Some younger scientists are having trouble getting funding for their research through traditional means, so they are increasingly turning to crowdfunding, says Kelly Slivka at The New York Times' Green blog. Websites like Kickstarter have been popular, but there are also platforms like SciFund Challenge that are specifically dedicated to scientific research. SciFund Challenge was started by two University of California, Santa Barbara ecologists who saw how successful Kickstarter was, and decided that a crowdfunding resource would be a good way for scientists to engage with the public while raising money for their work, Slivka says. Some more senior scientists have also shown interest in crowdfunding, she adds. They view it as a way for younger scientists to establish themselves while educating the public about advances in research.
Some, however, have criticized crowdfunding, likening it to a popularity contest that draws money to "trendy," though not necessarily important, research, Slivka says. Others point out that the projects haven't been peer-reviewed. But David Skelly, associate dean for research at Yale's School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, tells Slivka that the advantages of crowdfunding outweigh the disadvantages. "For the first time in my career — and I got my PhD 20 years ago — there's a dialogue going on between scientists doing primary research and the public," Skelly says.