Crowdsourcing Scientific Research

As research budgets tighten at universities and federal financing agencies, a new crop of Web-savvy scientists is hoping the wisdom—and generosity—of the crowds will come to the rescue.

What's the Latest Development?


While nonprofit science organizations and medical research centers commonly seek donations from the public, Dr. Calkins, an adjunct professor of biology at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Wash., and Dr. Gee may have been the first professional scientists to use a generic "crowd funding" website to underwrite basic research. "Websites like Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and RocketHub are an increasingly popular way to bankroll creative projects—usually in film, music and visual arts."

What's the Big Idea?

It is not very likely that anyone imagined crowd funding websites would be used to finance scientific research. And it is unclear what problems this odd pairing might beget. "Most crowd funding platforms thrive on transparency and a healthy dose of self-promotion but lack the safeguards and expert assessment of a traditional review process. Instead, money talks: The public decides which projects are worth pursuing by fully financing them. ... The money can come from anywhere — the biggest backers of the quail project were ranchers and hunters."

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