Establishing an enhanced government affairs program through the newly formed IFT Office of Science, Communications, and Government Relations—headquartered in downtown Washington, D.C.—provides IFT with many opportunities to advance the scientific integrity of government policies and programs related to food science and technology. As we carefully assess priority issues and actions, it has become clear that coalitions will continue to be a vital part of IFT’s government affairs program.
IFT plans to actively participate in coalitions led by other organizations with objectives and actions that are consistent with the interests of IFT and its members. As part of the coalition, IFT will help set the goals and objectives of the group.
Membership in a coalition has numerous benefits, not the least of which is strength in numbers. Participating organizations share information and expertise to develop unified positions on issues of importance to the scientific community. Legislators and regulators alike appreciate input from a coalition that reflects the views of a large, diverse group. Coalition comments are given additional weight because they represent the consensus of this combined expertise. Certain issues, such as advocating increased funding for scientific research, are a natural fit for coalitions involving multiple stakeholders. In this case, the sum is truly greater than the parts.
In addition to being more effective, coalitions are often more efficient. Working together enables participating organizations to pool their resources for the greatest maximum effect for the least possible expenditure. Leveraging our resources in this manner enables IFT to advance a wider variety of issues without diluting work on high-priority issues, such as those that require IFT’s specific expertise.
For example, IFT intends to continue its membership in the Coalition on Funding of Agricultural Research Missions (CoFARM), a group of 20 organizations, including IFT, the American Society for Horticultural Science, American Society for Microbiology, American Dairy Science Association, and Federation of Animal Science Societies. In its strategic planning process, CoFARM recently confirmed its long-standing goal: to achieve a substantial increase in federal funding directed to agricultural research. To accomplish this goal, CoFARM hopes to:
• Convene a “one-voice” coalition to argue for and support the need for expanded agricultural research funding.
• Make a strong case for emerging needs for agricultural research funding.
• Document the benefits of agricultural research.
• Activate, train, and target scientists as communicators to support efforts to secure increased agricultural research funding.
The current chair of CoFARM is Barbara Glenn of the Federation of Animal Science Societies. IFT member and part-time consultant Jack Cooper serves as the secretary and treasurer of CoFARM. For additional information about CoFARM, including the strategic plan and a complete list of members, visit its Web site at www.cofarm.org.
IFT recently joined another coalition that works to influence federal funding for research in areas of importance to our membership. At its most recent meeting, the Executive Committee decided that it would be a good investment for IFT to join Research!America, a national, nonprofit, membership-supported alliance committed to public education and advocacy for medical research. Its membership represents more than 375 academic institutions, independent research laboratories, teaching hospitals, private industries, professional societies, voluntary health agencies, and philanthropies.
Research!America’s mission is simple: to make medical research a much higher national priority. The organization, led by its president, Mary Woolley, is both the initiator and sustaining momentum behind the move to double the federal budget for research. For additional information about Research!America, visit its Web site at www.researchamerica.org.
As I reported to you in the January 2000 Science Communications column, the objectives of the new Office of Science, Communications, and Government Relations are to:
• Increase the visibility and recognition of IFT as the leading scientific and professional-based source of information for food science and technology–related government activities.
• Advocate the scientific perspective on government food-related issues.
• Effectively capitalize on and expand opportunities for IFT to address government food-related issues.
• Expand opportunities to involve IFT members and develop an effective grass-roots network to enhance IFT’s role in government programs and policies related to food science and technology.
Securing additional funding for agricultural and related medical research falls within the scope of these objectives. We believe that the most efficient and effective means to influence federal funding for research is through IFT participation in CoFARM, Research!America, and similar collaborative efforts with research interests that parallel those of IFT. Most, if not all, of these organizations have experience working with Congress on budgetary issues and also have constituencies to help support their initiatives. In this way, IFT can join other members of the scientific community in promoting the research necessary for the future.
I welcome your comments and feedback. Contact me by email at [email protected] or at our new offices: 1025 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 503, Washington, DC 20036.
by FRED R. SHANK
Vice President, Science, Communications,
and Government Relations