A Look at Crowdsourcing for Research Funding


Crowdsourcing is a means to raise funds through public contributions in a manner which allows a large number of small contributions to make a difference. Originally started in technology areas where considerable upfront capital was required to make the project viable, SciFund and Experiment.com have taken this into the research arena to allow small research projects to gain support. As those in research know, it is notoriously difficult to raise funds for small research projects and crowdsourcing provides that opportunity. As an example of how well it can work, Experiment has raised $600,000 over the last 4 years.

Sample Case – Diving Safety Research: A Different Approach

A catalog of root causes of scuba diving accidents is well established. However, for the prevention of any accident it is not enough to know what happened but rather why it happened. As part of his PhD program, Gareth Lock, a researcher from the United Kingdom, is attempting to answer just that. He will examine the role of human factors in scuba diving incidents and near-misses, looking at “why” they occur. So far this study has been personally self-funded, but to finish it in the next two years he will need additional funds that he hopes to raise through crowd-sourced funding. I asked him to provide more information about this way of funding and his project.

If you speak to an expert about why diving incidents occur, they will say the causes are obvious; complacency, not following training, poor equipment and maintenance and so on. This project aims to show “why” this is the case, not just the “what” happened. The study does not just look at divers’ actions or inaction; instead, it takes a systems view, which also includes the organizational and supervisory issues at play. To prevent accidents, divers and dive organizations may have to change their behavior and training programs. This research aims to provide the evidence why accidents happen and thus guidance on what behavior modifications are necessary to enhance the culture of safety in scuba diving.

The research has been ongoing for two years and one of the two major data collects is underway through a survey. The second data collect will look at organizational or supervisory problems faced and will start in late 2014. To view a crowdsourcing project in action, visit Gareth’s page.

Crowd-sourced funding is a way to show you can directly support research in an area you are interested in.

Post written by: Petar Denoble, MD, D.Sc.

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