Science in crisis
Scientists – and science generally – are in a moment of crisis on multiple fronts. The gap between science and society has grown to a chasm, with disastrous consequences for issue after issue. For example, just last month, Tennessee passed legislation permitting creation “science” into classrooms. On another front, the concern of Americans about global warming has dramatically declined over the past decade, despite the scientific consensus on the clear and present danger caused by climate change.
But science illiteracy in the general public isn’t the only crisis in science. Funding for research is becoming increasingly unattainable, with funding rates at their lowest levels in a decade at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the two most important American science agencies (see here and here for details). The situation in many other nations is no better. In Spain, for example, science spending by the central government has fallen by 20% since 2009. Even worse, research funding from traditional sources will likely be even harder to come by in the years to come due to ongoing economic instability around the world.
The public disengagement with science and the difficulty of funding research are very different problems. Unexpectedly though, there is a new solution that might just answer both problems: science crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is a relatively new internet-based method of fundraising. With crowdfunding, individuals post projects that need funding on websites, like RocketHub and Kickstarter, and then solicit contributions for those projects from the general public. Crowdfunding has grown explosively over the past few years as a source of funding in many fields (like arts and technology), with $1.5 billion raised by this method in 2011 alone. The arts-based Kickstarter expects to disburse $150 million this year, more than the National Endowment for the Arts. In the sciences, the British charity Cancer Research UK regularly funds specific cancer-related research projects to the tune of fifty thousand pounds and above.
via Scientific American - Jai Ranganathan
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