It’s not surprising that others think I should have posted:
Posts about this are on Oikos Blog and Culture of Science. Jamie Vernon started an interesting exchange earlier today on Twitter on this subject. Over the month, I plan to try to develop a sort of science crowdfunding manifesto to address some of the issues others are concerned about.
It occurred to me that the Oikos Blog post was responding to what I said in just that one single blog post. But I realized that I’ve been slowly developing arguments for crowdfunding for years. Eventually, I want to write a longer and more cohesive argument, but for now, here is a short summary of some main points that I’ve been writing about over the last five (!) years, with links to my older posts.
My arguments are these.
Scientific funding in many nations have become extremely dependent on external funding, mainly federal governments. Competition for these grants have gotten ferocious.
- The feeding frenzy resume (from 2009)
- The chase for stimulus money is on (from 2009)
- Everybody chase the money! (from 2009)
The chase for money is having a distorting effect on the kind of science that gets done:
Funding agencies, worried about return on investment, are looking for mega-hits:
We have to face the very real possibility that rates of federal funding are never going to go back up; at least, not by the amount scientists think would be sustainable.
- Call a cab, buddy, the party's over (from 2009)
Even if industry still had skin in the game (not as much as they used to), there are legitimate concerns with industry funding of science. The track record of dealing with conflicts of interest arising from industry money are... not good.
- Privately funded science (from 2010)
- Has American industry given up an American scientists? (from 2011)
Given those conditions, those who have been successful at establishing research (the tier one research universities) are going to fight like hell to make sure they continue to get most of that money.
- More for those that have the most (from 2010)
- To have and have not (Mostly not) (from 2010)
- NSF's plan for minority students (or lack thereof) (from 2010)
- Inclining the paying field (from 2010)
Consequently, there could be a Balkanization of research, with certain kinds of institutions and research being disparaged as “low quality,” which effectively squeezes them out of the picture and prevents them from making scholarly contributions.
There’s a lot of damn good science that is cheap and possible right now. It doesn’t need new theories, conceptual breakthrough, or new technologies. It just needs “boots on the ground” and a little money to grease the wheels.
- We’re having a sale on amazing (from 2009)
- Biological costs (from 2009)
- A patent clerk’s pay (from 2011)
As a result, we need new funding models, particularly for “small science” (a less than ideal term, but will do for now).
- Rethinking granting (from 2007)
- At last, microgrants (from 2010)
- As science funding dries up (from 2011)
All of this sets the stage for why crowdfunding is going to be part of the future of science.
I’m looking forward to exploring this more in weeks to come.