This might be a great start to an awful joke. Duck penises and ice challenges also provide some pretty interesting insights into how the US is investing (or, more often, not investing) in research these days.
Let's start with duck penises. Not to long ago, during all of the budget debates, some lawmakers pointed out that US taxpayers are footing the bill for some research that on the surface might sound silly. These projects have things in the title that sounds frivolous in light of the countries budget woes. In addition to duck penis research, we are also funding research on snail sex, fly genetics and shrimps on a treadmill.
|Shrimp on a treadmill|
However, in reality, these projects are anything but silly. Instead, they are great examples of basic research. In this case, basic does mean remedial or simple, quite the opposite really, it just means that it is not specifically designed to solve a practical problem. Instead, it is geared towards trying understanding our crazy world, period.
The truth is, there is no telling where the next big advancement will come from. Two examples. There are some weird jellyfish that glow green.
|Art done with glowing bacteria. Seriously.|
What does any of this have to do with the ice bucket challenge? It all comes back to research funding. The US is facing some serious decisions about where to allocate limited money, and lawmakers recently decided that research doesn't need so much money. Budgets for research agencies, like the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Health, were cut by 5%. All the ice buckets in the world are not going to make a dent in this loss in research funds. And this is just one disease, what about the rest? There is also a huge mismatch between the how deadly a disease is and how much money we donate towards research. And that's just in the US. The number for world-wide diseases would be even more disheartening. Plus, though cutting funding research might save money in the short-term, it is really bad for jobs and economic growth in the long-term, so we all lose.
Ice-buckets are unlikely to have a long-term effect on ALS research and human health, but it is my hope is that these challenges due serve to shock Americans in to appreciating how important research funding is for their everyday lives, even if they could care less about glowing jellyfish and duck penises.