What are some perks that would increase the amount of dollars that people spend on a venture? And what level of transparency would be useful?

Petridish is a recent KickStarter-like startup for crowdfunding science.

  • I'm not familiar with any other funding mechanism for research similar to PetriDish, and PetriDish itself is in its very infancy. I assume you're referring to crowd-funding of research in general... are there any other venues that have had success in generating crowd-funded research?
    – eykanal
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 20:00
  • 2
    @InquilineKea: Could you please explain what the connection of this question to the Academia.SE is? At the moment, I don't see it.
    – aeismail
    Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 21:05
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    Well - funding science is an important part of academia. And it's certainly an alternative to having to apply for grants (well, only in the future, but we've seen that the future can explode in unpredictable ways). PetriDish does have some features that other sites don't have, so a question specific to it is appropriate. Commented Mar 12, 2012 at 22:45
  • 2
    I think this question fits within the site guidelines... the question relates to the funding of scientific research, just not within the common mechanisms of pursuing government or private grants.
    – eykanal
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 0:49
  • @InquilineKea: Okay, thanks for the clarification. However, it would be nice if you could make that connection more explicit in the body of the question.
    – aeismail
    Commented Mar 13, 2012 at 6:11

2 Answers 2


These funding mechanisms are in their very infancy, so I don't know if there will any "tried and true" techniques for a few months, assuming the funding model proves to work at all. That being said, it will be very similar to that on Kickstarter:

  • Advertise in numerous channels. People can only support you if they know about you. Getting the word out is the primary goal in the beginning.
  • Provide an engaging, easy-to-understand description of:

    1. What you want to research
    2. Why you want to research it
    3. How humanity will benefit from your having researched it
    4. What success will look like

      (Note: This last point is often ignored, but it's crucial for the lay-audience. They may expect a particular cancer research project to end with a cancer cure, whereas in reality it will end with the identification of a particular protein responsible for a particular mutation. Stating this will avoid making you as an individual and scientists as a whole from looking stupid in the eyes of the public.)

  • Offer a constant (strictly defined, e.g. "weekly" or "biweekly") updates to backers

Regarding useful perks, I've noticed that a few of the successful drives offered things such as:

  • Engrave the name of the backer or a loved on the instruments being used
  • Paintings of the organisms/landscape/imagery being studied
  • Naming a star/organism after the backer/loved one

The final topic, transparency, is more difficult. On the one hand, you will need complete transparency. On the other hand, there is such a thing as too much transparency. In brief, your updates should serve to inform the backers about your work, while simultaneously and more subtly serving two other goals as well:

  1. Convince your backers that you're actually doing work
  2. Maintain their confidence in your ability to do the work

tl;dr -

  1. Make everything - everything - about your proposed project crystal clear for the layperson
  2. Make the prizes cutesy and attractive, but not too lavish; they're investing for science, and secondarily maybe a little gift
  3. Your updates should, in order: (1) inform about your research, (2) convince the reader of your scienceness

There's a blog post looking at the results of #SciFund! that might be of interest to you: http://www.imachordata.com/?p=1156

It looks, to me, like the predictors of success are probably having a robust social network presence, etc. and modest funding expectations.

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