With the ongoing announcements of funding cuts to science research scientists are turning to different methods of funding projects. Government grants rarely fund 100% of a project, and the shortfall of these meticulously costed grants must be either swallowed by institutions, or by simply reducing the scope of the proposed work in an ad hoc manner. Science can be intangible, and cuts rationalised by the public as “necessary” when ominous quotations of spiraling debt figures are announced.
A divide between scientists and the public results in the failure of non-scientists to see the link between science and its applications; this is why science communication is such an essential part of experimental outputs. So what if you combine both – science communication and funding? That is what researchers at several research institutions in Australia have started to attempt.
The Florey Neuroscience Institute in Melbourne prides itself on presenting research to the public. It is actively encouraged for researchers to be open with their research achievements and goals, with regular contributions to the media from researchers to engage the public in the outputs of its philanthropic and government funded research.
Researchers at the Florey have taken the next step in the promotion and funding of science projects within the institute. Crowd funding. Using the Pozible platform researchers are promoting their research with public-friendly description of the proposed outputs in terms of benefit to society, such as understanding the neurobiology of Autism, depression and Schizophrenia.
Furthermore, those who contribute receive instant acknowledgment and a token of thanks from the researchers themselves, such as getting to name a mouse (some of my previous subjects have been called The Riddler, Wonky the Emo Rat and Mr Number 5, so I could do with some outside inspiration), or some rather elaborately doodled upon eskies (they are superb for transporting cold beers to the beach). Also, if one of the projects is successfully funded it will be the FIRST PhD student to achieve this in Australia.
This is community engagement at its finest. The immediate inclusion of the public with not only the scientists working on the projects, but the generation of the funding to support the beneficial outputs. Research funded for the people, by the people. Promoting the need for science, the understanding of science and demystifying the role of researchers in society.