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October 5, 2012
Crowdfunding A CNS Project
Ethan Perlstein at Princeton is the main author of this research on sertraline that I blogged about earlier this year. Now he's looking to crowdfund his next research project, on the neuronal effects of amphetamines. He's trying to raise $25,000 to do radiolabeling and electron microscopy studies, which would make this the largest crowdfunding experiment in the sciences so far (but still, I might add, small change compared to the sorts of grants that much of academia spends its time trying to line up).
What he's looking at is 2 to 3 months of work for one MS-level scientist. In this post he describes some of the reactions he's had to the idea so far, and lists the benefits that donors will receive, according to the amounts they contribute. That list is a real eye-opener, let me tell you - it's a different world we're entering, or trying to enter, at any rate. For example: "$100 or higher – You’ll get a hearty thanks in person, and the opportunity to talk science over a round of beer or glass of wine at a NYC watering hole one night after work, or when you visit NYC within the next 6 months." Or how about this one: "$1,000 or higher – Attend up to 2 lab meetings during the project and 1 publication brainstorming session at the end of the project. You will also receive access to a Google Doc during the manuscript writing stage. Supporters who contribute substantially to the final manuscript may receive co-authorship."
Needless to say, I'm going to watch this with great interest. The projects that can be funded at this level (with some expectation of producing something useful) are, perhaps, special cases, but it's the principle of the thing that intrigues me the most. That's why I'm also putting this one in the "Business and Markets" category, because asking for donations like this is a pure market activity. As a person with a pronounced free-market bias, I'm very much wondering how this will all play out. Thoughts?
Update: Wavefunction has a post on this here.
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