Science Crowdfunding Site Gets New Name And New Life
It’s no secret that funding for science projects and research is paltry these days, and what little funding exists is subject to the fickle vacillations and stubbornness of the federal government. So the mission-driven for-profit organization Experiment (formerly Microryza) has launched a platform for scientists and researchers around the globe to solicit funding, much in the style of Kickstarter.
Experiment notes that “our system for funding science is broken,” and that fewer than 15% of all proposals get backed, so they’re looking to democratize the process by launching a platform that supports “scientists for the people, by the people.” The process is pretty simple: researchers post projects in need of funding, and then spread the word, garnering financial support from anyone with a credit card and a yen to promote scientific discoveries. The project either reaches its goal or does—as with Kickstarter, the project must receive at least 100% of the funding goal (if it doesn’t, prospective backers aren’t charged). In return for successfully funding a project, backers get insights into the science and research, and updates about where exactly their money went. Unlike with Kickstarter, there are no tangible rewards for backers—the idea is that they’re financially supporting projects they want to see funded, and the scientists’ ability to perform the research is reward enough.
Experiment features projects in biology, engineering, psychology, chemistry, physics, medicine, economics, education, ecology, and more. Want to know how hormones affect a bullfrog’s appetite? Fund the project! Or maybe you want to learn about Californian humpback whales raising their calves in the waters off Costa Rice. Or maybe you’re curious about the relationship between genetic diversity and friendship. There are so many interesting projects on this site that it’s hard to imagine not getting excited about at least a handful of them. Given that they’ve got a range of funding goals, some of them being quite modest, potential backers can make a different without breaking their banks.
In order to put a project on Experiment, researchers have to adhere to three criteria: first, they have to have a legitimate scientific question that they want to answer via research; second, the goals of the project have to be within their capabilities as scientists/researchers; and third, their identities as researchers has to be verified. Researchers are encouraged to ask for the minimum they’d need to carry out the research; they can provide stretch goals beyond that if it they want. That’s it.
Experiment has a few operating rules of its own, including the all or nothing funding model. They also take 8% of the total donations (a 5% fee plus a 3% credit card fee). Beyond supporting science, they have a few overarching goals, including curing cancer, finding alternative sources of energy, and promoting a manned mission to another planet. Sounds like pretty good stretch goals to me. It launched in April 2012 as Microryza, but recently rebranded as Experiment given that few people knew what that name meant (a symbiotic relationship between a plant and fungus—yeah, I think they were right to change the name). Now with the more palatable Experiment they’ve launched a new identity on Twitter, as well as science chats. Take that, federal government!