Experiment.com: Crowdfunding Science Research
The increasing awareness of the scientific research community on the importance of open access and openscience has given rise to a new funding source in the research world. While the rise of start-ups and the popularity of the start-up culture have given rise to crowdfunding, open access to scientific data has also aided the crowdfunding culture, particularly in the biotech community. Any scientist knows that funding can potentially become a bottleneck in the research process, and research budgets have recently seen a dramatic decrease in both the public and private sectors. Because there is much less funding to go around, new ideas that may be high-risk are difficult to get off the ground.
That’s where crowdfunding can jump in to alleviate some of the research funding struggles. Crowdfunding is a popular source for the general population to donate money to a cause, idea, or invention that they think is important. There are many sites that allow people to fund charity start-ups or business ideas, but not as many for scientific ideas. One of the first to popularize crowdfunding in science was Antony Evans, who used Kickstarter to build funds for his work on the “Glowing Plant Project.”2 Antony Evans wanted to combine synthetic biology and create glowing plants for the first step in creating sustainable lighting. The Glowing Plant Project was able to raise over $400,000 to date from crowdfunding, and is one of the most successful scientifically backed crowdfunding endeavors.
But just what is crowdfunding? Essentially, startups or entreprenuers will pitch an idea, typically on the internet, and collect small amounts of money from a hopefully large group of people to help ease startup costs. However, there are quite a few strict guidelines that project starters themeselves must adhere to, and if the appropriate sum of money is not reached before a maximum of 60 days the project will be shut down and no funds collected.
Scientists now have access to another forum for crowdfunding through Experiment.com, formally known as Microyza.3 The goal of Experiment.com is to allow scientists to propose and promote their research on the website and engage the public for donations towards their research. The science found on the site varies enormously and includes work on space technology, biology, and environmental science, among many others. Projects are vetted by the company prior to its listing. While many other crowdfunding sites often provide a physical incentive to the donor, Experiment.com stated that donors on their site just want to make an impact on science with real world applications. In fact, Experiment.com has been able to garner big venture firms to invest in its company, and it will be interesting to see how this new source of funding affects the scientific research community.
This is just another example of how open science and access to data will allow research to move forward. Innovative ideas should be pursued, and researchers who want to make a difference in the scientific world can pursue their research endeavors with funding sites such as Experiment.com. Once funding is met, researchers can then turn to resources such as Scientist for various scientific services. Our expansive vendor services allow researchers to access expertise without having to invest a large amount of money for these services, and researchers can focus on the science instead of on the money. After all, what’s important is that a scientist can be innovative and can move his research forward, not whether he can secure the next round of funding.