In the United States, crowdfunding could provide a workable solution to the lack of public funds being allocated to scientific research projects.

Crowdfunding Breathes New Life into Scientific Research

Scientific research projects in the United States have not escaped the Federal government’s budget cuts. One way of solving this problem might be to make use of the crowdfunding approach. This is the vision of the founders of San Francisco-based Microryza, a dedicated platform set up by a group of North American scientists. Explains Denny Luan, one of the founders of the initiative: “While doing our own research we encountered difficulties obtaining funding. This platform, in contrast to general funding sites, concentrates exclusively on the needs of scientists.”

Appealing to a wide public

However, far from settling into a narrow niche, Microryza invites the widest possible public to get interested in and support the projects highlighted on the site. Among a variety of projects looking for backing through the platform are for example Efficient electric spacecraft propulsion, designed to study the technology of electric motors on spacecraft; and Do birds carry Lyme disease?, a project whose aim is to find out whether wild birds are carriers of this increasingly common vector-borne illness. So far around eighty projects have succeeded between them in raising around $200,000 on Microryza, i.e. equivalent to slightly less than half the total US Federal government subsidies for biomedical research.

Private-sector as well as public institution projects welcome

Microryza is no different from other crowdfunding sites in the way it works. It is financed by taking a percentage of the funds the researchers raise from their donor/backers. The platform is designed to accommodate all types of projects, whether they originate in public institutions or have been set in motion by private sector firms. However, it is largely the Federal government’s budget cuts that make the crowdfunding solution look like a very useful option. “While our site is open to everyone, it’s a fact that up to now we’ve been promoting university-based projects,” says Denny Luan, adding: “However that doesn’t prevent us from hoping to see initiatives emerging from other research sectors in future.”

By Guillaume Parodi