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I’m crowdfunding. Why?

This post is adapted from my crowdfunding campaign website: https://experiment.com/projects/what-is-a-muscle-protein-doing-in-the-brain. My lab is giving crowdfunding a go. I have a talented postgraduate student about to start a self-funded MPhil/PhD with me and we are hoping to crowdfund some consumable costs. Why?

Here are three reasons:

Funding is scarce.

Acquiring research funds is immensely challenging, particularly for rare diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).

This project is early stage and is unlikely to attract conventional funding without more substantial data. Small pots of money to generate such preliminary data are especially hard to get hold of . Crowdfunding is one solution that can help bridge the gap.

Our project charts new territory for Duchenne that crosses into other disciplines. We may struggle to align with the priorities of major funders and be deemed high risk, high reward.

Outreach.

Crowdfunding requires public communication. This is not a chore for us. We love telling people about our science. We love showing people our science! Crowdfunding ensures a concentrated effort right at the very beginning of a project instead of only at the end. This way we can better engage with stakeholders through all the ups and downs of the project. This is something we do well in the Duchenne research field, stakeholder cooperation has positively affected drug development in Duchenne.

I work at a gold standard teaching-focused university, but there is also valuable research being undertaken here in Northampton, we want to shout about that too. Crowdfunding science helps to generate an audience to demystify what scientists and medical research looks like. Amazing science is most likely happening on your own doorstep! We want to inspire the next generation of scientists, whether that is locally here in Northampton or on the other side of the world.

Passion.

We are passionate about Northampton as a place for innovative, world-leading research. Crowdfunding has significant potential to help us grow the research environment at the University of Northampton. Small funding targets like ours can cover the bench fees or consumable costs for talented postgraduate research students like Amanda. A vibrant postgraduate culture significantly contributes to research productivity. We want to show you what our students can do.

Crowdfunding will not replace conventional funding but it allows us to to do things a little differently. To think outside the box. Crowdfunding can to lead to better public engagement and help change the way the public sees science. It is a fantastic way to enhance the science communication skills of the next generation of scientists.

Please help us by sharing and/or donating, we have perks! https://experiment.com/projects/what-is-a-muscle-protein-doing-in-the-brain

2 thoughts on “I’m crowdfunding. Why?

  1. Good luck, Amanda and Karen.

    If it is any help, I’m developing a page of crowdfunding support materials on the Research Whisperer blog. Though I suspect that you already know way more than me about outreach and communication. The ‘Art of asking’ video might be helpful, as there is a distinct difference between ‘This is my research’ versus ‘This is my research, please give me $20.’

    Most of the people that I’ve talked to have found it a challenge to get beyond their personal network (friends and family) during the crowdfunding campaign. The best article that I know of on this topic is:

    Byrnes, Jarrett E. K., Jai Ranganathan, Barbara L. E. Walker, and Zen Faulkes. “To Crowdfund Research, Scientists Must Build an Audience for Their Work.” PLoS ONE 9, no. 12 (December 10, 2014): e110329. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0110329.
    http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110329

    It provides a breakdown of number of emails / tweets / shares, etc per donation. It makes the work required very clear.

    If you have the technical know-how (or know someone who does), it seems useful to do some network analysis during the campaign. This can help to illustrate whether you need to push your message out wider. This approach is described here:

    Palmer, Stuart, and Deb Verhoeven. “Crowdfunding Academic Researchers: The Importance of Academic Social Media Profiles.” In ECSM2016-Proceedings of the 3rd European Conference on Social Media, edited by Christine Bernadas and Delphine Minchella, 291–99. Caen, France: Academic Conferences and Publishing International Limited, 2016.
    https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=1DaeDAAAQBAJ&pg=PA291

    Finally, don’t forget that this mode of funding is so new that you can probably get a paper out of the campaign itself, whether it succeeds or not. We have a growing body of case studies (both within the refereed literature and outside of it), of successful campaigns, but very few on unsuccessful campaigns. Of the case studies that we do have, not many have kept accurate records, which means that they generally are saying, ‘This is what I remember happening. This is why I think it happened.’ So keep good records and notes throughout your campaign. A paper on what happened, and how it fits into the wider funding landscape, could be an ancillary benefit.

    Feel free to contact me if I can help.

    Jonathan

  2. Thank you Jonathan, this is really really helpful. You are right about potential outputs, I will certainly record and reflect on my experiences, whatever the outcome.

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