Wednesday, November 06, 2013

We Need Data


This is so exciting!  I found out about this from an article in Newsweek, titled "Science Passes the Hat." You have probably heard of Kickstarter and have perhaps even helped fund a project that interests you.  Well, sites like Microryza raise money for scientific research.  Research has been hard hit by cutbacks in funding, and frequently a worthwhile project can't get funding because either the project is too speculative or the project is sound enough, but the researcher is too young and has not yet earned a good reputation.

Since the NRA paid for passage of legislation to prevent the Centers for Disease Control from gathering data on gun violence in the U.S., there hasn't been anyone trying to gather this data in order to persuade policy makers.

Enter Microryza and Bisakha (Pia) Sen, an assistant professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, who raised more than $22,000 to examine the effects of state gun-control policies on firearm death rates, crime rates, and children's access to guns.  Check out the project on the Microryza site:


Here is her Microryza proposal:
 This is a timely project because of the newly reignited political debate about gun background checks.Since we will compile and use data that has already been collected by various agencies, we anticipate being able to complete the project and get the papers out within 6 months. This should help inform policy-makers.Also, as funding for gun violence prevention research becomes available again, the findings from this project will serve as ‘pilot studies’ that we can utilize to put together a large-scale project involving more complex data.

What are the goals of this project?

This research project will look at a state’s gun polices (comprehensive background checks, checks for purchases at gun shows, concealed carry laws, ‘stand your ground’ laws) and gun culture (percent of population who are licensed hunters, percent of gun-owning households) affect the outcomes listed below. In addition to a state's own polices and culture, the project will also look at whether the gun policies and gun culture of neighboring states affect the outcomes listed below.
We will examine the following outcomes: (1) Firearm deaths (homicide, suicide, accidental). For homicides we will also examine justifiable homicide (i.e. shooting a felon in self-defense), and homicides where the victim knew the perpetrator. (2) Crimes (burglary, robbery, assaults). This is to examine whether there is evidence that stringent gun laws may reduce the ability of citizens to self-defend themselves against criminals, and thereby increase crimes. (3) Gun access among youth. Specifically, whether youth report carrying a gun, including to school, and being threatened by other youth with guns on school property
The results will be published in quality, peer-reviewed journals. We will also make our gun-policy database available to other scientists who wish to do research in this area.
Up until now this research has not been possible because of a funding freeze. In 1996, lobbying pressures led Congress to cut all CDC funding for research on guns, public health and safety (link). As a result, hundreds of public health scientists who require funding to support their research have not been able to work on this topic. While Obama has talked about restoring the funding, the sequestration poses a major constraint to such research funding.
We are turning to crowdfunding to continue this much-needed research on gun policies and gun violence.
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