With government funding for science dropping to a shocking new low, researchers are looking to the public to support their work. After all, if Rob Thomas can get the Veronica Mars movie made with crowdfunding dollars, why shouldn't good science do the same? Enter Experiment, the scientist's crowdfunding portal.
The brainchild of several former research scientists, Experiment offers an easy-to-navigate interface for finding science projects in the areas you'd like to support, from biology, physics and chemistry, to engineering, economics and psychology. Like popular crowdfunding site Kickstarter, Experiment's projects will only be funded if they reach their goals. You can watch a video about the proposed research projects, learn about the principle investigators, and donate as much or as little as you like to the cause.
The founders of Experiment write:
Experiment is a platform for discovering, funding, and experiencing new scientific discoveries. Our mission is to fund science that moves us forward.
As a society, we are in a position to study, learn, and innovate more than ever before. Yet there is one major bottleneck; funding. In recent years, it's become increasingly difficult for new ideas to get off the ground, especially the innovative and high-risk ideas with the biggest impact.
Since 2010, 80% of principal investigators spend more time writing grant proposals and 67% are struggling with less funding. 'Big science' has become synonymous with 'budget cuts'.
This is about our ability to invest in our future. This is about Science for the people, by the people.
Already, there are dozens of projects — ranging from studies of bullfrog ecology to experiments with teaching science in the classroom — and many are fully funded or close to it. I recommend browsing through several categories on the site, just to get a feel for the diversity of ideas here. This is research for the citizen science age, in the best possible sense. Scientists describe their work in ways that are distinctly non-academic, and often funny, to help potential funders understand their goals. At the same time, Experiment reminds us how much science the general public actually does understand. There are no dumbed-down explanations here, because these researchers want you to partner with them in finding things out and learning about the world.
With our government unwilling to fund basic research at the level that most institutions require, we may see more and more scientists turning to the public funding model. Experiment is part of the first wave of, well, experiments in how we'll do this.
Check it out — and help a scientist make new discoveries today!