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Crowdfunding scientific research

In these tough economic times, writing grant proposals has become a big part of a researcher’s life, and not the funniest. Trying to get money from a university, a governmental or private organization is time consuming, stressful and frustrating, as only 15% of the proposals get funded. Experiment proposes an alternative way of supporting research, based on crowd funding. 

Since 2010, 80% of principal investigators spend more time writing grant proposals and 67% are struggling with less funding. Johan Bollen, lead author of a study published in EMBO reports last January sums up the situation as followed:

“Our most productive researchers invest an increasing amount of time, energy, and effort into writing and reviewing research proposals, most of which do not get funded. That time could be spent performing the proposed research in the first place.”

Experiment may help researchers saving some time and reach their objectives by getting funds through a crowdfunding science experiment platform. The company was funded by Denny Luan,  Skander Mzali and Cindy Wu in 2012 and fully launched this year. Cindy was just an undergraduate when she considered the possibility of getting funds for an experiment to reengineer an enzyme treatment for anthrax bacteria using a video game. “Cindy, the system doesn’t fund people like you, my professor said,” Wu recalls. “It only funds tenured professors.”

With Experiment, projects like Wu’s with topics ranging from neuroscience to psychology through art and design and education now get funded. For instance, you can now “start an experiment” and fund a project trying to stop the spread of breast cancer, studying the benefits of educational computer games or how music can improve memories in patients with brain damage. So far, more than 80 projects have received between 2,500 and 20,000 dollars from citizens.

But funder are not only giving money away, they get updates on how the experiment is going through Lab Notes and interact directly with the researchers. An initiative like Experiment is about Science for the people, by the people and brings citizen science to another level of citizen engagement.


Written by Margaux Calon

Margaux graduated in History of Innovation at Paris IV-La Sorbonne and defended a master research thesis on “Science popularisation in the press for children, 1830 – 1930”. She travelled around the world of science communication as an intern for a year before entering a MSC Science Communication at Imperial College London. She’s now a community manager and science communication officer at the CRI.

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