Blazing two trails -- in science and fundraising
COLUMBIA, Mo 3/26/14 (Beat Byte) -- Scientists seeking research grants from Federal, state, and private sources fill out mountains of paperwork and wait years to have their projects funded -- or turned away.
But as a Mizzou School of Medicine researcher is showing, a new alternative -- scientific crowdfunding -- is growing popular on the aptly-named Experiment.com.
"Is fracking contaminating water with chemicals that disrupt hormones?" Susan Nagel, Ph.D., wants to know. With fellow researchers, she launched a $25,000 fundraiser on Monday to help find out. Her crowdfunding effort may be a first for Mizzou research, and part of a larger trend away from 100% institutional funding for science, art, humanities, and other knowledge-based pursuits.
"We received very positive reviews about our National Institutes of Health grant proposal," Nagel told the Heart Beat. "But it was not good enough to be funded, and they suggested more preliminary data."
Otherwise known as hydraulic fracturing, fracking injects chemical-laced water and sand at ultra-high pressures underground to break rocks and unlock oil and gas. Over one third of the chemicals used in fracking, however, are known endocrine disruptors which can have harmful effects on pregnancy, growth, development, and other basic biological functions.
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“Crowd-funding provides an excellent opportunity to get involved in a scientific project designed to test if our natural water sources are being contaminated with harmful chemicals from this process," said Nagel, an associate professor of obstetrics, gynecology and women's health.
National publicity greeted Nagel and her team after a study they published in the journal Endocrinology last December showed elevated endocrine-disrupting activity in surface water and groundwater samples collected near natural gas drilling in Garfield County, Colorado.
But whether or not the contaminants are from fracking or other sources, and how they enter the water -- from the top down or bottom up -- is not completely clear. Nagel's latest project seeks to answer these and other questions before a third, NIH-funded phase.
Nagel's effort has already raised over $1,300 in two days.
Susan Nagel's Fracking Research crowdfunding project