Posted by: Jai Ranganathan | September 21, 2011

A new way to fundraise for research. Join the #SciFund Challenge!

Where does the money come from for doing science? If you are a scientist, you know the fundraising landscape is getting worse and worse. 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?

Over the past few years, a brand new way to raise money over the internet has arisen, a way called crowdfunding. Think of it as the next step of the fundraising model that charities have used for ages. Countless charities collect lots of small donations from regular people that they pool together to do big things. Crowdfunding takes this idea, gives it a social media twist, and brings it to everyone, not just charities. Crowdfunding websites like Kickstarter and RocketHub provide a place where everyone can conduct their own private campaigns. These websites provide a platform and the ability to process credit card payments, but these private campaigns are entirely driven by the individuals behind them. Crowdfunding campaigns have collectively raised many millions of dollars for all sorts of projects, from movies to African aid efforts to a full-sized statue of RoboCop in Detroit. But this fundraising revolution has left science behind.

That’s where the #SciFund Challenge comes in. For the month of November 2011, scientists participating in the #SciFund Challenge will run their own crowdfunding campaign to fund a small portion of their research. How small? Something that costs in the range of hundreds to low thousands of dollars. Why so small? The smaller the dollar target, the greater the chance of success. And raising money by crowdfunding is very different than the standard methods of raising research dollars (hitting up government agencies and big foundations). So, let’s walk before we can run. But the good news is that the skills you’ll pick up in running a small crowdfunding campaign are exactly the same skills you’ll need to fund a much, much larger project.

Even though participants in the Challenge will be running their own crowdfunding projects, no one will be doing this alone. One of the key roles of the SciFund Challenge will be to give pointers and advice on the nuts and bolts of running a crowdfunding campaign. Equally importantly, behind the scenes, participants will be helping each other with their projects, giving encouragement, ideas, and feedback.

So, what are you waiting for? If you are a scientist of any level (beginning grad student to emeritus professor to independent) in any discipline, sign up to participate in the #SciFund Challenge. We’d love to have you.


  1. “But the good news is that the skills you’ll pick up in running a small crowdfunding campaign are exactly the same skills you’ll need to fund a much, much larger project.”

    It’s a good idea, but I have a hard time buying that. I thought the whole point was that it’s a completely different way of going about getting money.

    • Not sure what you have a hard time buying. If you aren’t buying that crowdfunding could be a major way to fundraise for science, check out Cancer Research UK. Right now, on their platform, a large number of cancer-related research projects are being funded via crowdfunding ( And we are talking serious money here – lots of projects being funded at a level upwards of 100,000 dollars.

      Perhaps you aren’t buying that starting small with crowdfunding for science could lead to larger projects getting funded by crowdfunding. Think of it this way. No one starts off writing high dollar value NSF grants. As a graduate student, you start off with much smaller grants – dissertation improvement grants, that kind of thing. But the skills you learn while writing these smaller grants put you in position to apply for much larger pots of money. It is exactly the same line of thinking with the #SciFund Challenge.

      • @MyProjects has recently reached the £1 million milestone for (re)financing medical research on cancer through their site. It’s still a small drop compared to the £483 millions Cancer UK is raising every year, but it’s still a major milestone for crowdfunding in medical research.

        In a not-too-distant future we can expect that crowdfunding will help refinance portions of large projects, kickstart small projects and help ramp up financing on medium projects. Kiva was deemed as an absurd idea at the begining, back in 2005. I don’t think anyone on the planet is still considering this.

  2. I funded my trip to ESA this year via crowdfunding!

  3. THis is nice idea

  4. […] get money to support their research by appealing for small donations directly from the public. Here’s an old Oikos blog guest post from one of the SciFund founders, talking about the initiative. Discussion of Round 2 at NeuroDojo […]

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