Modern advocacy for longevity science, and indeed the entire longevity science community, is comparatively young and comparatively small when viewed in the grand scheme of things. Some single sports teams have a larger footprint in the world, measured in people and dollars. The importance of work on longevity science for the future of humanity is enormous, and enormously underappreciated, but that importance must be realized through growth. It is near all a potential yet to be realized. As of now our community includes many quite small organizations and initiatives which, while doing something valuable, are very vulnerable to happenstance and accident because of their small size. Many of the advocacy efforts that have arisen from the community, like Fight Aging!, have a bus factor of 1. If anything happened to me, that would be the end of Fight Aging! Not everyone is in that boat, of course. If you survey some of the organizations that are running research programs relevant to the medical control of aging rather than just talking about research and longevity, you'll find that their bus factors are in a more respectable range for their size of 2 to 4. That represents an organization far less likely to be rendered unable to continue through a normal rate of attrition of essential personnel.
Still, these are low numbers when considered against the bigger picture. They are a outcome of small organizations, areas of cutting edge research without a large number of experts, and the fact that the community of longevity science supporters is not large. If you look at larger institutions, those further from rejuvenation biotechnology but still within the field of aging research and interested in intervention, you might see that losing four people from, say, the Buck Institute - ten times the size of the SENS Research Foundation - would be unfortunate, but the organization would continue much as it is today without missing a step. On the other hand losing four people from the very select group of scientists who carry out research into glucosepane cross-links would probably set back that line of research for years - there are only a couple of labs with good experience, and little funding for the very important goal of clearing these cross-links from old tissues. Senescent cell clearance doesn't have this problem, given the growth in interest and the greater breadth of knowledge to start with: half of the researchers could decide tomorrow to take up a different line of work, and there would still be plenty of hands left to get the job done. Most of the lines of research relevant to the SENS vision for human rejuvenation fall somewhere between these two extremes.
Advocacy for research is a job for small groups of people - it is hard to justify spending enormous amounts on education and outreach when early stage research costs so very little. The biotechnology revolution has completely changed the economic calculus for near all of the life sciences. Fortunately writing doesn't take much effort, and one of the points of the exercise is to encourage more people to do exactly the same thing. In theory, the sooner you make yourself obsolete the better the job you are doing. So it shouldn't much matter than any one initiative has a low bus factor, because all initiatives have their start and their end, and it is the broader tapestry that is the important thing. One shouldn't lose sight of the forest for the trees. With that in mind, it has been encouraging to see more people trying their hand at this advocacy for longevity science business in the past few years. A number of quite promising attempts have come and gone, some of which are still in the sidebar links on the Fight Aging! home page, but I think it noteworthy that we're starting to see initiatives with a bus factor that is higher than 1. I might point out the Longevity Reporter, for example, that has good number of people involved.
Whether talking about advocacy or the actual work of making progress in rejuvenation biotechnology, growth in the community and the funding solves all concerns about the fragility of organizations and initiatives. The ideal world is one in which there are so many contributors and so much funding that the failure of a company or a laboratory group is not going to cause any significant delay in the pace of progress. The stem cell or cancer research fields are examples to aspire to in this regard. Longevity science is a way removed from that level of funding and participation, but I think it only a matter of time. There is no danger that treating aging as a medical condition will find itself in the same place that the cryonics industry has occupied for the past four decades, struggling to grow both support and funding. The dynamics are very different: I find it hard to envisage a scenario in which a working prototype of a narrowly focused rejuvenation therapy is ignored for decades. Approaches to rejuvenation that are demonstrated to work will be adopted by the biotechnology and medical industry, and after the first couple of these therapies the major players of that industry will stop waiting to be handed the technologies and start in on early stage development of the remainder themselves. It is all a matter of bootstrapping, as always. Just how long it will take is the big question mark, and the number we hope to influence through our actions.
I would hope it to be a matter of great irrelevance as to whether Fight Aging! itself is still around ten years from now or next year or tomorrow. I would be more comfortable saying that with a few more organizations working at advocacy in much the same way, and a five to tenfold growth in the size of this community, however.