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Production Value on the SciFund Challenge: Good Films Get Funded!

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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During each run of the very popular #SciFund Challenge, I like to take a bit of time to peruse the videos that are prepared by researchers vying for crowdfunding dollars. It seems that crowdfunding for scientific projects is becoming more and more popular due to the success of so many of the projects. Recently, Ethan Perlstein of Princeton University was successful in achieving the highest total for a science crowdfunder so far: over $25,000.

I have to say that overall, I’m disappointed with many of the videos in the present round. Evidently, so are the bidders. Pledges are very low for many of the current projects, and there is a direct correlation between the amount of success of a campaign and the quality of the videos that describe them. Researchers, take note! The public needs to be engaged in your project in order to support it, and now, more than ever, there are user friendly tools for creating videos with science and flair. You simply cannot crowdfund a project if you haven’t wooed the crowd.

Despite the majority of disappointing films, there are a few that deserve mention for their creativity and production value:

First, ‘Chemical Warfare in the Intertidal‘ produed by Alex Warneke is a fun rap song that describes her proposed project clearly and effectively. I really like the fact that she captured her entire video on an iphone 4G. This goes to show that you do not need sophisticated production equipment to get the job done.

Second, ‘Changing the Face of Farming‘ by Rafter Sass Ferguson. Excellent production value and great project description.

Third, ‘Preventing Wartime Violence Against Civilians‘ by Amelia Hoover Green is another nice example of a compelling video pieced together with simple tools. A webcam, some footage, images, and a well thought out and presented story. Great Job!

My advice to future participants in crowdfunding projects for science: do NOT underestimate the power of a well designed video presentation.

Carin Bondar About the Author: Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer and film-maker with a PhD in population ecology from the University of British Columbia. Find Dr. Bondar online at, on twitter @drbondar or on her facebook page: Dr. Carin Bondar – Biologist With a Twist. Follow on Twitter @drbondar.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Cyril3 9:49 am 12/7/2012

    Long before filmmakers begin production, they face the daunting task of scraping together enough money to get their film off the ground. Choosing the right method of funding relies on many factors, including the type and subject of the film, and the experience behind the cast and crew involved in the project.
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  2. 2. jebyrnes 11:19 am 12/7/2012

    So, Jai and I have thought about this a lot – are there certain aspects of individual proposals that make them more likely to be funded. We’ve tossed around a number of ideas about things like humor, video quality, etc. But we haven’t had a good way to ‘grade’ them to model them, as it were. If you’re at all interested, it might be fascinating to come up with a Quality scale, as you define it, score vids available from this and the past two rounds, and see how that correlates with success.

    I suggest this as I’m not convinced that your argument is entirely correct. Quality does hold a viewer. But it’s not what gets them there in the first place. That has to do with the individual scientists and their ability to get eyeballs on the page, as it were, which has to do with building an audience for their work. So say our data so far (but we haven’t done anything like look at properties of individual proposals!)

    That said, there’s also likely a correlation between the ability of a scientist to build an audience, and the quality of their video. This is testable as well.

    If you’re interested, let’s definitely talk about this, as one of our Big Goals ™ at #SciFund is to help people run the most successful crowdfunding proposals possible, and this could be a big help – and something that we have been missing, if it is true!

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