Science costs money. No matter how clever we are – and trust me, as a graduate student, I have made scientific equipment by combining salvaged parts, scrap lumber from Home Depot, and rubber tie-downs – there’s no getting around the need for supplies or travel or ship time. Traditional funding, such as grants from federal or state government, is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. On the other hand, our compadres in the arts are increasingly turning to crowdfunding – getting small amounts of money from many people in order to create a specific project.
Can crowdfunding work in science? Signs point to yes. In my little corner of the ocean-verse, marine debris,, there have been a couple examples of successful crowdfunded projects. Most famously, journalist Lindsay Hoshaw crowdfunded her trip to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (though it should be noted that as a scientist, I was less than impressed with the resultant New York Times article), and my colleague Chelsea Rochman raised travel money for her trip to the South Atlantic Subtropical Gyre.
But just being a little project adrift in the endless internet sea can be hard, especially for scientists who are not already involved in online communication. Enter the #SciFund project, organized by ecologists/webnerds Dr. Jai Ranganathan and Dr. Jarrett Byrnes. In their Call To Arms they write:
The current rate of funding for science proposals in the U.S. is ~20%. The current rate for funding statues of RoboCop in Detroit is 135% – to the tune of $67,436.
All of the traditional sources of cash for science – the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, NASA, private foundations – are getting harder and harder to access. And the situation is probably only going to get worse. So what is a scientist to do? How can our funding be as secure as RoboCop’s?…..
We’d like to propose an experiment to fund our science in an entirely new way – the #SciFund Challenge.