Dr. Beckman and Dr. Zhang’s respective research received mentioned in a Popular Science article published October 21 that discusses the impact of viral campaigns on science funding.


Social media has spawned the slacker-activist, someone who supports a cause through an audacious public display that actually requires very little effort. This summer, the #IceBucketChallenge clogged newsfeeds with videos of folks dumping ice water on their heads instead of (or often in addition to) donating to the ALS Association. In a single month, the nonprofit collected more than $100 million–36 times what it had raised the previous August–to support research for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). “It’s an unprecedented situation, not just for our cause, but for any charity outside disaster relief,” says ALS Association spokesperson Carrie Munk.

But how much can a viral campaign actually propel medical research? Does slacktivism advance science in a meaningful way? ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, kills off the motor neurons that control voluntary muscles. Next comes paralysis, and then death in as few as a couple of years. Even after decades of study, scientists still don’t fully understand its biological mechanisms. Treatment is palliative. A cure remains a pipe dream.

Government funding for ALS research is limited, so few scientists are drawn to it, making progress slow. This new influx of funds could attract a wave of researchers to the field, says Joe Beckman, a biochemist at Oregon State University. Exploring ALS from fresh angles increases the odds of a breakthrough.


Read the full article here: http://www.popsci.com/article/science/does-slacktivism-really-drive-science-forward

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