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Crowdfunding Science

Does the crowdfunding model offer researchers a new way to cobble together enough funding to fuel their scientific efforts, Pieter Droppert asks in XConomy.

Droppert, a management consultant and editor of the Biotech Strategy Blog, takes a look at one company, called Microryza, which uses a Kickstarter-like model to help investigators hit up the public for the cash to fuel specific projects.

One example of a project on Microryza is an electronics researcher at the University of York who aims to raise $3,000 to support initial research into a novel drug delivery patch that uses magnetic nanoparticles.

That sounds interesting, but how is the public to make heads or tails of the merits of research proposals, which are generally reviewed by well qualified peers, Droppert wonders.

Microryza has three criteria for posting a solicitation. The projects must seek to answer a scientific question, have goals that the researcher is capable of achieving, and the site must be able to verify the poster's identify. That's it.

Microryza does not offer a determination of the scientific merits of the projects, and it does not provide links to scientists' previous publications, so there is not much to go on unless a donor wants to do some outside investigation. Of course, these donors are not sinking their family fortunes into these projects. The average donation for a project is $92, Droppert says.

While he advises that crowdfunding is not a panacea that will replace government funding cuts for research, Droppert says it could help investigators think about commercializing, help them learn how to "sell science to investors," and to "become more entrepreneurial in focus, and stimulate them to set up companies in the future."