Crowdfunding (raising funds by posting a project, on a website designed for the purpose, and asking for money in return for rewards you will give to the funders) seems to be everywhere at the moment. I tried it last year for one of my projects and had one failure and one partial success. It’s certainly an interesting process to go through and I’m fascinated with the current interest from scientists. According to an April 25, 2012 posting by Michael Ho on Techdirt, there are at least four crowdfunding websites for science projects.
In addition to the ones Ho cites, I found the #SciFund Challenge, which is being held from May 1 – May 31, 2012. From their home page,
Last fall, scientists raised $76,230 for their research in the first round of the #SciFund Challenge. The second round launches on May 1, 2012!
What? The #SciFund Challenge is a grand experiment in science funding. Can scientists raise money for their research by convincing the general public to open their wallets for small-amount donations? In more and more fields – from music to dance to journalism – people are raising lots of money for projects in precisely this way. The process is called crowdfunding. The first round of the #SciFund Challenge showed that this model can work for funding scientific research. Now, let’s take it to the next level!
Who? Well over 140 scientists, from across the globe, have signed for the second round of the #SciFund Challenge.
When? From May 1- May 31, 2012, scientists participating in the #SciFund Challenge will each conduct their own crowdfunding campaigns for their own research. But even though each scientist will be fundraising for their own research, participants won’t be on their own. In the month of April, #SciFund scientists will be trained how to run a crowdfunding campaign. And, through the Challenge, participants will be connected together to increase the chances that everyone succeeds.
How do I learn more? Read the blog! You can also contact one of the #SciFund Challenge organizers with any questions: Jai Ranganathan (firstname.lastname@example.org). If you would like to be informed about future rounds of the #SciFund Challenge, please sign up for our mailing list.
From the About page (I have removed several links),
The #SciFund Challenge is an experiment – can scientists use crowdfunding to fund their research? The current rate of funding for science proposals in the U.S. is ~20%. The current rate for crowdfunding statues of RoboCop in Detroit is 135% – to the tune of $67,436. Perhaps Scientists can do better by tapping this reservoir of funds from an interested public. …
The #SciFund Challenge is also a way to get scientists to directly engage with the public. Crowdfunding forces scientists to build public interaction and outreach into their research from day one. It’s a new mechanism to couple science and society, and one that we think has a lot of promise. …
The founders of the #SciFund Challenge are Dr. Jai Ranganathan and Dr. Jarrett Byrnes. We are biologists – ecologists, actually – and each spends too much time in the science online scene. Jai ran a weekly science podcast, called Curiouser and Curiouser for Miller-McCune magazine, and Jarrett is the big boss over at the science blog I’m a Chordata! Urochordata! On Twitter, you can find Jai at @jranganathan and email@example.com and Jarrett at @jebyrnes.
On another note and in response to my April 18, 2012 posting about Lego robots being used to grow bones, I received a notice about a project to raise funds on Kickstarter. As I’m not a Lego afficionado, it took a little digging to figure out the project.
In my April 18, 2012 posting the scientists used a robot that they built with a Lego Mindstorms kit. The beams used to create a base for the robots limit builders and a team from Denmark (Lasse Mogensen and Soren Jensen), which is the home of Lego, have developed a base (a rectangular plate, 21 x 30 holes), which would allow scientists and others to create larger, more robust and complex robots. They call their project, MinuteBot Base,
There are ways to combine the MinuteBot Base plates, which are fully compatible with Lego products, in case a single base does not suffice.
Here’s the MinuteBot Base Kickstarter page where you can find more information and diagrams. The group has raised almost 1/2 of the funds they’ve requested with some 20 days left in their campaign. The group has contacted Michelle Oyen, who’s one of the scientists cited in my April 18, 2012 posting (from their April 25, 2012 email to me),
We are in contact with Michelle Oyen who expressed interest in our products:
“Please let me know if I can be of use in the future, and if you are interested in collaborating on more ideas regarding using Lego Mindstorms for biomedical/bioengineering research!”
The group also has a second project, a MinuteBot Bearing, which they (represented by team member, Dorota Sauer) have entered in a contest for a prize of $10,000. From the MinuteBot Bearing page on the Boca Bearing contest website,
What was your goal in building this project?
To design a turntable with a perfect interface with LEGO Mindstorms and with improved mechanical properties. The broader vision is to make a kit consisting of robust elements designed for higher precision and durability using industrial components. Robotics made in minutes. That’s MinuteBot.
Does your project help to solve a problem? If so what problem?
LEGO Mindstorms is very easy to program but as it is a toy the precision, durability and mechanical integrity is limited. The MinuteBot Bearing is based on industry-grade ball bearings providing the needed mechanical performance of the turntable.
What makes your idea unique?
The combination of user friendliness, the interface with LEGO Mindstorms and the good mechanical performance makes MinuteBot Bearing unique.
You can find out more information about the team and the products at the MinuteBot website.
Getting back to Michael Ho and his posting about the science-specific crowdfunding sites, here are two listings I’ve excerpted from his April 25, 2012 posting,
Petridish.org has a couple fully-funded projects with about $10,000 worth of donations. One project aims to look for exomoons, and another will look for new species of ants in Madagascar.
Microryza is another crowdfunding site for scientists aimed at the journey of learning something new — which is its own reward. Will backers still be fascinated by a collection of negative results?
Good luck to them all!