I’m a part of #SciFund – a collection of scientists that are crowd funding to fund research. Instead of using a closed proposal system, we are asking the (interested) public for money. Not only is this a way to raise money but it is also public outreach and hopefully will create awareness of different types of research.
I participated this year with Budding Scientists, a project to fund lab equipment for high school student research. This is a project that doesn’t fit easily into current funding structures and #SciFund was a great way to raise the initial funds. Note: most projects in #SciFund are asking for small amounts of money. We asked for $3,141.59 (recognize the number?). I think the crowd funding could be a good complement for the large scale request of the usual funders. Plus, I believe that participating in #SciFund will help me write better grants.Selfish plug: If it is May 31 before midnight Eastern, it would be great if you could donate to our project on RocketHub to help us reach the goal. If you want to contribute after the deadline for RocketHub, that’s possible! The research is taking place at a charitable organization. Just leave a comment and I’ll organize it for you!
One interesting aspect of #SciFund is that you can see what people think of your project and its description. They’ll only donate if you’ve convinced them (or they are related to you but that has been a small proportion of my donors). Donations are one way to gauge success but the fun part for me has been the engagements. People have left comments and questions and these interactions have given valuable feedback plus led to other research ideas.
The #SciFund experience has been great…and a lot of work! It seems like it won’t be that hard – I mean, I talk about science all the time, right? – but organizing your thoughts to create a compelling story is difficult. It’s a lot like writing a grant!
Your media might be different for #SciFund but there are some common principles.
It isn’t that easy to create a compelling story. Because I had high school students in my story, I thought it would be easier but adding that extra element made it much more convoluted. Do I talk about the science? Students? Both?
The organizers of #SciFund really encourage everyone to participate in a peer review before the launch date of funding requests (similar to an institutional review?) and it seems very successful. Unfortunately, I had items in my personal life that were sucking all my time in April so I wasn’t able to fully participate. I won’t make that mistake again.
Writing grants takes a long time and I remember underestimating the time for the first few that I wrote. I should have transferred that lesson to a new type of funding request.
Be realistic with amounts
In the heady days of planning, you think about all the things you could do with all the money people will throw at you. Luckily, I learned from grants to think about what is a ‘need to have’ vs. a ‘nice to have’. Because I didn’t want to use a lot of boring numbers, I didn’t provide a budget but listed things in order on our site. I got feedback that it would be better to have the rewards tied to the things you need ($20 will buy…).
Success begets success
As you get closer to your goal with crowd sourcing, it seems to get easier to get money (see last graph on page).
Why have I put this as a similarity with grants that are peer-reviewed? Well, in grant reviews, it’s sometimes phrased as reputation but there is an idea that someone who has been successful in the past will be successful again. Think of the Nobel Prize winners and their struggles to get funded…
Successful crowd funding required you to ask your network for support and money. In the last few days, I became quite bold (for me) and asked RocketHub to include me on the homepage. They did! I also sent out the annoying emails but they work and others sent them on my behalf. I was also interviewed on the CBC but it is still too early to know if that will make a difference (I’m writing this post instead of listening to it).
For grant writing, Ithink it is more confidence than promotion. I struggle with being a cautious scientist and stating that I can do the work. It is also promotion but more in attitude than connecting with your readers. Occasionally in grant review, I’ve heard some people give a break to well-known scientists, especially if the reviewer doesn’t know the details of the research.
I’ve loved participating in #SciFund. I think it would be a great entry point for young researchers to ask for money. It gets you thinking about your research and learning to communicate your ideas.
I also wish everyone made a video to explain their research in an accessible way. And I think the videos should be done by the researchers; I’ve loved the videos of SciFund because you get to see scientist personalities. Professional videos can be too slick. Our video was designed and filmed by the high school students and I think they did a great job!
My funding experience