Crowdfunding – getting $ for research

There is a growing number of researchers and research projects bidding for funding from limited government funds which has led to a lot of discussion around alternative funding for research projects. Some have sought greater funding through philanthropy sectors and corporate partnerships, whilst others are moving toward crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising monetary contributions from a large number of people, typically via the internet. Crowdfunding platforms typically involve that a project funding goal is met within a certain time frame or else the campaign, for which funds are sought, is not funded. Tangible benefits are usually provided in return for donating toward the campaign, with different levels of funding have different benefits. The platforms themselves are another social media avenue with donors able to communicate directly with the researchers.

Crowdfunding has become popular in research with several science and research specific platforms emerging, and traditional crowdfunding platforms adding a specific research category. The money from crowdfunding sources is small and likely will never replace the conventional government funding, and nor should it, but it enables researchers to raise money for projects not typically funded by other agencies.

Pozible.com, a large traditional crowdfunding platform, developed a unique partnership with Deakin University in 2013 to crowdfund research projects. The partnership was a great success and resulted in six of eight research projects being funding to a total value of $68,000. Researchers from Deakin University highlighted the valuable gains in research visibility, connectivity and global interest that they had participating in the pilot project. To read more about their experience in crowdfunding see this article and the final report. Pozible.com now works with many Australian research organisations and universities to host their campaigns.

In mid 2014, the Sydney Morning Herald reported on a medical researcher from New South Wales that had launched a campaign on the newly established crowdfunding platform Thinkable.org, a platform founded by a researcher from the University of NSW. Thinkable.org is designed to get researchers to explain their research to the public and seek sponsorship. In return for sponsorship, which can be a one off payment or a monthly amount, researchers will continually share new knowledge. This platform appears quite new but the idea of people getting video snippets of information in return for regular sponsorship could be wonderful for translation of research into peoples lives.

Most recently, the University of Western Australia launched its own crowdfunding platform for its university based research. The platform is simple and has attracted some funding so far. In my opinion, this particular platform is much more academic than others and lacks some of the key elements of what makes crowdfunding a social platform.

In other countries, particularly the United States, there are other crowdfunding platforms that have been built specifically for research funding. Experiment.com, Consano.org, and Petridish.org are some examples.

It seems that crowdfunding is filling some of the smaller gaps in research funding and with universities taking up the option and launching their own platforms we may see this become more popular.

In terms of knowledge translation, the move toward crowdfunding is reasonably positive for several reasons. Firstly, using crowdfunding to move evidence into practice is incredibly relevant and is an area currently lacking sufficient funding in Australia. Secondly, the skills needed to develop ideas in plain language and the self promotion of both researcher and research project, along with the social networking element of the crowdfunding platforms, is a positive step in developing different ways of sharing and communicating scientific knowledge and opens up further opportunities for networking. Finally, there is the increased exposure of research and science to communities outside of academia, and an opportunity to interact and connect with researchers about their ideas.

Do you have any experiences with crowdfunding? Are you for or against the idea? I would love to hear from you.