The Science Policy Initiative at UVA and Cville Comm-UNI-ty Science Briefing

Federal science policy affects state and local communities in many ways. Graduate students at the University of Virginia recognize this, and want to be involved in communicating the effects of science to policy makers and to the broader community. The Science Policy Initiative at UVA and the non-profit Cville Comm-UNI-ty ask that 5th District candidates learn more about the key local scientific issues. Science is interwoven with almost all aspects of our lives and scientific evidence should be considered when making policy.

Federal Research Funding: The Commonwealth of Virginia is the fourth largest recipient of Federal research and development funding, which, in addition to the scientific benefits provided by the research, also economically benefits local communities. In 2017, the University of Virginia received $372.4 million for federally-funded research, which generated $644.5 million annually in economic impact at the local and state level. Federally-funded research laid the groundwork for the majority of the 50-plus UVA-related start-up companies launched between 2005 and 2016, generating additional jobs within the community. We urge candidates to support increases in research funding to enable further innovative growth.

Health Disparities: For three consecutive years, UVA’s Hospital has been the #1 Hospital in Virginia and is among the top 50 in the US in 5 adult and 6 childhood specialties. Unfortunately, disparities in minority health prevent these benefits from being realized for all. African-Americans face higher rates of heart disease, strokes, diabetes, and maternal deaths due to pregnancies. These disparities in health care are one of the top four health care concerns in Central Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Health. We urge candidates to support policies that address health disparities and improve access to care for rural, low-income, and minority populations.

Immigration and Science: International scholars play a vital role in American science, especially in the University of Virginia community. Graduate students are the backbone of UVA’s research community. Non-resident aliens make up 22% of the UVA graduate student population, with the highest concentration in the School of Engineering and Applied Science; 56% of engineering graduate students are international, many from the People’s Republic of China and Iran. These students must navigate difficult visa restrictions. These restrictions may be linked to the significant decrease in international applications many STEM graduate programs across the US saw this year, potentially threatening the growth of American science in an increasingly global world.  We urge candidates to remove barriers to international scientific collaborations, and to protect those that already exist.

Environment: The Atlantic Coast Pipeline is a proposed 600-mile project carrying natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia into North Carolina and will run through the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains and the George Washington National Forest. While projected to create 17,240 jobs across the three states and $2.7 billion in economic activity, pipeline construction will destroy natural habitats, disrupt streams, and will pass through “Biodiversity Hotspots” identified by the Nature Conservancy. We urge candidates to support clean energy initiatives and protect the underserved communities that would be impacted by the proposed pipeline.