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Ask Slashdot: Crowdfunding For Science — Can It Succeed?

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the i-will-pay-you-a-quarter-to-invent-time-travel dept.

The Almighty Buck 153

jearbear writes "Can crowdfunding work for science? Having raised nearly $40,000 for scientific research in 10 days for projects as diverse as biofuel catalyst design to the study of cellular cilia to deploying seismic sensor networks (that attach to your computer!) to robotic squirrels, the #SciFund Challenge is taking off like a rocket. Might this be a future model for science funding in the U.S. and abroad? What would that mean?"

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Shoving the current buzzword down our throats (2)

Osgeld (1900440) | more than 2 years ago | (#38037952)

Can it succeed?

Re:Shoving the current buzzword down our throats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038048)

The answer is no: No giving is viewable as legitimate unless it's directed through government.

Re:Shoving the current buzzword down our throats (5, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038462)

No giving is viewable as legitimate unless it's directed through government.

Government funding is the ultimate crowdsourcing.

Re:Shoving the current buzzword down our throats (1)

bmajik (96670) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040666)

So if I threaten to drag you out of your house and throw you in jail if you don't fund my pet project, I'm crowdsourcing?

For every single act of government -- without fail -- there is a gun around a corner waiting to remind you why you do what government asks.

Holding half the population at gunpoint to get science done may be a historically effective approach, but it is hardly a harmless or moral one.

Re:Shoving the current buzzword down our throats (4, Insightful)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039384)

I'll answer the question originally posed. And I think the answer is, for the most part, no. Most of the diverse projects funded by SciFund Challenge have goals in the hundreds of dollars or in the low thousands. While there are some science project you can do for a few thousand dollars, the are the minority rather than the majority. You also have be primarily talking about projects run by people who aren't getting paid to run these projects (i.e. professors paid with tax dollars an tuition). A more realistic scale for a small science project is two full time early career scientists, which, with benefits and overhead is going to run you $250k/yr, now add what it's going to cost to do the experiments. There's no way you are going to be able fund that on donations unless people perceive a immediate benefit to themselves.

You can probably guess from the signature, I'm a fan of SETI@home. From a couple hundred thousand SETI@home users, they manage to raise $50k/yr. That's not great for a project that costs $500k/yr to run. It could be worse. The Allen Telescope Array run by the SETI Institute (unrelated to SETI@home) costs about $1.5M/yr to operate. In their funding drive, the SETI Institute raise $200k to bring the ATA back on-line. If it's still back on-line, I don't know where the rest of the money is coming from.

In other words, no, I have no faith in the ability of "crowdfunding" to act as a stable funding source for any non-trivial science project, and even then I think much of the funding will go to people who are already funded (at least in terms of salary), and just see a means to squeeze a few extra bucks into their research programs. Except, of course, in the case of "one's a crowd". The rich in this country control most of the wealth and income. Why ask for money from the peasants? Since we're moving our economies back into the feudal model, if I were a scientist looking for funding, I would probably be searching for a wealthy patron. Chief Alchemist to the Court of Gates, perhaps?

a new business model... (2, Funny)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38037976)

...for NASA?

Re:a new business model... (4, Informative)

Darth Hubris (26923) | more than 2 years ago | (#38037998)

I would send $100 to NASA right now if I knew it would reach their coffers.

Re:a new business model... (3, Informative)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038278)

if every working American (estimates around 100 million out of 225 million) did that... you could launch around 20 shuttle missions, excluding costs for payloads (according to NASA - the per-launch cost is closer to 1.5 billion so you're looking at more like 6 launches).

Re:a new business model... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038948)

20 shuttle missions? That was an amazing piece of machinery, but no thanks.

Tell me they'll do a manned mission to mars and i'll write the check today.

Re:a new business model... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039302)

if every working American (estimates around 100 million out of 225 million) did that... you could launch around 20 shuttle missions, excluding costs for payloads (according to NASA - the per-launch cost is closer to 1.5 billion so you're looking at more like 6 launches).

That is a terrible investment then. 20 shuttle missions only? Holy crap what a waste. Just shut NASA down and let people who can do it more cheaply do their work.

Re:a new business model... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039710)

If NASA was 100% efficient.. you'd be right... but we already give NASA 18.7 billion.. which is $170/worker.

And the STS only launched 135 times in 30 years ... or 4.5 launches a year.

So there is no way NASA would launch 20 missions/year with an extra $100/worker. More like an extra 2-3/year.

Re:a new business model... (3, Insightful)

Tastecicles (1153671) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040402)

the original promise was $80m a mission, the official estimate is $450m, actual numbers dictate $1.48bn. Drop the admin and you'll probably get down to half a billion easily.

NASA, like every other large organisation, is hemorrhaging money in administration and practically nothing in actual work. This should come as no surprise. Most of the work of every corporation is administrative in nature. It's all that remains when manufacturing (semiconductors, complete devices, food...) is outsourced to the Far East. Most of the rest is logistics and litigation.

Here in the UK nearly half the workforce that is actually in work, is in the Public Sector. That's over fourteen million people. Of the remainder, an ever increasing number are Agency but subcontracted to the Public Sector. There is little manufacturing left in the UK, we used to be a net exporter, now we import everything (even oil although we should be independent for that given the vast North Sea reserves). The only specialities that are actually expanding in the UK right now are children social services and family panel solicitors. EVERYTHING else is taking cuts.

Re:a new business model... (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040688)

So in other words, space exploration is cheap.

Re:a new business model... (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038470)

Or you could try the next best thing. []

Why do you hate NASA? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039014)

I would send $100 to NASA right now

$18.7 billion (NASA current budget) / 110 million people in the workforce = $170 per person

Why do you want to drastically cut NASAs funding? (tongue in cheek)

Bottom line (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038008)

How does this benefit my penis?

Re:Bottom line (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038328)

Maybe they can crowd source a magnifying glass so your 3" pecker doesn't look so pathetic.

Maybe. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038010)

Let me know when their entire budget is more than my laser system.

Yuo Faixl It (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038014)

for the project. 'superior' machine. to stick something are about 7700/5 FreeBSD went out The 0fficial GAY time I'm done here,

$40,000? (5, Informative)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038036)

With a new roughing vacuum pump over 2k?

A temp controlled stirring hot plate at over 400 and often over a grand?

And we're not even talking about the more complicated experimental apparatus here. How is this more than a tiny tiny impact? This might fund a grad student. Maybe. Small grants rely on the existing infrastructure that groups have. You already have the equipment and the grad student and you allocate half their time to something.

Far too early to be crowing about how it's the next big thing with these funding levels.

(Aside: I work for a chemistry department doing lab equipment and instrument repair. At work, I spend my day finding ways to get equipment for such people for tiny fractions of the above prices. But, that's relying on the gear having been paid for years or decades back and me digging it out of storage, then finding ways to fix it for low cost. Starting up a lab without an existing infrastructure is expensive with a couple exclamation points. Yeah, I find the cost of current scientific gear to be outrageously high, but that's a different discussion.)

Re:$40,000? (5, Interesting)

jearbear (10099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038274)

Yup, this is indeed small for now. If you total up all of the projects and what we're shooting for, though, it's about $250K, so, not tiny. Although, to give you context, we actually told all of the scientists to start small [] as this has never been tried on this scale before. It's an experiment, really, to see if it can work at all. Phase 2 is scaling up.

It should be noted, though, that many projects are asking for amounts that are reasonable within their discipline. We have a lot of ecologists whose needs for running and analyzing experiments often fall in the $1-5K range, rather than hundreds of thousands of dollars. For example, I'm seeking ~$7K to fund two days of sampling in kelp forests in the California Channel Islands [] . It's not huge, but it's what is needed for the kind of data I collect.

Needs vary greatly between disciplines and projects.

Re:$40,000? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038504)

Complete agreement. In a lot of situations, it can do a lot of good. It's just not the total solution.

Especially when combined with existing labs or researchers it is a Good Thing(tm).

Most science is small science and often it costs more than it sometimes really needs too. That said, we have to feed the researcher and pay their rent as well.

Re:$40,000? (1)

bware (148533) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038866)

If you total up all of the projects and what we're shooting for, though, it's about $250K, so, not tiny.

$250K is about one FTE-year. That is: one person, decent salary, benefits, and overhead for a year, at most any lab in the country.

Not saying it's tiny, just throwing that out for perspective on simple personnel costs.

Re:$40,000? (1)

SETIGuy (33768) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039420)

You have some major overhead (100% or so?). Or you overpay. To run up $250K on an FTE, I'd need to offer a salary of $138k. I'd need authorization from the Chancellor to open a position at that level.

Re:$40,000? (2)

inca34 (954872) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038312)

It's really amazing what $40k can do for an ambitious team or renaissance man working independently. Use-rate style renting of expensive specialized equipment, thrifty surplus purchases, allocating the increasingly available shared workspace resources, and open-source project management have shown just a few ways one can leverage R&D dollars beyond any institutional development rate. Also, depending on the mission and scope of the project, $40k for fund raising can easily turn into $400k within a year if the need is communicated and marketed appropriately.

This is really exciting for those highly capable individuals and teams who are held back by the classic division of labor and modern management structures which are really great for doing the same thing until the end of time. It's time for a return of the renaissance man as the "secrets" of trade become commoditized one overpriced piece of "professional lab" equipment at a time. =)

Re:$40,000? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038586)

And that's a key point. For someone doing it on the side and having their expenses already paid for, the marginal cost can be pretty small.

But, that limits how much of the time you can spend on it. It also makes it tough to get away for technical conferences (gotta earn that salary somewhere that won't pay for them usually).

You can do a lot with it. Innovative ideas, Makerspaces and open source are wonderful. But, just like anything, they have limitations.

This augments the usual scientific funding sources rather than replaces them.

Re:$40,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038918)

I could do some really interesting research with $40,000 if my salary was paid by other sources. That would more than fund what I'm proposing for my post-doc.

Re:$40,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039440)

That would be a problem. If your salary is paid by other sources then you're doing what those other sources say. The 20% of time they said they would give you to work on your own projects doesn't really exist if you're paid off state or federal funding or if your mentor is an asshole. Welcome to being a postdoc.

Not to mention that $40,000 spread among all the projects, I'd guess the average project has raised $200 bucks.

Re:$40,000? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038356)

Let's open source these things! A pump may be a little tough, but certainly a temp controlled hot plate could be made "open source"...

Re:$40,000? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038472)

but certainly a temp controlled hot plate could be made "open source"...

Not when you've got patent laws that are designed to kill innovation.

Re:$40,000? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038540)

There's a lot to be said for small and easily ignored.

It's when you start making them and selling them that you really run into problems. Yes, a manufacturer could start lawsuits, but it's pretty hard when a set of plans just shows up on a file server somewhere and then people make their own. Witness the RIAA and MPAA, etc. over the past decade.

That said, it's rarely a way to really save that much money. Rolling your own to the same level of quality tends to cost a lot.

Re:$40,000? (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038942)

Rolling your own to the same level of quality tends to cost a lot.

That's too general of a statement.

I can build a PC to a better level of quality than Gateway for the same money that they'd charge. And then when it's done, I'll know what's in it and how to fix it if need be.

But I could never build a tablet as good as a Galaxy Tab for the same price.

I can make better coffee than Starbucks for a lot less than they charge, but I can't make a dobos torte or chocolate/hazelnut cupcake as good as Alliance Bakery over on North Avenue no matter how much I spend.

Re:$40,000? (0)

kanweg (771128) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040086)

a) Patent laws are not designed to do kill innovation. They're designed to spread information and give an incentive not to hide the knowledge. Wanna dig up all kind of info that doesn't come in a manual with your phone or car, to mention just two of a gazillion topics? Dig in the patent literature, e.g. here: []
Applicants pay lots of money to have the invention properly written down, such that the ordinary person skilled in that particular art can work the invention.
b) You reply to the quote. Now, either prove your point and dig up the patent for the temperature controlled hot plate or come to the realization that your reply is not a proper conclusion. Look here: []

BTW, what you find in the database, is patent applications, which were not necessarily granted or granted as broad as originally filed for.

Re:$40,000? (1)

Hartree (191324) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038564)

Sometimes that can work. (I'm on some of the open source hardware mailing lists.)

Often though, even at the inflated prices, building your own when it's only a single item is rarely a way to save a lot unless you give up a lot in features.

I've worked for a custom electronics shop as well. We usually were quite inexpensive compared to other companies, but there was a limit to how cheap we could be and still pay ourselves and the bills.

Making onesy twosey quantities of things gets expensive unless you've got an angle like adapting an existing consumer item that's made in large quantities. That way you piggyback on the economy of scale.

Shareware? (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038794)

Try the question this way: does Shareware work? I think the answer to that is a resounding NO for the authors.

However, nickle and dime ware (ala App Store) does work amazingly well. So, maybe science projects could publish an app, and patrons could get some kind of exciting insider news first on their smartphone or in their e-mail in exchange for their continued small donations?

How many people would subscribe at $10/month to a "Manned Mission to the Moon." The media division of the project (making the videos and other rewards for the subscribers) could do a damn impressive job for less than 1% of the ongoing cost of the mission.

Leave it to the marketing geniuses to determine what you get for 0.99 one time, vs 0.99 per month, 9.99 per month, etc.

Re:$40,000? (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038934)

Far too early to be crowing about how it's the next big thing with these funding levels.

Yeah, you're right. $40,000 raised that likely 99% of those funds will actually make it into a projects opposed to more "traditional" fundraisers where $400,000 is raised, and yet $40,000 of that actually makes it into the projects coffers.

Somehow the 1% is convincing us that our math is wrong and immoral. Go figure.

Peanuts (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038042)

What would that mean? Total US R&D budget was $368 Billion in 2007. It means you'd have to increase it by a factor of 10,000,000. $40,000 is peanuts.

Maybe. (5, Informative)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038060)

You've got to remember, though, that outside the simpler home-use inventions, science is expensive. A single Y chromosome decode costs between $1k-$5k, depending on the quality. Identifying genetic diseases means a full genome scan, at maybe 10x the price, but you can't just examine 1 individual. To be useful, you need hundreds if not thousands of samples, plus an equal number from your control group. So you're looking at $100,000,000 just for the analysis. Most bio labs cut corners, which is why most bio labs can't tell you much that's useful.

($40,000 is, frankly, chump change for anything of significance. It would buy you 4 hours of time in a low-end particle accelerator. It is a fifth of the cost of a decent-grade MALA ground penetrating radar unit. You might be able to buy a stormchaser vehicle with it, minus any scientific equipment to go in it.)

However, if you crowdsourced a million people per project, high-end science may be doable. The problem is convincing a million people to part with their money. Remember, getting donations is merely a voluntary version of taxation and people despise taxation. The fact that it's voluntary is immaterial, it doesn't change the cost of the project, it doesn't change the outcome of the project, it certainly doesn't change the management of the project. All of those matter far more than your goodwill.

Then there's the fact that a lot of these sites that handle such stuff are run by dweebs who are infinitely worse than any government agency when it comes to filing the proper paperwork, micromanaging what projects get listed, etc. Most of these sites are reputedly run by venture capitalists who would prefer it if they could waste your money rather than their own.

Re:Maybe. (3)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038090)

Convincing smart people to part with their money as opposed to giving it to somebody else is a part of the process. I'm sure there are cases where genuinely important research gets delayed or denied because it isn't obviously important, but over all given the scarcity of money in general for science that's what's going to happen. We can't send probes to the moon every time somebody has an idea that relates in some vague way to the moon.

And yes, $40k is chump change for most things.

Re:Maybe. (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038478)

Convincing smart people to part with their money as opposed to giving it to somebody else is a part of the process.

Don't you mean "convincing the rich people to part with their money?

The smart people don't need much convincing, in my experience.

Re:Maybe. (2)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040150)

The smart people are, sadly, not the ones with money. Smart people spend too much time understanding their subject to spend time making a killing on the stockmarket. It is entirely about the rich, who didn't become rich for the benefit of others. They can sometimes be persuaded, but they see it as a tax writeoff, not as a means of benefiting humanity.

Re:Maybe. (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038180)

And how do you fund ongoing projects? Many (if not most) worthwhile scientific endeavors take decades. Having funding depending on a crowd's momentary whim doesn't seem like a good long term strategy. This problem already exits in the current funding scheme - long term projects often get dinged when money is scarce but at least there are (imperfect) mechanisms to deal with the problems.

Prioritizing science and technology funding is difficult. Letting the 'crowd' do it makes no sense at all.

Re:Maybe. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040182)

Agreed. The idea is obviously derived from angel investors and venture capitalists, but those have a motive to continue (such as pwning anything that works), aren't subject to whims of the moment and are careful about where they put money (there being a limited amount of the stuff).

Now, I'm willing to concede that there are mini projects that this sort of system will work on. DIY stuff, or maybe archiving material of some sort, but that's about the limit of its reach.

Re:Maybe. (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038266)

The problem is convincing a million people to part with their money. Remember, getting donations is merely a voluntary version of taxation and people despise taxation.

It seems like a decent solution might be to allow people the option to determine what their current tax dollars go towards. Right now the government supports a great amount of research, disaster relief, art, non-profits, etc.. Now that we live in the information age it'd be simple to pull those out of the normal budget and allow politically non-apathetic people to decide where that 5% or so of their taxes go. If you like NASA, throw your 5% there. Breast cancer survivors would probably put their 5% into that sort of medical research. Those on Florida's East coast would probably favor FEMA, and so on. The really picky could divvy up their dollars, and the apathetic would default to what we do now.

Re:Maybe. (2)

hedwards (940851) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038372)

The reason why the government covers things like that is that it's not sexy enough to attract attention from the private sector. Sort of like how there are unpopular but vital services that need to be provided. Most people get angry about having to pay tolls and angrier about not having a road to drive on so the government steps in and builds it with tax dollars.

Re:Maybe. (1)

izomiac (815208) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038836)

IMHO, the problem isn't that these services aren't popular, they just aren't marketable. SpaceX, for example, has no products available for $300 (i.e. ~5% of the median income tax revenue), so there's no commercial way to support space exploration. As other posters have pointed out, $40k is a drop in the bucket for most research, so donations don't work too well either. (Plus there's incentive to exploit good will, such as "Awareness" fundraisers.)

One vital difference between research and roads is that we fund research because it's the right thing to do, not because we would suffer without it in the short term. So, if nobody wants to fund research into the hok/sok plasmid system, then it's not a huge deal. (Realistically, the researcher could explain that it serves to maintain drug resistance in such pathogens as E. coli O157:H7, and drum up some support that way, or just classify it under a "Medical Research" category.) OTOH, some pure science research is a hard sell to the public, so that's why one would rely on the politically apathetic to support it.

Re:Maybe. (1)

jd (1658) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040206)

Problematic. Not only is science unsexy, the overheads of administering such a system would seriously cripple the money available.

Now, I can see an alternative maybe working - perhaps every 10 years hold a national referendum on what the priorities should be (put your 1st, 2nd and 3rd down), where no project attaining more than some threshold score can get funding cut back (after allowing for inflation) for those ten years.

Small Money does not mean Small Science (5, Interesting)

jearbear (10099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038286)

Not always. Entire projects in, say, Ecology can be done for the cost of one sequence. Theoretical modeling can require little more than a laptop, pen, and paper. Already, many prototype or preliminary research experiments get done on the shoestring budget at the end of a grant. Big Science does not always mean Big Money. And maybe that's the kind of research crowdfunding is suited for.

Re:Maybe. (1)

bjorniac (836863) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040572)

I'm a theoretical physicists. $40,000 can pay for a LOT of paper and pencils...

Re:Maybe. (1)

tsa (15680) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040702)

You still do your calculations on the back of an envelope? But then again, you can use your mobile phone now to do calculations on that you needed a super duper top of the line computer for only 5 years ago.

Rewards for contributors (4, Insightful)

Bifurcati (699683) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038146)

Others have already pointed out the obvious magnitude-of-funding issues.

Another issue though is that all of humanity benefits from scientific advances. If government funding were to reduce and be replaced by fund raising drives, then (in the simplest case) those who don't contribute would be getting all the benefits (alternatives to fossil fuels, medical advances, etc) but with none of the upfront cost. Of course, we already have some fund raising for breast cancer/prostate cancer/MS/other specific disease but I would imagine this makes up a fairly small portion of their research budgets (and in some cases genuinely represents an investment in their personal future).

The obvious way around this is through a Kickstarter style reward system, where people who contribute get some specific rewards. But what would you offer? You get a share of the profits? (Well, now you're actually a corporation.) You get early access to the treatment? (That's not going to fly politically.) You get your name on the side of the particle accelerator? (That might work.)

Obviously, people are welcome to do whatever they want with their money, but I think government funding of science for the common good is the fairest scenario, and what we should be encouraging.

Re:Rewards for contributors (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038846)

Another issue though is that all of humanity benefits from scientific advances.

Be careful with absolutes. While I agree with you, there are *many* people who will point out that the discovery of how to build atom bombs did *not* benefit humanity. Why is this relevant? Funding is all about politics, and absolutes don't mix well with politics.

Re:Rewards for contributors (1)

Bifurcati (699683) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038910)

Yes, you're right of course; not all scientific advances are useful. And many individuals will not be directly impacted by a cure for cancer, for example. Broadly speaking, though, and what I meant to get at, is that if a scientific advance is beneficial, then it provides that benefit to the broader humanity, even if only statistically speaking and perhaps not immediately.

(Even the nuclear bomb research probably helped spur nuclear power, which in turn staved off climate change. And, of course, views are divided on whether more or less lives were lost due to the bombs. So yes, I definitely meant broad generalisation rather than absolute statement :) )

Re:Rewards for contributors (1)

sourcerror (1718066) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039992)

On the other hand atom reactors benefit all humanity. And Fermi and Szilard did work on both.
Atomic bombs benefitted mostly Western Europe, as in the fifties the Soviets had much more ground troops than Western Europe.

Re:Rewards for contributors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039482)

The obvious way around this is through a Kickstarter style reward system, where people who contribute get some specific rewards. But what would you offer? You get a share of the profits? (Well, now you're actually a corporation.) You get early access to the treatment? (That's not going to fly politically.) You get your name on the side of the particle accelerator? (That might work.)

"I helped cure cancer, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

Can YOU make it succeed? (5, Informative)

jearbear (10099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038240)

As one of the co-founders of #SciFund, I'm curious, after you slashdotters go and look at the projects at [] and their videos and rewards, would YOU crowdfund these projects? (and if you would, then by all means, do so!) This is the first time we're trying this on any scale, and so have chosen to start with small projects that, if they don't get funded, won't set back anyone's research program. What we're really curious is if the science literate and science interested people like YOU would go over, see what scientists have up, and say "Yeah, I'll fund that."?

And if you want more background, check the articles our scientists are writing about this process [] .

Re:Can YOU make it succeed? (1)

theNAM666 (179776) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038324)

Tell you what. Get me a 1:1 offset on my taxes, and *sure*, I'll fund it. Until then, you're trying to double dip :) !

Re:Can YOU make it succeed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038672)

No. I'm a frequent slashdotter, but I'm also a full time researcher at a government lab AND a full time grad student. I'm one of the guys looking for funding.

I suspect that a significant percentage of slashdotters probably fall into this same category.

Re:Can YOU make it succeed? (2)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038704)

I want to know how the research you fund will be published. Will it be freely available, published under some kind of copyleft license? A quick skim of the site didn't turn up anything on that one way or another. Until I have assurances that I will be able to read any research I might help fund, that it won't end up locked away behind some miserable journal's outrageous paywall, I'm not too excited about funding anything. The research projects themselves all look pretty cool.

It's a start. A start towards a patronage system of many parts.

I think we need to make radical changes, or, at the least undo the radical changes that have snuck in. The idea of trying to directly profit from science through lock down and denial by means of patents isn't working. It is also a relatively recent phenomenon, this huge expansion in the things that are considered patentable, and the even bigger leap from covering a specific implementation of an idea to all manifestations of an idea. However, patent reform alone isn't enough. Even if the system worked as intended, it would still be a drag and a hindrance. What we really need is to bring back patronage in a big way. I'd like to scrap the patent system first, but that doesn't look realistic. It will only go after a new system has been established and made patents irrelevant. The law doesn't lead, it follows.

We can do patronage so much better than was possible centuries ago. Have many organizations covering every angle. Each would be specialized in raising funds in a particular way, and in awarding funding in another particular way. #SciFund would be only one of many. Then, for some infrastructure for everyone, really need the digital notary to make plagiarism and other forms of cheating very hard, and hopefully nigh impossible. And, we really, really need a digital library, to serve up any research anyone might want to see.

Re:Can YOU make it succeed? (2)

Nishantaditya (2506430) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038960)

I want to know how the research you fund will be published. Will it be freely available, published under some kind of copyleft license?

Most projects on the site have some form of "you will recieve printed/pdf copies of any papers published" statement. Also, any one of us would be happy to send out a copy of our papers. To us our work is worth spreading and we're well within our rights as authors to share our papers with anyone we like, paywalls notwithstanding. Moreover, most projects also offer access to blogs or monthly newsletters as a way of keeping their contributors informed on the progress of the research.

Re:Can YOU make it succeed? (2)

ebasham (2506476) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039506)

I want to know how the research you fund will be published.... I'm one of the Scifund researchers. Many of the projects have methods to share the data and results (see prior reply). In my case, I intend to share the hardware design of the instrument I use to collect the data as well (i.e open hardware instrumentation). The data I hope to publish in a true open source journal. My goal is to make a instrument which is a resource for other researchers around the world. By publishing my hardware design, I hope other researchers will modify it and use it for their experiments. The funding basically covers the expense of figuring out how to make it as cheap as possible.

Get your ass to Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038246)

I always wanted to see a crowdsourced manned Mars trip. If everyone in the country kicked what half a dozen or a dozen trips to Starbucks we could do it. Spread it worldwide and get kids raising money as science projects for school and some larger contributors kicking in money to have plaques with their names on them and we could definitely pull it off. I'd kick in a $100 right now and over time I'd even consider contributing a couple of grand just to see it happen. We're still quite a few years away from the next window so there's plenty of time to raise money. Show people progress so they feel involved and keep the excitement up. You may want to send another set of rovers to explore possible landing sites as part of it that would get people excited. It's probably the only way we'll get there in my lifetime.

Re:Get your ass to Mars (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038488)

I always wanted to see a crowdsourced manned Mars trip.

And I always wanted to see Olivia Hunt with her knickers down around her ankles.

Re:Get your ass to Mars (1)

jasomill (186436) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038778)

Both good reasons why the answer to the headline question is "no".

Re:Get your ass to Mars (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039142)

Why? It's a dead rock with CO2 and rust. Ta dah! I just saved you billions of dollars and decades of effort! What IS this attraction with grandiose, futile exploits of sending giant pieces of hardware to places we already know what they look like? "We" have already been there. We've sent many robots. So what? Grow up.

medical research (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038360)

for medical research it seems a very good idea. For cancer is already going on by a lot of crowd-funded foundations, although I don't know the numbers. There are many illnesses (specially chronic or "rare" illnesses) for which the governments don't care at all and which research might get a lot of crowd-funds. If the funding individuals are clever the money can be better invested than by governments.

Charity by any other name (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038390)

Ever wonder if this forum sometimes gets so caught up in its libertarian bias that it convinces itself that the reinvention of the wheel is heroic provided it's open sourced? Seriously, big science is the stuff of governmental funding. Small science can be done inside the mind or in a garage. And I'm sure Richard Branson would gladly empty your wallet to fund his space plane. Feeling charitable?

Science by Popularity? (4, Interesting)

jasnw (1913892) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038456)

Crowsource funding for science will come off at best as well as crowsource funding for the arts, which is pretty much what we've had for the last several decades. The masses will fund what tickles their fancy, or their ego, and the smart researcher will tap into that by pandering. Science will end up with its equivalent of Justin Beeber, Hank Williams, Jr., Gwen Stephanie, and the list goes on.

My colleagues and I came up with a great idea along these lines some years ago (I've been in research since 1980) - one of us would grow a large head of hair and dye it white. He'd be the front man for a Church of Researching God's Creation (I think t that's the name we came up with) which we'd take to the airways to surf for donations. If done right, this could bring in serious money. Of course, we'd all have to look at ourselves in the mirror every now and then, but by the number of highly successful (and very rich) evangelicals floating around that must be a solvable problem.

Re:Science by Popularity? (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038736)

Of course, we'd all have to look at ourselves in the mirror every now and then, but by the number of highly successful (and very rich) evangelicals floating around that must be a solvable problem.

It is solvable. Vampires don't see their reflections :-)

Also, L. Ron Hubbard has prior art (Scientology) that you'd come close to infringing - the whole "make up sh*t in the name of religion and join everyone else fleecing the flock."

Re:Science by Popularity? (1)

wanzeo (1800058) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039522)

I think it would select for bite-size projects that can generate press or products. Also, it necessitates that projects be self contained and hard-budgeted.

One of the most overlooked advantages to government funded science (or anything else) is that:

1. It can go over-budget if it is producing results.
2. There is someone somewhere passing judgement on the validity of the project.
3. The taxpayer doesn't have to think about individual projects.

I would rather give my money to an organization and trust them to choose the projects, then have to pick individual projects on my own. How exhausting.

no (2)

Surt (22457) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038524)

No voluntary program is going to deliver enough funds to science to really meet the definition most scientists would define as 'working'.
Unfortunately, forced support via taxation is the only realistic way.

NO (1)

bussdriver (620565) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038632)

This is what democratic government is for; the majority forces everybody to contribute for the benefit of all. (note: I specified democratic; obviously, a broken one is no longer functioning as democracy and is so only a democracy in name...)

Re:no (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038738)

That's not even remotely true. NGOs do just fine at funding scientific research. I think the government should increase its funding of science but there are many realistic ways for the private sector to fund research.

Re:no (1)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039012)

No voluntary program is going to deliver enough funds to science to really meet the definition most scientists would define as 'working'. Unfortunately, forced support via taxation is the only realistic way.

Wow. The latter part of your statement might as well be a campaign slogan for the 1% in the #Occupy movement.

Try not to rain on a 10-day old parade that raised tens of thousands of dollars that most likely 99% of that money WILL actually be put towards the project. Instead, take a good hard look at the charity orgs out there raising millions and how much they blow of that money on "overhead" before it even comes close to funding their project. The results will likely disgust you, and make you think twice about the definition of "non-profit".

short-lived (1)

holophrastic (221104) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038550)

It's still new, wait. As a new concept, people actually believe that if they give money to someone trying to invent something weird, that it'll actually get invented most of the time. Just wait.

In short-order, people will realize that 50% of this kind of research goes nowhere forever, and another 40% of it fails out-right quickly. Only 10% makes it to what we're going to call, here, a prototype. And of those, only half make it to what we'll call a break-even point.

Finding people willing to invest has never been the difficult part. The challenge is in finding people willing to lose their investment 18 times, and break even once, before finally succeeding on the 20th attempt.

Wait, they'll learn fast.

What you can and cannot do with $40000. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038562)

I believe that crowdfunding is a nice idea to push ideas that are just not profitable enough but could really benefit a number of people. A lot of small open source projects, especially software projects, can achieve a lot with not too much money. $40k is enough for paying a developer a few months, a laptop and some travelling cost. The outcome can be estimated by comparing to other projects and the amount of time it takes to put together a working prototype.

In the end everybody can just copy the software and use it for his or her own purposes.

In science this approach looks often quite different. We had a summer student at our lab and he was given a small project. We used equipment our lab already had for about $50k and consumables for about $1k. He got a total of $3k as a stipend to cover living costs and traveling. The mechanical workshop put about 20 hours into the modification of the devices we were using.
We worked hard on the project and in the end achieved to measure a physical property (specific heat) on one sample at both low temperatures and high magnetic fields. The results on that one sample alone are not enough to be publishable in a good journal because we would need to verify/compare this with at least another two samples and then in the end it would hopefully show that a specific superconductor has a particular wave function at very low temperatures.
This result alone is only meaningful if you look at it in a much wider context to help in the understanding of a big problem in condensed matter physics.
So with a small grant or stipend like this you can in practice only pay a researcher for a few months to work at a lab that has a lot of equipment and not enough people using it. Really starting any kind of project from scratch is not realistic in many disciplines where the individual researcher is dependent on a good and often expensive infrastructure to allow looking for new things.
I am pretty sure that a crowdfunding group would be seriously disappointed with the outcome of our small project, even if it was successful (and usually they are not).
There are just very few low-hanging fruits available and the others require a big effort to reach.

Yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038624)

If i could see my money would all help research efforts in the fields of space exploration, space based power generation, innovative green power, genetic mutation or increasing life span and health as well as many others i would donate $1000 - $10000. If a well thought out system existed and it had enough freedom it could be fantastic; but with all the rules and regulations involved as well as bureaucrats getting half the money, I'm not sure it would reach it's full potential.

Re:Yes (1)

jearbear (10099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039802)

If i could see my money would all help research efforts in the fields of ...innovative green power, genetic mutation ... health as well as many others i would donate $1000 - $10000... with all the rules and regulations involved as well as bureaucrats getting half the money, I'm not sure it would reach it's full potential.

Given how things work for #SciFund, we have an 8% overhead to rockethub and about a 2-5% for folk at universities (although this varies) since it goes through a different channel than government grants. And we have projects looking at greener [] power [] applications [] as well as problems of global good production [] . So, great! Sounds like a perfect match for you!

national public radio (1)

qualityassurancedept (2469696) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038696)

using "crowdfunding" sounds very contemporary but basically its all already paid for with taxes and if you cut out the administrative layer of ombudsmen then how on earth would anyone know how the money is really being spent? That's what the bureaucrats are for. And ultimately we are just going to sit through appeal after appeal for money just like when you try to listen to NPR and they are yet again just having another fund drive. Are research funding decisions really going to be left to a popularity contest on the Internet?

National Sciense Foundation Program Managers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038812)

Expect and demand that their awarded PIs send cash to their personal bank accounts as a prerequsite of proposal approval.

Awarded proposal have a 5K cap for ... hahump ... insendential expense.

Guess where that mony goes! Ah Ha. Right into the program manageres bank accounts.

Thank you Uncle Sam. In Spades. Mummy loves you.


Not bloody likely (2)

seven of five (578993) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038854)

I have seen this before with Dr Robert Bussard's appeals for fusion research funding [] . The problem is, the average schmo doesn't have more than a few dollars to contribute; it takes millions of them to raise the amounts needed. On the other hand, a wealthy investor or government agency could make an immediate difference.

3biZnatch (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38038870)

It could help my fusion efforts a great deal. (3, Informative)

DCFusor (1763438) | more than 2 years ago | (#38038896)

I have a self funded (so far) fusion lab, we're getting results. We don't like to ask for money, as that would seem to put us among the charlatans out there, and we're good, but we don't and can't claim we're getting to breakeven in some short timeframe - that would just be a lie, but we are making lots of progress, which we openly report all the time on my forums (see my sig). Myself and a partner have put in about a quarter million, and we are excellent scroungers - we are swimming in surplus/repaired equipment, no problems there, our approach doesn't need much more than a few good vacuum systems and stuff we can (and have) make in the machine shop we built to support this. But we need "hands and brains". Grad students, or similar. We get plenty of people who'd do this work for love, but they have student loans, or kids, or whatever - they can't work free, but could and would work very cheap. Money like that would hire one (create a job), and push a good project ahead a lot quicker than I can do it alone.... Just sayin...

After reading several posts I can say (1)

axlr8or (889713) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039000)

I always knew ./ as depressing. And I'm completely right. Have you ever just happenstancley (I crowd sourced to get funding to coin that word) slid over to kickstarter? There's some pretty cool excretion over there. Crowdsourcing is fun, and I'd say it would be even more fun if you could ask questions, make suggestions (even if they never get read) about the experiment in progress. I have more faith in that, than the crap doled out from industry today. But you slashdotters, OMG. Bitchingest bunch of people I've ever read. Every one of you thinks you're an expert in every field. Hahaha. (get Jimmy Wales behind em and they think they know everything) I'll digress... There is an new 'pyramid' scam out there, I'll spare you the name. But it proves one thing. You don't need a product. You don't need results. And they will tell you "You don't need to do a thing to make money." All you need are people who will send you money. Guess what? There are people that will. I'd rather send my money to this. Thanks. Hey SciFund, here I come!

Re:After reading several posts I can say (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039164)

In all honesty I am not sure what you are talking about.

real cost is salary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039002)

The biggest cost in academic research is salary. Either it's the PI's supplemental salary (e.g. summer salary), post docs or grad students. $40k is can pay for one post doc for one year. In short, $40k is nothing. If you can get to the half million or million dollar level, then it would work.

Horrible replacement, OK suppliment. (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039022)

The problem with basic scientific research is that it often involves concepts too esoteric and complicated to be readily understood by the public.

If I tried to explain why you should fun a study of the color of highly unstable metal compounds, you might think I'm crazy. Of course it is studies like these in the early 1900's that lead to our understanding of molecular orbital theory and thus helped in the development of semiconductor transistors.

The large cognitive and temporal gap between basic research and applications will prevent such projects from getting funded. Sure people will fund robotic squirrel projects, but why bother with a gas-phase ion chemistry project, never mind the unseen world changing applications 50 years down the road.

The system works as it is now. Taxes fund scientific advancement agencies where qualified individuals evaluate grant applications based on the merits of the proposal and the reputation of the researcher. It's not perfect; tallent is occasionally overlooked, stagnation is occasionally rewarded, but it's the best system we have now.

NASA has a pretty serious problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039110)

James Cameron can get a $1B budget to make films. All he has to do is say "I'm thinking about doing live-action furry porn on location on Olympus Mons" and Bang! he's got a billion dollars to get 'er done - and if he goes over by twice, it's no biggie. The people who are paying neither know nor care that Olympus Mons is a mountain on Mars rather than on Earth. All they know or care about is that they'll likely get several times their money, and at worst will probably lose half.

NASA needs to sexy up their sciency bits. Astro Gurlz in thongs. Interplanetary coital acrobatic theory. Deep space orgy dynamics. There's a lot of milestone research to be done here that could fund both interplanetary science and the Earth observation mission. And they need an artsy filter type to just barely squeek it past the prudes. Where's the "Girls Gone Wild" guy now?

We're apes. Give us what we want and we'll pay for what you want.

The Point (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38039174)

I'm as critical as anyone out there, and that's precisely why I'm participating - to see how well the paradigm could potentially work. I've blogged my critiques & suggestions more fully here [] but in brief let's recap the main points:

- Funding for science is in decline in the US. Will crowdfunding be able to come to the rescue of multi-million dollar research programs? NO. But a LOT of good science - particularly by students - can be done on a low budget. Compare Hollywood to Indie films, there's a direct analogy. Big money doesn't always mean better. And there are a lot of problems in the world right now that need as many people working on them as possible.
- Taxation and public funding of science screened by auditors (i.e. reviewers) with authority is preferable WHEN IT WORKS. But in the life sciences (here I include every form of biology and ecology) I see that some fields are getting squeezed out of existence because others a) draw big grant money (e.g. health research) or b) are fads. Science and scientists are are as prone to following fads as anyone else. The public at least can follow its gut - they put millions into funding cancer research Just Because They Can.
- Traditional funding is completely opaque to the average person. ALL of science funding does not need to come directly from one individual to another. But wherever there can be direct communication between donor and recipient, I feel it should be encouraged. Scientists in general needs as many tools as they can to communicate their work to the public and money is a good motivator.
- AGREED - I am in favor of a non-profit paradigm. I don't want people profiting off the funds for a number of reasons, least of which is that crowdfunding is already an attempt at making up for shortfalls in tax-based spending on science. That money ought to be spent on science in the first place, why send it Back to a government that has failed this portion of its constituents to begin with to have it spent on things we'd rather not?
- Accountability - this needs to be strengthened, but CAN be done.
- Open question: are people willing to spend on science the same way they spend on charities & arts projects?


I've worked in research, and this ain't gonna work (2)

melted (227442) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039516)

Folks who have never done research have this romanticized notion that researchers just sit there and think up new stuff all day long, and it works beautifully the first time they hit the button, and revolutionizes the life as we know it every time. Truth is, 99% of the research done today is incremental at best, folks just combine existing stuff into something borderline new and try it out, then tweak it some, and try it out again. That's what research is — you go down the alleys to see if they're blind, and most of the time they are. 90% of it is fruitless waste of time and money, you just don't know which 90%. The remaining 10% makes it more than worthwhile, but the core thing to understand here is that it's incredibly hard, and _expensive_ work which most of the time produces a "no" and "try something else". When people fund something out of their own pocket, they generally expect a return on their investment and get pissed off with negative outcomes.

Been there, done that ... (1)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039758)

That is pretty much how science operated prior to the twentieth century. It even worked, in a limited sense. After all, it did give scientific research a huge kick-start. But let's be realistic too. It would be next to impossible to maintain current rates of scientific progress using that model because you can achieve far higher funding levels by taxing a hundred million people a dollars a head per year than you would by persuading a hundred people to donate a million dollars a head. (Since very few of those donations would be offered on an annual basis.)

Maybe should have been: Where can it succeed? (2)

jearbear (10099) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039776)

I have been fascinated by the comments in this thread. And I realize perhaps I mis-stated the question. The tacit assumption seems to have been that this may be a potential replacement for NSF/NIH funding or otherwise that can completely support a research lab.

And maybe it can. But I agree with all the posters that the chances of crowdfunding as a complete replacement for more traditional funding sources are highly unlikely. As everyone has noted, #SciFund is targeting pieces of research programs rather than whole labs (although we do have some folk trying for a chunk of their salary). And perhaps it is no accident that the first time around, the disciplines and scientists that have been attracted to #SciFund are not ones who are trying to purchase or use multi-million dollar pieces of equipment.

So, perhaps the question should be, Crowdfunding for science - when and where can it be used successfully?

Because, really, the answer to the first question, can it succeed at all for any project, no matter the size, rests on folk like you. But what are its best uses? That's a bigger issue that I'd love to hear more thoughts about, as we're still grappling with it.

(FYI, we'll also be doing a formal analysis of all of the projects and their funding records at the end of the 45 day funding period - #SciFund runs through Dec 15th, so, we have pulled in $40K now, but we still have a month left to get more, if you want to contribute [] and help us figure out what projects are really capturing people's imagination when it comes to funding.)

Re:Maybe should have been: Where can it succeed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38040894)

If you want to get funding, you need to have something that feels almost impossible:
- Cure cancer
- Cure aging
- Build a colony to the Mars
- Build a city deep under the sea

That's what tax dollars are for ... (4, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039790)

Sorry, but I want public funding to go towards scientific research for two reasons.

First and foremost, you need public funding to support pure science. There are a few branches of pure science that will attract private donations, but most won't. Take astronomy vs. computers in the pre-WWII era. Astronomy was almost entirely impractical, but it attracted deep pockets. Real computers (i.e. anything beyond adding machines) received very little love at all, even though they turned out to be hugely important to society down the road. Computers were developed primarily because of government funding during and after WWII. Heck, even Charles Babbage received government funding. But all of the other computing projects (and there were a few) received inadequate funding and ended up going nowhere.

Re:That's what tax dollars are for ... (3, Insightful)

MacTO (1161105) | more than 2 years ago | (#38039820)

Oops, I was too busy dreaming of the grinding gears of the difference engine to remember point two. :)

The second point is that the modern taxation system works because there is something for everyone. Bleeding hearts like myself see funding going to science and social programs. Rednecks see taxes going towards infrastructure and national security. (Sorry about the over generalizations there, but I use them only to illustrate a point.) Now I know that everyone loves to grumble about taxes, but most people will pay them because they receive some benefits from them. A system of universal taxation wouldn't work otherwise because the people who aren't serve would eventually revolt (which we have seen historically).

In other words, if you want my tax dollars to fund roads you better be willing to see some of your tax dollars go to science.

First project should be hedge fund software (1)

maitas (98290) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040202)

Although I believe that copyright is a good thing when done correctly, I also believe that today copyright is impeding new developments and is impacting negatively the human specie.
What I would like to see is for this project is to first develop a hedge software, so it can fund itself to a very large intent, and then to use all that money to lobby US Government to fix Copyright law.
Only after that, it makes sense to pursue other projects. Otherwise they will be killed by patent trolls.

for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38040356)

It will be effective for science only in the short run. It will work for a while until the money makers get a smell of it and ruin the model by channeling the money away into their own coffers, under the fall pretence that they are doing it all for the greater good of the scientific community.

We could call it "Taxes"..... (2)

fantomas (94850) | more than 2 years ago | (#38040408)

I know, why don't a lot of us who live in the same area agree to all put in some of our money regularly, and use it to pay for science, but also to pay for some people to keep the roads in good condition, keep an eye on bad people, let some people not have to do their jobs full time but instead be full time teachers, full time doctors, that kind of thing. That would be a fantastic way of sharing out the costs amongst us and make sure science and other things get done that wouldn't happen otherwise. We could even crowdsource the decision making process, call it "government". And the crowdsourced income generating strategy, we could call it "taxes".

I'm not sure it will succeed, but I've heard a rumour that science is funded in some other countries in this way, in some cases for quite a few years...

Donation culture & Moderate thinking (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38040718)

Transparent tax is what that eventually leads to. And not even full transparency but a little transparency with "this is where your money is really going" would be nice but impractical.

Therefore, a donation culture is needed, and is indeed growing. Ideally a government should not be able to fund any genuine private sector company. The people should do that. People should be required to do 2 things by law: A) Donate money to a private sector cause directly B) Not pay taxes for a private sector cause.

For me, we are rushing headlong into Terminator (flying auto drones etc.) so I want more money in emotional intelligence for AI - not because I want it but because we've already gone down the AI route and there seems to be no stopping it. I want A.I. or iRobot before Terminator. I also want to see a permanent public settlement on the Moon. I want us to mine the moon. I want to an Atmospheric base on Venus that can be traveled to by ordinary people. I want more money in things like korot and other planet finding missions. I think we owe it to ourselves to find a genuine Earthlike planet within a 100 light years if one exists. I also want such a planet finding mission retired for several centuries if we are unsuccessful and have exhausted our search throughout all nearby stars within 100 lightyears, or at least have its budget greatly reduced at that point. I want us to be more moderate politically in every facet. Extremism on either side - liberal Libertarianism, or far right Fascist totalitarianism isn't working obviously. Neither of those can work. We need to force ourselves into scientific moderation or centrism as a matter of all global and geoplolitical policy. We need to save ourselves the bother and auto-compromise. It's all too obvious that Centrism and moderation is where compromise usually ends up and needs to end up. We need to be wiser and stop fighting amongst ourselves in these difficult times. We could really do witha couple of centuries worth of a 'Time Out' on politics for a period of moderation. Just push scientifically enforced compromise on anyone or anything (including the big dogs) and just accept that we're greedy beings and need to have none of our way for a time.

Forget basic science in this syem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#38040854)

Basic science, ie the exploration of the fundamental universe (defined another way, that science which will never make anybody a buck), doesn't look very sexy to the outsider. People will give money to fund a neat invention or support charismatic megafauna (the fuzzier the better), but the nuts and bolts and gears of basic science would grind to a halt if you replaced NSF with passing the hat. My prediction is that few if any crowdsourced projects will produce significant basic science, no matter how you choose to measure it. But show me and I will believe.

Second point is that we already have a crowdsource system in place (flawed, but it *does* produce measurable returns) for identifying hot new basic science: The peer review system, which judges projects based on their likelihood to succeed and produce significant results. Complain about *that* system all you want, but show me another that works and we can adopt it. (Hint: doesn't exist).

Third, a single project that pays a grad student salary, enough of my time to supervise her, travel for her to a national meeting to present her groundbreaking results, analytical costs and overhead, costs about $60,000 a year, ignoring the capital costs of equipment. That means I have to attract 600 $100 supporters each year just to fund a grad student. How can I hire a grad student for the first year, if I'm not sure that remaining two will come through? OK, so now I have to generate 1800 supporters in year 1 in order to fully fund a project. Just ask Greenpeace how hard this is to do when the subject is save the baby harp seals with big eyes. Most people can't even pronounce the thing I work on, much less relate it to something that gives them a wallet-opening warm feeling.

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