01 June 2012


Round 1 of #SciFund was a rollercoaster.

Round 2 of #SciFund was a nailbiter.

About a week ago, I wrote on the #SciFund blog:

I can’t wait to see what the final week wolds. Can we hit a six digit total? At the rate we’re going, that’s not impossible.

Little did I know.

Last Friday, we passed the round 1 record of $76,230. Then, we passed $80,000, which made a combined total of $150,000 for both rounds of #SciFund and 30 funded projects. That got some attention, I can tell you. Then we had five projects hit their targets in one day.

And with just one day to go, we passed $90,000.

The possibility of $100,000 was tantalizing, but I knew raising $10,000 in a day was going to be a big ask.

During the day, while I kept obsessively checking the total, tweeting about projects, and posting on Google Plus, I kept thinking about an episode of Top Gear (Series 4, Episode 4), in which host Jeremy Clarkson has to drive from London to Edinburgh on one tank of fuel. He’s getting closer and closer to the finish, but knows he’s running out of fuel. And when he get so close to the end but not quite there, he says, “If I don’t make this, I’ll sack myself.” (Sacked as in fired.)

That’s what I felt like. That at any second, this car is going to run out of gas and we’ll be stuck on the road, embarrassed by the failure.

And yes, it would have felt like a failure. My nightmare was that we’d get to $99,999 and time would run out. (I almost need not have worried quite so much, as there are still six projects with hours to go.) The difference between $99,999 and $100,000 is not $1, psychologically speaking. Salesman have known this forever, which is why you see so many prices like $1.99 or $499.

Intellectually, $99,000 and change would still be a great success. But emotionally, it would have been one of those, “We were this close...” moments that haunt you.

Later that night, the next image that came to mind, just before and after I was doing a Google Plus hangout with SciLingual, was that this felt like a bomb ticking down in an action movie. Except that in an action movie, you’re generally sure someone is going to step in before it’s too late.

I had no such confidence here.

Other things that were rattling around in my head were the success of Amanda Palmer, fellow crowdfunding traveler in the month of May (who raised ten times what we did), and the safe return of the SpaceX Dragon to earth. It seemed to me that these, and #SciFund, were all culminations of... triumphs of small over big.

But the amount we needed kept getting smaller. Less than $5,000. Less than $2,000. (A few hours left. The tension is killing me.) Only hundreds. (Only minutes left for most projects. Jarrett is updating the totals every few minutes.) $33! (Projects are just about to start closing!)

Last night, at 11:01 pm my time, I saw this:

I was pleased.

I was also pretty emotionally spent. It was quite late and I would have happily gone to bed... but #SciFund kept calling. There was data I needed to gather about the completed projects pretty much right then, so I couldn’t go to sleep. And there was some loose ends. Like having to blog all this while it’s still fresh.

Tomorrow, I want a press release. We showed that #SciFund was no one trick pony. And with so many projects funded (30 some odd - I’ve lost count) and the important $100,000 total, we can bring some attention not just to science crowdfunding, but science funding and science engagement generally.

But I think it’s finally time for bed.

Update: Favourite analysis of #SciFund this morning, courtesy of Eddie Cardoshinsky Google Plus:

It's like the new Muppet Movie, but only for science.

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