Crowdfunding for science! Blog #5

Financial concerns are the biggest cause of stress for scientists. Crowdfunding can be used to fund small (parts of) research projects. 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 last couple of week’s I explained one advantage at a time. Below I provide an overview of all the blogs in the ‘crowdfunding for science’ series. 

Hé! Each month I will upload a new blog series. Each series will have one central subject; the subject of this month is ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’. A series consists out of several separate blogs. This is the fourth blog of the ‘crowdfunding for science and Universities’ series. Click here for the first (general introduction into crowdfunding), second blog (the need for transparency and connection to open science), the third blog (self-promotion and networking) or fourth blog.

Money concerns are the main stressors for researchers: blog #1

As a scientist I am well aware of the limited funding for research. A stunning 80% is left without funds: a waste of talent, money and time. This is especially troublesome as the number of applications have increased with 14% between 2007 and 2015. Thus, there is a real need for funding. It is therefore no surprise that researchers are searching for other ways to fund their ideas. So what about crowdfunding as an additional funding method?

transparantCrowdfunding is an online donation method where those in need of money place their ideas online. Anyone with a good idea can start a crowdfunding project, but not per se successfully. The idea is placed online on a specific site by an initiator (in more traditional philanthropy we often refer to them as collectors).

Several universities in the Netherlands already launched their own crowdfunding platform:  the Rijksuniversiteit Groningen University of Leiden, Utrecht, Twente and also the Radboud University. Now scientists and academics are quietly starting to try out crowdfunding is time to ask ourselves: is crowdfunding a usefull funding method for science?

Open science and crowdfunding: blog #2

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, since the scientific world is asked to be more transparent. 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.

Transparency is a key concept of crowdfunding. With crowdfunding the project is a central aspect in the fundraising campaign and not the charity itself. The focus on projects makes it is easier for us to know what we are supporting with our donation. 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.

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.

Reaching the crowd: blog #3

Why is networking important for scientists? In order to answer this question is talked with Dr. Hasanefendic. We concluded that scientists are great at developing knowledge, but not so much at sharing it. Scientists have a tendency to work in isolation, while networking is important because it can connect us with important actors: society, companies, other researchers etc. By promoting our findings and connecting with society, the society becomes more involved: there voice and concerns will be heard. Science can be used to solve problems, but in order to help we have to be aware of a problem. If we connect more, the society can be more participatory and science can be more applied.

shutterstock_255266638Crowdfunding provides you with several tools to reach your crowd. As crowdfunding is an online funding tool, most of the communication takes place online. Crowdfunding provides us with the opportunity to connect with others while networking to promote the project. You should always promote your project using social media, both before, during and after the campaign ended. The direct line of communication with those interested in a specific project is a definite advantage of crowdfunding. A peer group specialized in your field can be very useful. Sharing your ideas online in the form of a project makes it easier for others to find you.

Crowdfunding can be used as a relation strengthener: by connecting with donors and their network you can expand your reach at a low cost (instead of for example through advertisement). Also, this makes crowdfunding relatively attractive as a networking tool, as it is cheaper than laughing an advertisement campaign.

A picky donor: blog #4

More than ever, donors want to do more than donating money, they want to be included and expect some form of a lasting relationship after the donation is made, instead of just making a donation. Asking is not automatically followed by giving, which is problematic as science projects could use some additional funding. Donors are becoming more critical: they want to have a choice. In order to do so, they need sufficient information (see blog 2) to determine which project they want to support. The time of ‘a passive’ donor is coming to an end, in order to attract donors we will have to give them a voice: the philanthropic world has to become more democratic.

file-20170615-23518-1d10ljrA key characteristic of crowdfunding is the detailed description of the project, which provides a certain transparency which in turn provides a donor with more information than for instance asking for a donation to a specific charitable organization. The project oriented nature and detailed description contribute to the democratic side of crowdfunding: each individual can browse along different project with specific descriptions of the project’s aim and decide which one to fund. This gives a donor a say about which project should make it and which should never leave the drawer.

Crowdfunding provides you with an indirect feedback system: if your project is not receiving donations, the general public is not interested (or the project description is unclear). Crowdfunding can also help scientists share the fun side of science. With crowdfunding it is common to provide donors with rewards.  For instance, if I would donate 500 euros to project X, I would receive a 3D-print of my own ear! Pretty cool if you’d ask me! Thus, the rewards connected to crowdfunding make science more tangible and less abstract and therefore more attractive for the general public.

Conclusion

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. Promoting your research is important, but definitely not simple. Crowdfunding helps you to promote your ideas and connect with interested parties. The democratic side of crowdfunding makes it a really interesting funding method. With crowdfunding, a donor can browse along several projects, read their descriptions and determine (based on actual information) if they want to support a particular project. So what do you think, is crowdfunding an option for your science project? 

 

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