Crowdfunding Innovative Water Treatment Research

Community Water Project 2Mendeley is proud to help spread the word about how research makes a positive impact in people’s lives, which is why we were really happy to work more closely with Elsevier in Research4Life. At its core, research is about making the world a better place, and technology is a  key way of enabling this. As part of our series of guest blog posts highlighting interesting ways in which that happens, this time we bring you the story of Jay, Viv and Kirsten, 3 young researchers from the University of Southern California, who have used crowdfunding to take their life-saving solution to communities in Rwanda.

By Jay Todd Max, co-founder of the Community Water Project

Next month, my research team and I are flying to Rwanda to build innovative water treatment systems we have been designing for the past three years. While we were earning our Bachelors and Masters Degrees in Engineering at the University of Southern California, Viv Pitter, Kirsten Rice and I were in the USC labs, researching into different innovative water treatment methods. The result is that we have created a new model of water treatment systems, tailored specifically to the needs and resources of rural communities in developing countries. This September we will make those designs a reality.

Having access to clean water is obviously a huge issue for millions of people around the world. The communities that we are targeting are ones who have access to dirty water, but no means of cleaning it. Typically these are rural communities that also do not have access to sophisticated water treatment technologies and typically do not have the technical know-how for maintaining complex water treatment systems. Our design is incredibly low-tech and uses only the natural resources found locally in these communities. It is essentially a large concrete chamber filled with gravel and sand. It traps the dirt and uses the naturally occurring micro-organisms to break down and remove all of the dangerous contaminants. Because the materials are local and there are no moving parts, the system is incredibly easy to maintain and operate.

 

Community Water Project 1

But there’s more. Many projects fail for social/cultural reasons rather than purely technical ones. Because of this, our implementation strategy diverges from usual aid models. Typically, when aid groups enter a community, they prescribe a specific technology that they have shipped from far away, install it without much community buy-in, and then leave, patting themselves on the back for a job well done. Unfortunately, the majority of these projects fall out of use and into disrepair within the first 5 years. Our implementation strategy, however, avoids this fate in two main ways. Firstly, our primary focus is on community engagement and buy-in. After all, it is the people we are interested in helping. The village leaders of Bwana, Rwanda are already eager to help make their new water systems a reality. Secondly, the systems will be monetized. The village leaders are in the process of selecting individuals from within the community who will become the owner/operators of these systems. They will charge a small fee for each container of water that gets dispensed. This money will go toward the maintenance and repair of the system, and will also act as compensation for the owner’s work. Because the owners are getting paid for their work, there will always be someone in charge of keeping the systems in operating condition.

We believe that our design, combined with our implementation strategy, have the potential to dramatically improve the success and sustainability of water projects around the world. Our model will not be validated, however, unless we take the first step of building the first ones in Rwanda this September. That is why it has been so helpful these past few weeks when donations have come from all over to raise more than $15,000 of our $20,000 fundraising goal on IndieGoGo. All of the communities that have supported the IndieGoGo campaign by sharing the link and by donating are really enabling us to prove out our water treatment concept. They are making it possible to do so much good for the community in Rwanda and possibly for water projects around the world. It really is a case of whole communities coming together to help other whole communities. It’s all made possible by crowd-sourcing funds, and it’s all for the purpose of proving out research that will improve people’s lives. If you’d like to help support the campaign or receive updates on the project’s progress, be sure to visit our campaign page!

Do you have your own stories of using crowdfunding or other social media technologies and platforms to advance your research? Join the discussion on our Crowdfunding Group on Mendeley or leave a comment below!

 

 

 

Research4Life working with Mendeley’s Reference Management and Collaboration Platform

 

Research4Life

We’re really happy to share the news that from now on Mendeley will be actively supporting the Research4Life partnership and helping to disseminate cutting-edge scientific information to researchers in over 100 developing countries.

Research4Life is a public-private partnership that’s aiming to help the achievement of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals by reducing the huge knowledge gap that exists between industrialised and developing countries. It brings together institutions from across government, academia and industry such as (to name but a few) the World Health Organization, the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers, the Food and Agriculture Organization, Microsoft, the World Intellectual Property Organization, Cornell and Yale Universities, and approximately 200 publishers, who provide accessible scholarly content to over 7000 institutions worldwide.

It’s one of the many initiatives already supported by Elsevier that helps researchers get access to the information they need in places where resources are often scarce or problematic to get to.  There are currently over 40,000 peer-reviewed resources made available to them through Research4Life, and as a founding partner, Elsevier contributed a quarter of those through Scopus and Science Direct, including about 3,000 journals and 12,000 books.

These resources are really crucial in enabling researchers to carry out their work in developing countries, and in 2013 there were over 3 million article downloads from Science Direct alone. Since Mendeley was acquired by Elsevier last year, we’ve been excited about the possibility of getting involved in such projects, as they tie into Mendeley’s original vision of making science more open and broadening access to scientific content where it can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Since first launching in 2001, the program has expanded to 4 targeted areas, supporting crucial research into Health (HINARI), Agriculture (AGORA), the Environment (OARE) and Development and Innovation (ARDI), and Elsevier has committed to providing the programme with free or low-cost access to this content until at least 2020.  In addition, they also provide strategic, technical and communication expertise that helps advance Research4Life. For example, the Elsevier Foundation’s Innovative Libraries  in Developing Countries Program gives grants for programs that build the infrastructure, improve information literacy, and provide training to further the use of Research4Life content.

And that’s where Mendeley comes in, because we’re providing all those researchers with a cloud-based, open and easily accessible tool to not only manage all those resources, but also to communicate and share insights and valuable information with other scientists all over the world. Mendeley already has over 160,000 users in Research4Life countries, and more than 100 of our advisors help to train, educate, and increase awareness about how researchers can use Mendeley to facilitate and advance their work. A big part of Mendeley’s involvement in the project will be to celebrate and promote those stories of success and collaboration to the wider Mendeley community and connect researchers who might be working on the same problems in different parts of the world.

“So far researchers  on the program have been using patchy solutions involving various workflow and citation management tools, but these are often expensive, and if you’re trying to collaborate on a joint project with a researcher who does not have the same tool, that can be really problematic,”  says Jan Reichelt, Co-founder and President of Mendeley. “So we’re hoping that Mendeley, with its vast community of over 3 million researchers worldwide, will help to really facilitate and accelerate the pace of discovery for Research4Life Scientists.”

Are you a researcher benefitting from the Research4Life program? We’d love to hear your thoughts on this and other similar initiatives. Get in touch by leaving a comment below or join the Mendeley Research4Life group!