Open science and crowdfunding? BLOG#2

What do crowdfunding and open science have in common and why is this important? 

In this blog series we consider the option of crowdfunding as a funding method for (small parts of) scientific projects. Remember from the first blog that crowdfunding is an online funding method currently used by several Universities. It is important to note that crowdfunding for research is in an early stage. Also, in general the assembled amounts are small compared to the amounts given through research grants. Still, crowdfunding has its value for universities and researches alike: it is transparent, democratic, fun and promotes networking. In the following blog we focus on  the transparent nature of crowdfunding. Also, we connect it to a populair and current debate: the need for open science.

Hé! Each month I will upload a new blog series. Each series will have one central subject. For instance, the subject of this month is ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’. A series consists out of several separate blogs, which will be uploaded weekly and shared via Twitter (@PSCVTeunenbroek) and LinkedIn. This is the second blog of the ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’ series. Click here for the first blog of this series. 

A need for transparency: open science movement

In general, the trust in charities has increased, but the Dutch population still shows a distrust towards charities. Therefore, the transparent (that is open) nature of crowdfunding makes it a particulairly attractive funding method in general, but also to fund science projects. The scientific world is asked to be more transparent.

More and more scientists publish their data on an open science platform. Journals, institutions and funders are asking researchers to share the data and materials underlying published articles. The increasing focus on openness is part of the ‘open science’ movement. It is argued that the sharing of data and materials facilitates the reproducibility and replication of research findings, which allows future research to build on past work or even reuse old data to answer new research questions. The openness begins even before researchers collect their data, researchers are also asked to pre-register their research ideas before they collect the data. For instance, I pre-registered my field experiment at the website of ‘aspredicted.org’ (https://aspredicted.org/u5w9u.pdf). For another interesting blog about open science you can visit the website of my promotor René Bekkers or just click here.

We want to determine if crowdfunding is a good option to fund (small parts of) scientific projects. We already read that scientists are asked to be more transparent. Let’s see how crowdfunding fits with the current scientific focus on transparency. What makes crowdfunding transparent?

Project oriented

Transparency is a key concept of crowdfunding. With crowdfunding the project is a central aspect in the fundraising campaign and not the charity itself. For example, while we are used to charitable organizations going door to door to collect money for their charitable goal (e.g. art), with crowdfunding a initiator (note that we are speaking of initiators and not collectors) collects money for a specific project (e.g. money to hire an art gallery for one month). The focus on projects makes it is easier for us to know what we are supporting with our donation.

Detailed description

The project oriented nature is guided by the requirement of a detailed description about what the initiator aims to do with the money: why is this project important, how will a donation be used? This detailed description provides a certain transparency which in turn provides us with more information than for instance asking for a donation to a specific charitable organization.

More and more information

Let’s take a look at an actual crowdfunding platform and not just any platform but one that hosts science projects: www.experiment.com.

If you want to know more about this project or another please visit: https://experiment.com/projects/there-s-an-app-for-that-developing-an-accessible-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-app?s=discover

If you want to know more about this project or another please visit: https://experiment.com/projects/there-s-an-app-for-that-developing-an-accessible-cognitive-behavioral-therapy-app?s=discover

What we see is that the site provides us with a lot of information. Especially if you compare this solicitation method with a collector at the door asking for a donation for a charity. We see the target amount ($1,605) and the percentage funded (107%). The target amount is the amount the crowdfunders aims to assemble.to realize the project. We can also see the number of donors and the names of the donors. Pretty transparent right?

Regular project updates

All the information we just discussed is helpful to determine if we would like to donate to this project, but what about the information and transparency after we made a donation? Luckily another key concept of crowdfunding are the regular updates provided during and after the project is completed. This gives us more insight into how our money is used. The updates are provided during and after the project is funded.

The increasing focus on transparency is noticeable in both the scientific world and in philanthropy. In this blog we argue that this makes crowdfunding a particularly attractive funding method for (small) science projects. The project oriented, detailed description, additional information and regular updates contribute to the transparent nature of crowdfunding. In the blog of next week (blog #3) we focus on another key characteristic of crowdfunding to determine if it is a useful funding method for science projects. 

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