Funding science has always relied on public support. Traditionally, scientists at research institutions are awarded money from government agencies and sometimes private foundations. The money from government agencies though, such as NSF and NIH is derived from taxpayer dollars. So, in effect YOU are the one paying out the funds to support a wide array of projects all over the spectrum of research and engineering. But, as Dr. Jai Ranganathan - one of the cofounders of #SciFund - wrote here on the Sci-Am Network Central Blog, "All of the traditional sources of cash for science – government agencies and private foundations – are getting harder and harder to access. So what is a scientist to do?"
Well, why not let the people themselves decide exactly what scientific research they would like to see done! To accomplish this, #SciFund uses a crowdsourcing approach to funding. Partnering with RocketHub, they launched the #SciFund Challenge. This partnership allows scientists run their own crowdfunding campaigns to fund their research. Scientists put out their proposal and do everything they can to get people as excited about it as they are. This has the unique effect of creating a scientific proposal that appeals to a general audience and not a panel scientific experts. So, successful proposers need to make it and make it relevant, creating a plethora of entertaining proposals using videos, images, colorful text and throwing in research swag and other rewards for different levels of donating. What is great about this system is that scientists can accept micropayments, much as non-profit organizations do, and build up to their research goals.
The #SciFund challenge contains 49 fantastic research projects that span a huge variety of topics. You can scroll them all and see for yourself, but here are the projects with an evolutionary focus:
- Bats in Peril: Flying Foxes Past and Present!
- Cat's Nails: A Parasitic Plant of South Africa!.
- Species in Peril!
- The Wild Life of Our Homes!
- Squirrel-Snake Face Off!
- The Evolution of Stress-Induced Hypermutation!
- C-Cilia in Motion!
- Evolution in Agriculture!
- Mysteries of a Prehistoric Affair!
- Doctor Zen and the Amazon Crayfish!
- Ancient Roman DNA Project!
- Domesticating Algae for the 21st Century!
As you can see there are no shortage of worthy, fascinating research out there that needs YOU to participate in it. Even with $5 or $25 you can make this work a reality.