For the first time an Australian university is using the ‘crowdfunding’ system to attract money from the public to cover all or some of the costs of research.
Eight academics at Deakin University in Melbourne have turned to a crowdfunding site called http://Pozible.com in an attempt to raise funds for their research projects.
These include a study of the impact of salinity on marine invertebrate species such as rock lobsters, abalone and sea urchins, and the development of an app that will allow Melbournians to walk in the steps of immigrant photographer Mark Strizic and reshoot his images of their city.
The Deakin-Pozible project, called Research My World, gives Australians the opportunity to make tax-deductible donations to a range of research that appeals to their interests and concerns.
Professor Lee Astheimer, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for research, said crowdfunding had been successfully used to foster innovation in a number of entrepreneurial fields and the question had been asked why universities were not trying it.
“Well, now we are,” she said.
Astheimer said the Deakin projects selected for the trial needed funding ranging from A$5,000-$20,000 (US$5,100-US$20,400) and had been selected from a wide range of disciplines. Trying to raise the money through Pozible was consistent “with Deakin’s reputation as an innovator in higher education”, she said.
Other projects include developing a free web-based resource for parents, to provide information about healthy eating and active play with toddlers, and the first comprehensive camera-trapping study of two critically endangered species in Papua New Guinea – the Scott’s Tree Kangaroo and the Weimang or Golden-mantled Tree Kangaroo.
Another researcher hopes to continue his work mapping the ocean floor off the Victorian coast, which he says has been less studied than the surface of Mars, while a colleague plans to investigate which species of local seaweed are the most palatable.
Last month, Massolution, a research firm specialising in crowdfunding, reported a huge increase between 2011 and 2012 in the number of organisations seeking, and raising, money for their projects.
Sites such as Kickstarter and Indigogo grew larger while new start-ups, now including one Australian university, are using crowdfunding to attract public money.
According to the Massolution report, the survey of crowdfunding across 308 of the more than 450 platforms that now exist around the globe revealed it to be a multibillion-dollar industry.
In fact, a total of more than US$2.7 billion – an 81% increase – was raised last year to successfully fund one million campaigns. The company expects global crowdfunding to exceed US$5 billion in 2013.
Donation- and reward-based platforms such as Kickstarter and Indiegogo grew by 85% and raised $1.4 billion, up from around US$75 million in 2011, while lending-based crowdfunding grew 11% to $1.2 billion, and equity-based crowdfunding increased by 30% to $116 million.
the director of Deakin’s crowdfunding project, Professor Deb Verhoeven, said the initiative would establish new connections between researchers and the communities around them. It would ‘bring research home’ in the sense of encouraging a greater community focus on research agendas, and provide a unique opportunity for members of the public to support the research that mattered most to them.
“This initiative will ‘democratise’ research funding in Australia, opening it up to anyone who can successfully generate interest for a great idea or an approach to solving a problem,” Verhoeven said.
“Research success will be measured in terms of a project’s importance to the public and not just other academics.”
It's nice, but I wonder if this is a last resort because of how bad the Australian government is with funding.
Christopher Weir on the [i}University World News Facebook page
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