A Longevity Meme reader sent e-mail to myself and the Methuselah Foundation a few days ago, asking how best to get involved in helping stem cell and real anti-aging research. That's a good question, and I will attempt to provide a half-way decent answer.
You should start by reading the article by Devon Fowler and myself at the Longevity Meme called "Activism for Healthy Life Extension." It should give you a good grounding as to why it is important for as many people as possible to speak out in support of medical research. Without the groundswell of activism, research grinds to a halt. This is just as true for stem cell research or work towards curing specific age-related conditions as it is for life extension, of course. You can find further comments on the value of activism and advocacy at the Longevity Meme as well.
At root, activism - and supporting medical research - is as simple as convincing your friends and new acquaintances of the value of donating to your favorite cause. One of the best ways for people like you and I (average income, a job to keep us busy, and a good social network) to help medical research is to become advocates within our social networks. Think about how to pitch people you know, start keeping leaflets handy, and practice convincing your friends without annoying them.
There are many forms of advocacy and activism to support medical research. Writing, education and raising awareness are my primary activities, for example. I am one of many people building the foundation of ideas and support that make it possible to talk to people about healthy life extension without seeming awkward.
If you have a good social network, you may find encouraging and educating people one-on-one to be easier than writing to a wider audience. Spend some time to research specific non-profit organizations working to advance your chosen field of medicine. You can help to raise funding through your friends and associates; make the time you have invested in your social network pay off by supporting your favored medical research! Most established non-profit organizations provide packages and kits to make it easier for you to help out.
You may be interested in supporting research directly, or you may be interested in taking part in the political battles over regenerative medicine research. Either way, let me point you in the direction of a few noteworthy causes:
- Methuselah Foundation. This is my current favorite. Research prizes like the Methuselah Mouse prize have a good heritage and real potential to shake things up in the aging research industry. Volunteers and donors are needed!
- Immortality Institute. A group that believes in taking the fight against aging to its logical conclusion (and in which I hold a director position). We are raising funds for a conference in 2005 and currently working the first in a series of collaborative books on the scientific quest for physical immortality.
- Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research. CAMR is probably the most established political action group dedicated to supporting stem cell research and therapeutic cloning. They are doing a great job, and the more people who can drum up pointed letters to politicians - especially in this election year - the better.
- Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation. Christopher Reeve is doing a great deal of good for stem cell research through his high-profile advocacy, and so I fully endorse helping his foundation achieve its ends.
- Alliance for Aging Research. A more mainstream, conservative and established group, but worthy of assistance. They currently help to fund SAGE Crossroads, an online forum for discussion about aging research.
- American Federation for Aging Research. Again, a mainstream, conservative and established organization. They fund one of the best educational websites on aging: InfoAging.
Take this as a starting point for research and looking around. I don't know what your preferences are, but I advise you to support an organization that a) you are comfortable volunteering for, b) comfortable pitching to friends and social contacts for donations and c) can support you in the way that you like to volunteer. To learn more about how best to go about volunteering in general, I'd advise taking a stroll through this informative website, and these pages in particular.
I hope that helps.