I went to a lecture last week about who pays for neuroscience research. The guy giving the lecture is currently a professor at a university in Arizona. He packed about 3 hours worth of information into one hour plus a question and answer period after wards. My head was reeling after the lecture, but I came away with a better understanding of how much money there is in scientific research in general and who pays for it. While there is a great deal of public money that goes into research, there is also a lot of privately funded research. By private, I am referring to any organization that doesn't receive any, or a very small percentage of, money from government sources. My question was how do we convince the non-scientific community, the general public, that money is needed and well used?
The main thing that I got from the lecture was that everything all comes down to communication. I thought a lot about this concept over the past couple of days and have realized that most of life come down to communication.
Animals communicate with one another on very basic levels, through sounds, odors, taste, visual displays, and touch. Humans have an even greater tool they also use: speech. It is a most effective tool when well thought out and researched and then combined with those other senses. When I speak to a group of people about my experiences with MS, I have often used props to explain the disease, like a cable with the insulation cut away, or I have everyone undo their shoelaces, sit on one hand and have them try to retie the laces one handed. I combine speech with a visual display, and it's highly effective.
As MSers, we want more money to be spent on funding research that leads ultimately to a cure. We spend countless hours holding fundraisers for our cause and for the most part it's peanuts, compared to the government or philanthropical (like Paul Allen or Bill and Melinda Gates) coffers out there. So how do we get more money from those sources? By more effective communication.
Everyone knows that the key to finding answers to scientific questions is through scientific research. There are so many causes out there, it's not enough to simply state to a government rep that people are sick and we need a cure. They know that already. We need to explain and show what the benefit of funding research is. We need more people speaking out to whoever will listen. We need researchers to speak out as well, explaining where we are and how much farther we need to go. We need the media to educate themselves so as to better educate their audience.
We need to consolidate our research as well. Communication between agencies and between researchers must be encouraged. By sharing everything we have learned so far, we might just figure this out.