Support for science comes in many forms. I've discussed being a research scientist and what citizen scientists can do when they donate their time. Now let's bring up the third leg of the Tripod of Science-- cash. This is about the triumph of capitalism over adversity.

There are so many causes one can give to. Haiti received huge economic support because, for whatever reason, they caught the public's fancy and got significant media attention. That's hard to predict, or arrange.

With so many causes, who steps up? And why? I asked these questions to Judy, attending as part of the Chief Information Group (CIG) sponsors. Now, I'm in Info Tech, so I find the work that information architects like CIG fascinating. To each their own. But back to the point on hand.

How are information technology companies, auctions, and medical science connected? And the answer is, again, pure capitalism.

Companies support science and causes because 1) the issues are brought to their attention and 2) they feel it's right to do so.

I'm going to steal a motto from a conference CIG is assisting. "Promoting the Global Good [is] the Social Responsibility of Scientists and Researchers". It's also the responsibility of all good capitalists.

And sometimes, as a result, you get to attend a black tie event in the process. I was the 'guest of a guest' at the National Institute of Health (NIH)'s charity auction to support the Children's Inn.

From their FAQ, "Children and families travel from all over the world to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) because conventional treatments have failed to have sufficient impact on their illnesses."

The Children's Inn is, quite simply, a place where parents can stay with their children who are undergoing treatment at NIH. Stays at the hospital are typically a week or more, and during that time, medical outcomes are much stronger if there is family support. Ergo, the family needs a place to stay.

Doing a quick run of the numbers, a typical night at the Inn is free to the parents but costs the Inn perhaps $100. Often two thirds of the almost 60 rooms are occupied at any given time, with bookings being much heavier over the winter break and summer vacation periods. So we're talking $2.2 million dollars in room costs alone that the Inn needs to recoup. being piled upon the parents who are already dealing with their children's medical bills.

In 20 minutes of auction, they received over $180,000 in contributions. That's almost two months of room costs. The fastest were the 'low end' bids of $100 for... nothing. Yes, nothing, just an open bid. Over 100 were sold in four minutes.

I discovered Cokie Roberts sells for less than a Harley. They auctioned off a 50-person lunch with Ms. Roberts, the Emmy-award winning NPR correspondant. That auction was interrupted by a fire alarm, alas, and went for just $6500. The Harley sold at just $300 over retail, though, so Cokie need not be worried. Heck, a solar system mobile, homemade, sold for $350 (over the minimum bid of $100). Go astronomy!

There was an excellent speech by one patient, 8-year old Kaitlyn, who has osteogenesis imperfecta-- aka the same as Mr. Glass from 'Unbreakable'. Very fragile bones. She's broken pretty much every bone in her body by doing such dangerous things as walking, eating, sleeping.

So this being a science blog, where's the science in Kaitlyn? The science is in the NIH medical work; Kaitlyn is the experiment, and the outcome is more favorable when facilities like the Children's Inn are available.

I'm not hitting you up for a contribution, to the Inn or elsewhere. But I am asking you to be aware of your place in the larger world. I'm all for people going out to make their pile of money. But after you do that, then what?

Contribute to science-- with research, time or money. It's our future.


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