Crowdfunding Part II

Crowdfunding part I” was written early in my actual crowdfunding experience. However, a lot of perks came from the process (some are particularly relevant to graduate students), so I decided to write about them here.

Networking; in response to Challenge #1 (committing, intimidation of the process)

Scifund is set up so you enter the game as a member of a team. Having other people building projects at the same time is helpful, reassuring and motivating (perks of any team). I started off with at least one thing in common with everyone, but found I had more in common with some— I met researchers in my field and have even received emails from people who do similar research and are offering their help. As Erica pointed out in her “Grad Student Citizenship” post, these connections are extremely useful for a young scientist.

Be ambitious; in response to Challenge #2 (deciding how much money to ask for):

I realized two delightful things within the first week of launching my project: First, I realized I have more friends than I thought. Second, I realized my monetary goal of $1000. Unfortunately, this goal did not force me to target crowds beyond my personal network (most funding came from either first or second-degree contacts). I would set a more ambitious goal in the future. Here, I must shout out to fellow CSUN grad student JR Clark @protectdafishes who did have to work hard to successfully reach his goal. That being said, random people do give money…the harder you work on social media, the more emails with the subject line: “New Backer: Steve Nash backed $20 to your project”* will show up in your inbox. Reading a random name next to some dollar signs and a “good luck” comment was my favorite part of this experience.

Scientists on short timelines; in response to Challenge #1 and #2.

As a graduate student, we have a short period of time to complete a project. Crowdfunding is a great way to gain control over certain important aspects of our research (the money aspect). This is in contrast to grants and scholarships, where control is lost upon submission of an application. Waiting months for reviews and to maybe receive the money could be a major setback. Crowdfunding is great for graduate students who need guaranteed small amounts of money quickly.

Science Communication; in response to Challenge #3 (using twitter):

One personal unanticipated consequence of using twitter was an involuntary narration of inane daily activities (I reminisce about when my walk to the fridge was not complemented with “#carrots #betacarotene #herewegoeyesight #orange&crunchy”). But more importantly, when I consider my crowdfunding as “outreach”, I no longer care that the bulk of my donations came from friends— this is because most of my friends are not scientists and most now think that what I do is, at the very least, “cool”. That crowdfunding and social media allow for science communication is great. Start by making the research website and video accessible, and continue by circulating the word online. I tweeted at various scientists, reporters and groups to find that people really do “re-tweet” and word really can spread.

Science Communication; in response to Challenge #4 and #5 (making the video and choosing a title): Especially important if you are interested in science outreach and need to be forced to concoct some kind of outreach tool.

*disclaimer: Steve Nash has not yet donated to my scientific endeavors.


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