Is Crowdfunding Good for Science Research?

This post has been inspired by the Reading Nature project and my interactions with its researcher Riccardo Guidi from the Karolinska Institute, Sweden.

The coming decade is expected to see major breakthroughs in medical research, like the personal genome sequencing (analyzing genetically-carried diseases) and developing personalized medicines to counter its effect. Several startups as well as renowned biotech companies, those involved in genome sequences have already received 100’s of millions in funding from venture capitalists and large fund pools.

While genomics is witnessing a boom time, there are increasing amounts of research projects that are finding it hard to get funding or traction from the general public. The challenge for researchers are a plenty, including:

(1) Not being-known to socialize much, more so with the general public, researchers find it hard to communicate the importance of their research.

(2) Tax-payers rightly seek more transparency, which includes wanting to know the kind of projects where their money is being invested in.

(3) While scientific journals are designed for the scientific community, the common citizen, including children, require more outlets that shared research information in easy-to-understand terms.

(4) To help funders realize that many research projects take a longer time that, for instance a web startup.

(5) Many research projects turn out to be unsuccessful in the end and that in most cases, the learning alone is crucial for future research.

And so we ask, is crowdfunding good for science research?

7 thoughts on “Is Crowdfunding Good for Science Research?

  1. I totally agree with your points Vinay. It would be a great step to gain a wider reach and make our research more transparent. By doing so it might get easier for bundling different global research activities. So maybe different institutes get the chance to come together in order to join forces in mobilizing the crowd. Since one of the biggest obstacle of crowdfunding is to have followers and mobilized supporters in real life – joint actions would mean a concentration and saving of public money…

  2. Many thanks Vinay for laying our what can be seen at close distance here in @SiliconSaxony (Twitter). Based in Dresden, Germany, and connected with Philippe as well I am action researching on the topic of scientific & innovation crowdfunding (mainly as a broader grass-roots, and from within the community coming approach). Just about writing an article about on the mentioned blog (see on website).
    Working in the fields that we are strong in, and connecting to make the impossible reality that is what I envision for the future!

  3. Thank you heartily Vinay for giving visibility to my ReadingNature project and in general to the science crowdfunding movement. I am pleased to say that more then 100.000$ have been collected in 30 days by the 150 researchers that worldwide decided to undertake this challenge.
    One of the hardest difficulties that researchers face, in my opinion, when they tries to create a direct relationship with the public is the accountability. We are not, unfortunately, all like Prof Jay Bradner (the TEDx talk that Philippe shared with us, thank you that was great!). 99% of science research is a failure. Unlikely politicians, that cannot deal with failures, scientists are well trained with these punctual unfortunate events. But the society isn’t. In crowdfunding, out of those 10$ that people put into your pot, they want to see rocket science. To the cure or the solution. No mistake.
    Are scientist ready for this?
    I am ready to give a try. In my crowdfunding project I give the possibility to backers to follow the progress of my research as it comes out from the test tubes. What will be their reaction to accidents and failure? Will I be able to commit to my openness?
    Thank you for starting the debate, guys.

  4. Riccardo, you guys at SciFund along with the many enthusiasts supporting science projects, are essentially pioneers in the way ‘we the crowd’ have begun to think about science research. There’s a lot we can learn by connecting with each other. One instance of what ‘we the crowd’ can take from researchers, is how you guys deal with success and failure, even as you stay focused on advancing the field.

  5. And then there are brilliant storytellers like this TED video of ‘Marco Tempest: The electric rise and fall of Nikola Tesla’ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-WkUKP1l3c
    If there’s a trend observable from the recent past, it’s the ecosystem for science research that’s getting built, more and more people are willing to contribute in various ways, fundraising, storytelling, just to name a couple.