A grand experiment in science funding

November 20, 2012
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(This article was originally published at Simply Statistics, and syndicated at StatsBlogs.)

Among all the young scientists I know, I think Ethan Perlstein is one of the most innovative in the way he has adapted to the internet era. His website is incredibly unique among academic websites, he is all over the social media and his latest experiment in crowd-funding his research is something I’m definitely keeping an eye on.

The basic idea is that he has identified a project (giving meth to yeast mouse brains -see the comment by Ethan below-, I think) and put it up on Rockethub, which is a crowd funding platform. The basic idea is he is looking for people to donate to his lab to fund the project. I would love it if this project succeeded, so if you have a few extra dollars lying around I’m sure he’d really appreciate it if you’d donate.

At the bigger picture level, I love the idea of crowd-funding for science in principal. But it isn’t clear that it is going to work in practice. Ethan has been tearing it up with this project, even ending up in the Economist, but he has still had trouble getting to his goal for funding. In the grand scheme of things he is asking for a relatively small amount given how much he will do, so it isn’t clear to me that this is a viable option for most scientists.

The other key problem, as a statistician, is that many of the projects I work on will not be as easily understandable/cool as giving meth to yeast. So, for example, I’m not sure I’d be able to generate the kind of support I’d need for my group to work on statistical analysis of RNA-seq data or batch effect removal methods.

Still, I love the idea, and it would be great if there were alternative sources of revenue for the incredibly important work that scientists like Ethan and others are doing.



Please comment on the article here: Simply Statistics

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