Top Tips for Crowdfunding Your Research

 

Crowdfunding for Research

We had a great response to our last blog post about crowdfunding for research, with lots of people joining our Mendeley Crowdfunding Group and emailing questions and comments.

So yesterday I joined a live Google Hangout with the folks from Indiegogo to try and answer some of those questions and also give some general guidelines about how to start a campaign to raise research funds through crowdfunding.

Breanna DiGiammarino, Educational Vertical Lead at Indiegogo, advised researchers to think about what audience their research speaks to, but also pointed out that you can often be surprised at how many people are interested in what might seem a very niche subject. Crowdfunding, she explains, reaches a wide global audience, and that reach can be much bigger than you expect.Read More »

Research Taps Into the Crowd

Photograph by FlyingPete at Morguefile

There’s no denying that securing funding is a vital part of a researcher’s job. But although it has never been exactly easy to apply for and get money for scientific research, the on-going global economic crisis made things even more difficult, especially for early career researchers. Faced with cuts, universities and funding bodies have less money to distribute, and might opt for safer bets in established scientists and less experimental approaches and projects.

Maybe this is why we have seen a rise in the trend of crowdfunding research, where scientists – both in and around traditional institutions – have appealed to the wisdom (and pockets) of the crowd. And the crowd, it seems, is really eager to take a more active role in research, not only funding it but also participating through citizen science projects.

Microryza, a crowdfunding website launched in 2012, raised over $200,000 for about 80 projects (they operate an all-or-nothing model where backers only get charged if the campaign goal is reached). Those projects include creating an open synthetic biology lab in the cloud, Tracking Magellanic Penguins, an investigation into why jokes are funny, and research into whether nanobots can be used to detect and target cancer cells.

Indiegogo, the largest crowdfunding platform on the web, hosted some very successful projects such as uBiome (a citizen science project that aims to better understand the dozens of health conditions related to the bacteria in your body) and iCancer (a campaign that raised over £2 million to fund research into a potential treatment for neuroendocrine cancer)

At Mendeley, we thought that our community of nearly 2.5 million researchers would be interested in the new possibilities this type of funding could bring, so we started a Crowdfunding group and asked Indiegogo to advise any researchers who wanted to start their own campaigns into what they should do to maximise their chances of success. This is why on Tuesday the 27th August Alice Atkinson-Bonasio from Mendeley will join the experts at Indiegogo for one of their weekly sessions, which will be streamed live on YouTube.

This is where we’ll be talking about some of the most common questions researchers have around crowdfunding, such as what opportunities, there are, what successful campaigns have done, what research has been funded and what best practice is for reaching your target.

If you have any questions or comments about crowdfunding research, please join the Mendeley group, send a tweet to @alicebonasio using the hashtag #MendeleyCrowdfunding or post it on the comments here. You can also find us on both the Indiegogo and Mendeley Facebook pages.

Facebook Game Uses Crowdsourcing to Tackle Ash Die Back Disease

Fraxinus

Britain’s estimated 80 million ash trees are under threat, with scientists fearing that the Chalara fungus – known ash ash die back disease – could prove as deadly to the UK’s woodlands as Dutch elm disease was in the 1970s, killing millions of trees. In Denmark, the impact of ash die back was devastating, with between 60 and 90 per cent of all its ash trees being lost.

But there is hope… In the unexpected form of a Facebook game. Researchers sequenced the DNA from many infected trees and re-assembled them as closely as possible so they can identify variations that determine how susceptible the trees are to this disease. The human brain is uniquely adept at seeing patterns more quickly and adeptly than computers, and it’s that ability that the developers of Fraxinus (from the ash tree’s Latin name, Fraxinus Excelsior) are harnessing. The hope is that by identifying those patters through gameplay, players will provide potentially vital clues as to how the disease works on a genetic level.

“Every organism, whether human, tree of fungus has a genome virtually identical to the rest of the species but with tiny variations,” the game’s introductory screen explains. Players are challenged to manipulate and match up sequences of coloured leaves representing strings of genetic information from ash trees (both vulnerable ones from the UK and resistant strains taken from Denmark) and the Chalara fungus. Scientists will then look to use that data to cross-breed trees resistant to the disease.

Matching sequences closely earns high scores, and lets players claim patterns for their collection. However, these patterns can be stolen from under their noses by other players who use the same pattern to achieve a higher score. The competitive element adds to the addictiveness of the game and keeps players engaged for longer in order to build up and maintain their collections. The advantage for the database is that each pattern theft also serves to make the data even more accurate.

The game was envisaged by Dr Dan MacLean, head of bioinformatics at The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norfolk and designed by Bafta-nominated game developers Team Cooper. The unique challenge, say the developers, was to design a game that was engaging and addictive in its own right, but also managed to produce valid scientific results. These results are now being gathered and will be published as an open source supply for scientific research.

Dr MacLean told BBC News: ‘how we get the most out of it is if people want to come back to it and play it with their friends. That it’s for a good cause is a bonus.’

Apart from the lovely feeling of helping to save millions of trees, those who top the game’s leaderboard will actually be credited on articles as having helped with the research. Lead Developer for Team Cooper Russell Stearman said that it was a unique move for players to both contribute meaningful data to the Open Ash Die Back Project and be officially recognised in scientific papers.

Whiling away the hours on Facebook might not be everyone’s idea of advancing science and protecting the environment, but citizen science projects have used gamification to tap into the power of crowds with great success. The scientists behind this project believe that crowdsourcing this social media hive mentality could bring forward the production of disease-resistant trees by over 40 years, which is certainly an impressive claim. But what are the wider implications for science, and does this mean that social media gaming is coming of age? Let us know what you think!

 

 

 

 

 

How-to series: How to keep references and documents unpublished (out of catalog) [part 7 of 12]

As you probably know that, whenever you add a document to your Mendeley library, the document details for that entry are aggregated into our Mendeley databases so as to allow you to easily synchronize your library across multiple platforms. These aggregated data are also used to generate our extensive and multidisciplinary research catalog that is continually growing, fueled by the ongoing uploading of references to your (and everyone else’) library.

This is all good and well but how about documents you don’t want to include in the catalog, or you don’t think are actually useful for others to have access via the research catalog? For those cases, we have a checkbox in the Document Details panel that allows you to keep that entry from being aggregated. It will still be synchronized across your multiple devices, but it will not have the Document Details aggregated to our research catalog.
There are plenty of situations where this can be useful. Notes from a class that you are storing and don’t believe are useful for others, manuscripts you are currently working on and therefore are still incomplete, etc.

In summary, if you’re adding a document and you don’t want the document details to be anonymously aggregated and made available for search in our research catalog, then go ahead and click on the “Unpublished work” checkbox in the Document Details panel on the right.

Unpublished Work Checkbox (in Mendeley Desktop)

There you go, simple stuff once again. In our next entry we’ll be touching on the topic of annotations.

Here are the previous six entries in our How-to series:

100,000 users and 8 million articles

In piphilology, one hundred thousand is the current world record for the number of digits of pi memorized by a human being (well, that’s according to Wikipedia). So, as happy as we are at Mendeley to have 100,000 users onboard, we regret to say that it is now beyond our limits for us to remember every single user on our site (but good to see that you keep on writing and helping to improve Mendeley). In the same week we crossed a second milestone of 8 million research articles uploaded to our database in less than a year. Currently Mendeley’s article database continues to expand as researchers, students and scientists from around the world upload, collaborate and share their research using Mendeley. In April 2009 we reached the 1 million article mark, which means the number of articles in our database has doubled in size every ten to twelve weeks. To give a little context: the world’s largest online research database by Thomson Reuters took 49 years to reach 40 million articles.

A big thank you to Techcrunch’s Sean O’Hear who wrote: “Mendeley could be the largest online research paper database by early 2010” and James Glick from The Next Web who wrote: “Mendeley ‘the last.fm of research’ hits new heights”.

And congratulations to our growing community of users!

Attributed to Jorel314

Image by Jorel314