01 May 2012

This is the future of science: SciFund returns

Yesterday, musician Amanda Palmer started a Kickstarter campaign to fund her next record, book, and tour. She reached her goal in less than a day.

When I looked at it, I was struck by the image she used to illustrate her project and video:

That picture resonated with me. She’s right.

Because of SciFund, I’ve been watching stories on crowdfunding. And I keep reading about records being broken for amounts of money raised. Stats like crowdfunding providing more money for arts than the American government. And analyses showing how crowdfunding support is growing.

I am convinced that this is not just the future of music.

(Yes, I want to be the Amanda Palmer of science crowdfunding. This does not change that I also want to be the Iggy Pop of science.)

Also yesterday, Danielle Lee wrote:

That’s it! I need MY OWN Science Benefactor/Sponsor/Sugar Daddy what have you. There are sciencey things I must do & see but I needz $$$

It struck me that so many scientists are still in the place artists were. We’re waiting to be chosen. Waiting to be given permission. Working and working and working in the hope of being given a shot at the big time by someone else with more money, power, and influence.

Traditionally, this has been the way science got done. Originally, men of letters sought out patrons. In the Victoria era, science was the domain of the wealthy. As science became professionalized in the last century, grant agencies became talent scouts, trying to guess who would be successful in the future.

It doesn’t always have to be that way now.

It’s just matter of time before some researcher breaks through with a massive science crowdfunding project. It probably won’t be me, but that doesn’t matter. We saw a hint of it in Round 1 of SciFund, with the success of the “Killer Ks”, Kristina Killgrove and Kelly Weinersmith. Looking at the SciFund projects in both rounds, it seems there is a niche for projects that would be difficult to get running through more traditional funding mechanisms, but that might be able to thrive on crowdfunding. For example, Matt Shipman provides a great example of how hard it is to get funding to do research on bed bugs.

Those are reasons why I’m more pleased than ever that SciFund is back. It’s hosted once again by the fine folks at RocketHub, and there are a whole mess of projects for you to support!

My own project is Beach of the Goliath Crabs, which you can read about here.

For Google Plus users, I’ll have a hangout about this project on Wednesday, 2 May at 3:00 pm Central time (4:00 pm Eastern, 1:00 pm Pacific). You can find my G+ profile here.

The future of science is starting now. Be part of something great.

Additional: A response on the Oikos blog.

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