Director’s Reflections…Advocating on Capitol Hill

Barbara Epstein
HSLS Director

As President of the Medical Library Association (MLA), I am a member of the Joint Legislative Task Force of MLA and the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries. Every year, this group treks to Washington, DC to visit congressional offices. We meet with legislative aides (and occasionally representatives and even senators) to advocate for legislation that is important to our organizations, namely funding for the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, as well as legislative and federal initiatives to increase public access to the results of federally funded research.

This year, our visits took place on April 4. I visited the offices of Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey, and Representative Mike Doyle (PA 14), whose district includes the University of Pittsburgh. We were very pleased to thank them for their support of the generous funding to NLM and NIH in the recently passed FY18 budget legislation, and we explained how the $3 billion increase to NIH and $21 million for NLM will create jobs, provide hope to patients across the country, widen the opportunity for breakthroughs in biomedical research and support our nation’s continued global leadership in sciences and technology.

We explained how NLM funding directly benefits the University, our city and our region through the National Network of Libraries of Medicine Middle Atlantic Region (housed here at HSLS), and gave examples of local and state outreach projects.

Representative Doyle is a sponsor of the Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), which will require federal agencies with extramural research expenditures of over $100 million to develop a federal public access policy, and will codify implementation of public access plans already developed by 22 federal departments and agencies as directed by the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) under President Obama. As a result of the OSTP directive, there has been a 12% increase in the number of full-text articles deposited in PubMed Central just in the past year. Enacting the FASTR legislation, which has bi-partisan support in both houses, will ensure that this OSTP directive is not reversed.

The Senate and House office buildings are a confusing maze of long halls with hard marble floors. We were warned to wear comfortable shoes! After a long day of traipsing from office to office—my Fitbit registered nearly 6 miles—we were pleased to pack up and head home, knowing that we’ve participated in the democratic process.