Two online petitions started by Stephen Meltzer, a gastroenterologist and cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, that called on the White House to increase funding to the US National Institutes of Health fell short of their mark, ScienceInsider reports.
Meltzer initially launched a plea to boost NIH's budget to $33 billion from the current $30.7 billion on the White House's We the People website. According to the article, Metlzer and Morgan Giddings, a computational biologist, began recruiting signers by contacting colleagues, other academics, and every professional society and scientific organization to which they belonged or that they thought might be willing to help.
Petitions have to collect 25,000 signatures within 30 days to get a response from the White House, and both of Meltzer's petitions fell short of the minimum.
Commenting on the disappointing response to the petitions, Meltzer says he's been treated like a pariah by his scientific peers. In fact, he harbors serious doubts about the community's willingness to support grassroots lobbying efforts like his, according to ScienceInsider.
"The scientific community is very competitive and fractured," he says. "People who do [political advocacy] full-time think you're stealing their glory. Or they tell you, 'You don't know what you're doing.' That was one of the most frustrating lessons I learned."