The US federal share of research funding is significantly less than it has been historically. Entrepreneurial scientists are finding other solutions – including crowdfunding research. In some ways, crowdfunding research is an extension of patronage support – and yet, its also quite different. For example, individual supporters of projects on Kickstarter typically give $25, yet 64% of projects tagged as ‘science’ have been successfully funded since 2012 according to a recent article in the Washington Post.
The Post article provides details on a several specific projects across various areas of scientific endeavor that have found success achieving crowdfunding research and is well worth the read just for those examples. Also of interest is this article published in PLOS One in December, 2014. In this first substantive study of crowdfunding research of which I’m aware, the authors conclude that “if scientists and research institutions wish to tap this new source of funds, they will need to encourage and reward activities that allow scientists to engage with the public.”
Crowdfunding research can indeed bring with it a new set of challenges for research administrators, but I think we’re up to it if our scientist colleagues are!