With conventional funding sources drying up a new scientific method has emerged; persuading members of the general public to donate small amounts of money instead of applying for grants.
The Nature news feature gives an example of engineer Cesar Harada who had an idea for a low-cost cleanup solution for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. He was frustrated by what he perceived to be the slow pace of academic funding and so turned to Kickstarter, a website used by authors, film-makers and artists who need funds for their projects.
Harada set a target of US$27,500, and when the appeal closed he had raised almost $34,000 which was enough to build his prototype robotic solution.
His example is by no means an isolated one, as crowdfunding for research is gaining in popularity. For example, the #SciFund Challenge involved 49 scientists from numerous disciplines who managed to raise $76,230 for their research projects, from 1440 contributors.
The author of the Nature article offers a few suggestions on how to pitch winning scientific proposals to the crowd, and these include:
- Create a compelling story about your research. Who will it benefit? And how?
- Incentivize the crowd by devising rewards for donors. For example, giving away T-shirts decorated with project logos or, for big donors, a chance to visit your lab.
- Use your social media networks to create a buzz about your research.