“Citizen Science” is starting to gain popularity. I just went to a fundraising event last night focused on engaging the community in scientific research while asking for funding to discover new drugs. Tons of science specific crowdfunding sites, such as Microryza, have started to pop up in Kickstarter’ footsteps. The move towards opening up science to the public in this way is positive.
Grant money is hard to come by and increasing public awareness and involvement is key to increasing funds available and important for keeping science moving forward. The barriers between scientists and the community are breaking down and it is for the better. One hurdle for scientific crowdfunding is that there is often tension surrounding how this will compete with traditional grant money. In the end, it seems that these sites are not trying to replace traditional grants but rather offer small supplemental support. Not only does crowdfunding provide financial benefit to scientists but it also provides practice in selling science to a broader audience. This is a skill that all scientists need but few have. Opening communication between scientists and the general public will lead to greater trust, increased understanding, and maybe even a few breakthroughs.