Government Funding Down; Scientists Experiment With “Crowd-Funding” Websites

By:  Michael Tennant
07/12/2011
       
Government Funding Down; Scientists Experiment With “Crowd-Funding” Websites

In recent decades such a large portion of scientific research has been funded by governments, either directly or through government-funded universities, that most people can scarcely imagine a world in which research is paid for solely by the private sector. Today, however, researchers are feeling the pinch of government cutbacks and, according to the New York Times, are turning to the Internet to raise funds for their research — a task that, while daunting, also holds rewards for both researchers and donors.

For example, biologists Jennifer Calkins and Jennifer Gee, seeking to travel to Mexico to study the elegant quail, set up a project on Kickstarter.com, a “crowd-funding” website. There they described their research project in detail and offered a variety of premiums to those pledging money for their project — everything from postcards to signed copies of the book based on the research, to outings with the researchers. The book, available for a donation of $35, proved to be the most popular premium. “It’s one thing to buy a book about quails,” Kickstarter community editor Cassie Marketos told the Times. “But to know that you played a small part in making it happen is a much different experience.”

In recent decades such a large portion of scientific research has been funded by governments, either directly or through government-funded universities, that most people can scarcely imagine a world in which research is paid for solely by the private sector. Today, however, researchers are feeling the pinch of government cutbacks and, according to the New York Times, are turning to the Internet to raise funds for their research — a task that, while daunting, also holds rewards for both researchers and donors.

For example, biologists Jennifer Calkins and Jennifer Gee, seeking to travel to Mexico to study the elegant quail, set up a project on Kickstarter.com, a “crowd-funding” website. There they described their research project in detail and offered a variety of premiums to those pledging money for their project — everything from postcards to signed copies of the book based on the research, to outings with the researchers. The book, available for a donation of $35, proved to be the most popular premium. “It’s one thing to buy a book about quails,” Kickstarter community editor Cassie Marketos told the Times. “But to know that you played a small part in making it happen is a much different experience.”

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