#TuesdayTip: Could you crowdfund your research?

Research and Innovation Development Office

Category: #tuesdaytip

20 December 2016

You will have heard of sites like Kickstarter, where people invite large numbers of strangers from the general public to donate very small amounts of money.

This could be to fund a legal campaign, prototype development for a new invention, or the money needed to convert an idea into a business. Usually an incentive is offered to donors - you might get your name on the website for a small donation, or get free versions of the final product for a larger contribution.

You will have heard of sites like Kickstarter, where people invite large numbers of strangers from the general public to donate very small amounts of money. This could be to fund a legal campaign, prototype development for a new invention, or the money needed to convert an idea into a business. Usually an incentive is offered to donors - you might get your name on the website for a small donation, or get free versions of the final product for a larger contribution.

Over the last few years, a growing trend has seen researchers adopt this method of funding for projects that couldn't be funded another way. A great example of this is the work of former Government drugs advisor David Nutt. Advocating for drugs to be legalised is not politcally popular, but David has not been dissuaded from researching the effects of the drugs in more detail. The team reasoned their work would struggle to be funded by conventional means, so have crowdfunded the Psychadelic Science project. They've been able to carry out good science and have generated several publications thanks to the generosity of the public.

Could this be the right way to fund your projects? There are pros and cons, of course. While you save the time taken to prepare a traditional application, you must be prepared to develop some kind of campaign (social media, word of mouth, blogging, etc) to sell your idea to the public. You also need to offer them something for their investment - an acknowledgment or some kind of gift associated with the research. You're also not going to generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in your first campaign. So far, this method of funding seems to work for proof of concept work, with small amounts of money. On the other hand, this kind of citizen science can dramatically boost the profile of a researcher in the public eye, and could give a decent reputation uplift to the work of your team and the field at large.

If you are considering going down this route, check out DigVentures and Experiment and see if it's right for you!

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