Opportunity to gain funds grows in popularity


SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

While many researchers are still heavily relying on grants to foot the bill for their research endeavors, one alternative source of funding, originally designed to fund independent projects, is growing in popularity among researchers.

Crowdfunding — a web-based platform for small projects to set up accounts open for public donation — has helped fund the return of a downtown Iowa City movie theater six years in the making. Now, the initiative is being utilized to financially support the research of an University of Iowa graduate student.

Amy Belfi, a fourth-year UI graduate student, said crowdfunding is the ideal avenue for her type of research which “is a little bit outside the lines” of traditional funding sources. For Belfi, Microryza has served as the preferred platform because it is focused on science. The site is one of the few of its kind that specifically focuses on one area. Many crowdfunding resources are available for use with any unique idea, from funding local artists to helping cure bone disease.

“Getting grant funding in this current environment is really tough,” she said.  “Everyone has that experience where they hear a song, and it suddenly conjures up a memory [so] people can really relate to it and people could really get behind it and it’s the kind of research that really appeals to a mass audience.” 

According to NerdGraph.com, an info graphics website, 283 active crowdfunding platforms existed worldwide in 2009. Last year, that number nearly doubled to 536.

Belfi, who is studying how music evokes autobiographical memories, has surpassed her first goal of $1,500 set in September; she has $1,640 pledged.

Cindy Wu, the cofounder of Microryza — one of the most popular crowdfunding sites for scientists and the site Belfi has chosen to work through — said since the site was first launched last year she has already seen a dramatic increase in site activity.

Prior to launching the site, Wu was a researcher at the University of Washington. After publishing a research paper, Wu saw an opportunity to expand her knowledge but was struggling to gain funding for this newfound project. That’s when she took matters into her own hands by launching the site with one of her co-workers.

“I realized that almost every single scientist has a early stage idea that they want to just test out but there really isn’t an avenue in the traditional system for scientists,” Wu said.

In the traditional paper and online grant format, researches must to go through an application process, including a peer review, but still may not receive any money for their projects.

Josh Krakauer, CEO and co-founder of Sculpt, an Iowa City-based social media agency, aided in bringing back of the movie-going experience to downtown Iowa City. Through Indiegogo, another popular crowdfunding site, FilmScene broke an initial $75,000 campaign by almost $20,000, which led to its Oct. 3 soft opening.

Krakauer said, while this funding avenue can be productive, there has to be a marketing strategy in place to make the public aware of the project.

“Just because you have the campaign, doesn’t mean anyone funds it,” he said. “It’s a very time consuming process but in the end it’s quite worth it.”

Belfi too, said promoting her research has been one of the most difficult aspects of her campaign.

“It definitely takes a lot of time and effort to try and get the word out there about your research because that’s the most import thing,” she said. “It’s kind of hard to put yourself out there…but you have to with crowdfunding.”

UI neurology and psychology professor Daniel Tranel said crowdfunding can be an innovative way for scientists to gain funding, but it is important that traditional funding measures are not forgotten.

“A lot of our research depends on fairly large budgets,” Tranel said. “So it’s hard to do too much [with just crowdfunding].”

Wu maintained that this form of earning revenue provides more than just monetary value.

“Where crowdfunding is really powerful is where we can build a community of people that all really care about one topic and rally them together to make something they really, truly care about happen.”

In today's issue:

Privacy Policy (8/15/07) | Terms of Use (4/28/08) | Content Submission Agreement (8/23/07) | Copyright Compliance Policy (8/25/07) | RSS Terms of Use

Copyright © The Daily Iowan, All Rights Reserved.