Could Crowd-Funding Work In Science?

In times of financial crisis, as we are currently experiencing, some governments think that it’s OK, or even wise, to cut down on funding for scientific research. Even though we know better, we are still faced with a situation in which it is much harder to get our science financed.

Similar funding cuts have been introduced in some countries with subsidies for art and culture. This has led to the development of many creative initiatives to raise financial support for the planned activities. One notable example is crowd-funding, which has proved to be a fruitful way to pool money, enthusiasm and other resources, to promote various initiatives. This approach seems to be working for the arts, but can it work for science too?

Scientists might be sceptical about whether the average passerby will want to pay for research that may ultimately, or never, lead to a cure for the disease that affects them or their loved ones. Or they might think they work on something that is too fundamental and ‘complicated’ to explain to their neighbour.

The relevant question is not ‘are they right?’, but ‘have we tried?’!

Remember the days when you were young and you’d go up to your old auntie with your good school marks, hoping she’d give you a few coins for your efforts? You can do that again! Two Dutch entrepreneurs have recently launched a website called Flintwave.com. If you know how to interest your friends and family in your work, Flintwave.com could be a means by which they can support you directly. Experience, stamina and knowledge are vital to start a fire with flint. These same characteristics are important when sparking the public to share your passion for science and help you fund your work. Flintwave aims to create a platform to do just that.

How does it work?

If you go to the website, you’ll see fan pages with information on the life and work of prominent scientists (dead or alive), created by science enthusiasts to educate the interested public. Flintwave.com aims to give non-scientists insight into the scientific process.

In addition, Flintwave.com offers a social platform where scientists (of all disciplines) can share their passion for science, their sources of inspiration, their progress, and their frustration (we’re human after all). Science enthusiasts can follow and interact with the scientists, and discover related scientific fields.

And there’s more: this month, Flintwave.com launched a donating platform. The public can directly impact science by funding research projects proposed on the site. And that could include your project!

What are the benefits?

Researchers need to get their followers interested and involved. The people behind Flintwave can help present the research in an appealing way, for instance with project videos and other visuals. Followers will be able to leave comments, and this direct interaction with fans will possibly contribute to the success of your project.

Financial project goals will be defined, as well as sub goals, in case the full sum is not reached in the target time of 90 days. So, even if your ultimate funding goal was too optimistic, part of your project can still be carried out.

Graphs will be put up to show progress (don’t we love graphs!), so you can track contributions to your project in real time.

Nowadays, increasing emphasis is put on the real-world value of scientific results, for example when writing a grant application. We scientists are expected to communicate our work to the public. Keeping a profile page up to date on Flintwave.com, but especially having a project funded through its visitors, could be a good way to share your scientific progress with the general public. I’m thinking that might be something the grant application reviewers like to read.

Several projects have just started, and more are lining up to start soon after, so if you’re interested, check out the website and see how it goes.

Apparently some scientists think this could be something! What do you think?

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