Biomedical initiatives are boosted by strong public support, survey finds – Virginia Tech Daily

For 30 years, Woolley has led Research!America surveys and has seen public concerns change. In the 1980s, for example, HIV/AIDs grew into a top concern and remained so for a decade.

But there have been constants. Education is always the first among residents’ priorities for leadership.

“This is true across the country. In every state, education comes out No. 1,” Woolley said. “And it makes sense. Along with research, education is the driver for every success in the future and every one of the sectors Virginians support, as well — defense, agriculture, and all those cited. Education and research leadership go together. It’s about keeping smart young people right here in the commonwealth, not letting them get away.”

Another belief that remains unchanging is the opinion that biomedical research is worthwhile.

“I’ve never seen any public opinion survey in any state that says that research at universities is not valued,” Woolley said. “Virginians want leadership in fields that you are engaged in. Your work is helping find answers to the things that are top of mind for them.”

Virginia Tech President Tim Sands highlighted the university’s long-standing strengths in engineering and life sciences research alongside its rapid gains in biomedical research.

“We are now the third-most-recognized biomedical research university in Virginia,” Sands said. “The top two have a 100-year head start, but we’re on the move and going to catch up fast,”

Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC executive director and Virginia Tech’s vice president for Health Sciences and Technology Michael Friedlander said insights from the survey ensure scientific investments align with taxpayer expectations.

“It is important for all of us who carry out research to be good stewards of public resources in the service of the public good,” said Friedlander, who led the Research!America event for Virginia Tech. “It’s essential that we periodically take stock of the public’s awareness, opinions, and concerns.” 

Friedlander said Virginia Tech is well-positioned to respond to the top health concerns represented in the survey. The Fralin Biomedical Research Institute, for example, has made pivotal investments in mental health, children’s health, and addiction recovery research programs since it opened in 2010, in addition to its growing strengths in heart and cancer research. 


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