian National Institute for the Blind Foundation) with Christiana Reasor, office of Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
Peter Koulen, PhD (University of Missouri, Kansas City) and Ruanne Vent-Schmidt, PhD (Canadian National Institute for the Blind Foundation) with Christiana Reasor, office of Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
From left: Brian Perkins, PhD (Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Colleen Cebulla, MD, PhD (Ohio State University, and Seth Gold, office of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
From left: Brian Perkins, PhD (Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Colleen Cebulla, MD, PhD (Ohio State University, and Seth Gold, office of Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
From left: Anne-Marie Boisseau, office of Cong. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Cintia de Paiva, MD, PhD (Baylor College of Medicine), Lisa Ostrin, OD, PhD (University of Houston), and Andrew Carkeet, MS, PhD (Queensland University of Technology)
From left: Anne-Marie Boisseau, office of Cong. Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Cintia de Paiva, MD, PhD (Baylor College of Medicine), Lisa Ostrin, OD, PhD (University of Houston), and Andrew Carkeet, MS, PhD (Queensland University of Technology)
From left: Thomas Dorney, office of Cong. John Lewis (D-GA), Salma Ferdous, BS (Emory University) and Ross Ethier, PhD (Georgia Institute of Technology)
From left: Thomas Dorney, office of Cong. John Lewis (D-GA), Salma Ferdous, BS (Emory University) and Ross Ethier, PhD (Georgia Institute of Technology)
From left: Konstantina Sampani, MD (Harvard Medical School), Brianna Battle, office of Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Tatjana Jakobs, MD (Mass Eye & Ear), Allen Clermont, MS (Harvard University) and Neena Haider, PhD (Schepens Eye Research Institute)
From left: Konstantina Sampani, MD (Harvard Medical School), Brianna Battle, office of Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Tatjana Jakobs, MD (Mass Eye & Ear), Allen Clermont, MS (Harvard University) and Neena Haider, PhD (Schepens Eye Research Institute)
From left: Edmund Tsui, MD (UCLA), Aurora Paik, office of Cong. Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Zia Chaudhuri, PhD (Lady Hardinge Medical College, India)
From left: Edmund Tsui, MD (UCLA), Aurora Paik, office of Cong. Ted Lieu (D-CA), and Zia Chaudhuri, PhD (Lady Hardinge Medical College, India)
From left: Kara Vogel, PhD (University of Wisconsin) and Francesca Cordeiro, MD, PhD (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology),  with Leslie Zelenko and Sydney Scott, office of Cong. Mark Pocan (D-WI)
From left: Kara Vogel, PhD (University of Wisconsin) and Francesca Cordeiro, MD, PhD (UCL Institute of Ophthalmology), with Leslie Zelenko and Sydney Scott, office of Cong. Mark Pocan (D-WI)

After Advocacy Day activities, AEVR’s James Jorkasky (far left) hosted an educational session for the ARVO participants that engaged senior representatives from the NEI. Shefa Gordon, PhD (center), who serves as the Associate Director for Science Policy and Legislation, provided an update on key NEI programs. He was accompanied by Mary Frances Cotch, PhD (second left) who serves as the Acting Deputy Director, and Maria Zacharias (far right), who serves as Director of Science Communications, Public Liaison, and Education. ARVO’s Executive Vice President Justine Smith, PhD (second right) and Executive Director Iris Rush, CAE (third right) also participated, and AEVR thanks ARVO leadership for the opportunity to engage with its  researchers during this important annual event.NEI Provides Update to ARVO AMPC Members

After Advocacy Day activities, AEVR’s James Jorkasky (far left) hosted an educational session for the ARVO participants that engaged senior representatives from the NEI. Shefa Gordon, PhD (center), who serves as the Associate Director for Science Policy and Legislation, provided an update on key NEI programs. He was accompanied by Mary Frances Cotch, PhD (second left) who serves as the Acting Deputy Director, and Maria Zacharias (far right), who serves as Director of Science Communications, Public Liaison, and Education. ARVO’s Executive Vice President Justine Smith, PhD (second right) and Executive Director Iris Rush, CAE (third right) also participated, and AEVR thanks ARVO leadership for the opportunity to engage with its  researchers during this important annual event.