Guest post by Euan Ritchie
Funding is getting harder and harder to find right? And, the future doesn’t look great, well, at least in Australia (http://www.nature.com/news/fears-grow-over-australian-science-funding-1.12934). But, before you get depressed and start contemplating another career there IS a way we can find funding to undertake important research. It doesn’t rely on governments or funding bodies, it relies on you, me, anyone! It’s called crowd funding. I’m sure this concept may not be new to everyone and it’s been written about elsewhere before (http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/abstract/S0169-5347(12)00298-4), but I wanted to briefly reflect on my own experience of crowd funding (bearing in mind I’m only three days in of a 45 day campaign), having just begun my first project (www.pozible.com/tenkile) and what I believe are some of its benefits, acknowledging there are downsides too.
“Tenkile or Scott’s tree kangaroo” (source: Tenkile Conservation Alliance)
Perhaps the biggest difference I’ve noticed already is the instant feedback you get about your ideas, and this is reflected both in a monetary sense (people funding you or not), but also by people’s comments. You know very early on how important the public thinks your work is, not just a small number of people on a grant review panel. There is no hiding, people either like what you’re doing or they don’t, but perhaps this is how a lot of science should be funded? The community decides what is of most value to them and how much support it deserves (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xMj_P_6H69g) . The other terrific aspect of the process is that the public is with you from day one, so they are more invested (some financially, but many emotionally as well) in your research. This can only be a good thing for everyone in terms of communicating just what scientists do and why research is so important. I’ve already had a long list of people wanting to come and help us in Papua New Guinea. Perhaps this is not surprising though.
“Torricelli Mountains” (source: Tenkile Conservation Alliance)
Another major upside of undertaking a crowd-funding project is developing promotional videos and engaging with the media in all its forms. In my case, I was fortunate enough to work with a talented young filmmaker, Reuben Warren (http://framereactor.com/site/). It was a wonderful process that brought together the arts and sciences, and we ended up with a video that I believe captures the message and importantly emotion in our project (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmAhomk1tU0). If there’s one thing science needs a whole lot more of, it’s passion and emotion. In a world where scientific papers keep increasing (http://www.cell.com/trends/ecology-evolution/fulltext/S0169-5347(12)00125-5), in some cases exponentially, but the environment tracks in the opposite direction for the most part, such partnerships may help us to sell our messages better and connect with society.
The last benefit I’d like to mention is profile building. Since starting the project, I’ve been retweeted and shared countless times and importantly, encouraged by people from all over the world and from all walks of like. I’m very grateful for this support and recognize that this project has opened up new opportunities to me, well beyond just gaining the support we need for our project.
“The future of conservation” (source: Tenkile Conservation Alliance)
So in short, if you’ve been thinking about crowd funding for a while but aren’t sure it’s for you, like I had, give it go!
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