Recently Scientific American came out with a list of ten potential World Changing ideas in science for 2012. On the list among such lofty ideas as DNA free organisms, data mining smartphones, and electronic tattoos, is the idea of crowdfunding science. This is a topic I’ve been interested in for a while now, after all I managed to fund an entire field season this way, and I strongly believe that crowdfunding represents a new paradigm for funding science.
Besides my own research, I’ve plugged other research projects on this blog in the past. Checking up on the Project Aquarius ReefBase finds the project out of time and far short of their goal. However, a graduate student here at Florida State just raised more than her goal in less than 48 hours! So what lessons are to be learned from these examples? Well, for one I don’t think that crowdfunding is an adequate substitute for public funding. Aquarius ReefBase had to turn to crowdfunding because their sponsoring agency, the National Underwater Research Program, was cut completely from the federal budget (you can read up here on why I think this is a bad thing). The micro-donation model just won’t work to fund a $3 million per year project, however it seems to be perfect for funding smaller projects, like the ones that graduate students take on. If you care about science and think it is important, please consider joining the growing crowd and donate to a struggling scientist!
You can donate to Althea’s project here, or check out a list of other crowdfunding groups that focus on science:
Indiegogo (these guys fund other projects too but they consistently feature science projects)