Microryza.com (not the catchiest of names) is a crowdfunding platform for research that raises money over the Internet from individuals who are willing to donate small amounts to fund a specific project. The average donation according to Microryza is $92.
In return for a 5 percent cut of funds raised and a 3 percent credit card processing fee, Microryza provides researchers access to a website where they can solicit money from the public to fund their research. Crowdfunding is typically an all-or-nothing deal, where donors only have to pay their pledged support if the project is fully funded within a defined period of time.
Is this the solution to the reduction in government funding of science?
Crowdfunding has received the endorsement of President Obama. At the White House on June 4, a dozen entrepreneurs who used crowdfunding for start-ups and innovative projects were recognized as “Champions of Change.”
As Thomas Kalil, Deputy Director for Technology and Innovation for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, noted in the event’s press release, “Crowdfunding is the 21st century equivalent of barn-raising. We can use it to help our neighbors and fellow citizens start a business, enrich our culture, and apply grassroots creativity and imagination to challenges big and small.”
It’s relatively easy to decide whether to fund an experienced radio journalist such as Andrea Seabrook, who raised more than $100,000 to fund Decode DC, a podcast and public radio show, but does crowdfunding work for science projects?
One young researcher hoping it does is Atif Syed from the Department of Electronics at the University of York who, along with his colleague Zakareya Hussein, is seeking to raise $3,000 to fund initial research into a novel drug-delivery patch (Nanject), which uses magnetic nanoparticles. As of the morning of July 10, they were still a long way off, with only $308 pledged to date.
While I don’t have the scientific knowledge of nanotechnology to make a judgment on the value of their project, or the potential of Nanject, I do admire their entrepreneurial spirit.
According to Microryza, research projects have to meet three criteria to be listed:
1. The projects seek to answer a scientific question.
2. The project goals are within the capabilities of the researcher.
3. We can verify the researcher’s identity.
The weakness in this approach is … Next Page »
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