Advocacy Update

This column highlights APA's Science Government Relations Office efforts to secure and protect funding for the scientific study of behavior.

Editor’s note: Advocacy represents a large part of APA’s mission. The Science Government Relations Office within APA coordinates efforts to secure and protect funding for the scientific study of behavior. Beginning here, these efforts will be highlighted in a regularly occurring column to help increase awareness of the important role these individuals play in our continued efforts to research issues related to Psychopharmacology and Substance Abuse.

Division 28 President Mark Greenwald, PhD

The Science Government Relations Office (GRO) is our not-so-secret weapon within APA for defending peer-reviewed science. Just a few days before this writing, the GRO leaped into action once again. Representative Darrell Issa (R, California; ranking member of the U.S. House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform) offered six amendments that would rescind funding for five peer-reviewed NIH grants and one NSF grant.

Two amendments were directly related to psychopharmacology and/or substance abuse:

  • Amendment No. 419: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Institutes of Health to research the use of marijuana in conjunction with opioid medications, such as morphine.” (Michael Morgan, PI, “Neural Mechanisms for Enhanced Cannabinoid/Opioid Antinociception”, 5R03DA026591-02).
  • Amendment No. 421: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used by the Department of Health and Human Services to study the concurrent and separate use of malt liquor and marijuana among young adults.” (R. Lorraine Collins, PI, Fellow of Div. 50, “Malt Liquor and Marijuana: Factors in Their Concurrent versus Separate Use, 5R01AA016580-02).

In the first instance, Dr. Morgan is not an APA member at all, yet APA defended his research. In the second instance, Dr. Collins is a Fellow of Division 50, but is not a member of Division 28. Thus, APA “walks the walk” on defending peer review, regardless of membership/affiliation.

Representative Issa proposed four additional amendments that targeted projects whose aims were not directly related to psychopharmacology or substance abuse, but that would prohibit funding for the “impact of integral yoga on hot flashes in menopausal women” (Amendment No. 417), “to examine the potential impact of a soda tax on population health” (Amendment No. 418), “to study condom use skills in adult males” (Amendment No. 420), and “to study whether video games improve mental health for the elderly” (Amendment No. 422).

Dr. Geoff Mumford, Director for Science GRO, described the rapidly unfolding event-sequence, which is very instructive: “We were all over this from the moment the amendments were announced [Feb 16] and worked on it all day Wednesday. Wednesday night, Karen Studwell [Legislative & Federal Affairs Officer] on our GRO staff, working with [Consortium of Social Science Organizations, COSSA] as leaders of the [Coalition to Promote Research, CPR], emailed a cogent defense of all the research to every Legislative Assistant for Health in every House Office. Heather Kelly [Senior Legislative & Federal Affairs Officer] also emailed all the Science Committee staff with a letter from Steve [Breckler, APA Executive Director for Science] reminding them of their role as defenders of peer review at NSF. It was a marathon day but it appears to have paid off as the amendments have been withdrawn … While we can't claim cause and effect, the CPR work and Heather's no doubt helped.”

Dr. Mumford also indicated: “We work immediately to identify and contact the affected PI and provide information relevant to the work of the CPR coalition and that is universally well- received. In this case, the exchange with Morgan actually helped shape the talking points that went to the Hill. Dr. Morgan’s response was very appreciative.”

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