Steve’s Kickstarter project (which I mentioned previously) beat its target and is going forward, congrats to him. That, and this recent post by Fred Wilson, have gotten me thinking more about crowdfunding. Simultaneously, my wife, an academic, is grappling with yet another grant application to fund her research. All of this made me wonder if Kickstarter could be the right tool for funding scientific research (or if not Kickstarter itself perhaps a similar service that address the needs unique to the academic community.
Obviously if you want to you can immediately generate a long list of reasons why this “will never work”, but over the last few years London has started developing a small “Academia 2.0” scene with services like Mendeley, Peerj, and smaller experiments like prettygraph, and it feels like we could be on the verge of a cluster effect around tools for academics. As an outside observer of my wife’s work and that of a few friends in academia I’m continually struck by how inefficient many of the processes are. High skilled people get trained for years to be an expert in very niche aspects of science, but then rather than being able to focus their time on it they spend most of it on fund raising and bureaucracy (and of course teaching). The amount of friction keeping the scientists from the ultimate goal of research output is phenomenal (though now that I reflect on it perhaps large universities are no different or worse than large organizations of other kinds).
I’d be interested in speaking with anyone in London who is contemplating something in the academia 2.0 space.
UPDATE: it seems in the US Microryza is doing this at least for small scale projects (as far as I can see they are all under $20,000 - haven’t looked in great detail yet).