Oklahoma State University researcher turns to Internet to fund project [The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City]
(Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 18--STILLWATER -- When researchers at major universities need funding for a project, they typically turn to federal grants or private foundations.
But Oklahoma State University researcher Kristopher Bradley is looking for funding from a less traditional source -- anyone who's interested and has a few dollars to spare.
A researcher in OSU's psychology department, Bradley is looking at the psychological processes that are at play in cases where police mistakenly shoot unarmed black men. He is one of a growing number of researchers to seek funding from the public, a few dollars at a time.
Bradley listed his project proposal on Microryza, a crowdfunding site geared toward academic researchers. The site allows donors to give money to research projects that interest them. Bradley's project, titled "Unintended Consequences of Racial Profiling and the Jury's Response," has a goal amount of $15,000.
Until a few weeks ago, Bradley had never heard of Microryza, he said. Then he received an email from the company. It seemed like a novel idea, he said, and he liked the fact that the public would be involved in the project.
A number of research fundraising sites have launched over the past two years using the crowdsourcing model, including Petridish.org and FundaGeek. Sites such as these offer researchers an alternate avenue to fund their work at a time when more traditional funding is becoming scarce.
Earlier this year, the National Science Foundation announced its budget would be reduced by $356 million due to federal budget sequestration. Foundation officials said that cut would mean fewer grants for researchers nationwide.
The National Institutes of Health also predicted 700 fewer competitive research grants after the agency saw its budget slashed by $1.55 billion due to sequestration.
Funding first projects
Crowdfunding is especially effective for undergraduate researchers who are looking to start their first research projects, said Daniel Gutierrez, CEO of the Los Angeles-based FundaGeek.
Typically, undergraduate researchers are set to graduate in the near future and are planning summer research projects. They need funding to carry out those projects, he said, but their universities are unlikely to pay for them.
Those projects are some of the site's most successful because undergraduates tend to be better at promoting their projects online, Gutierrez said. The most effective promotion tends to be through friends and family, he said. For younger undergraduates who grew up using Facebook and Twitter, that networking comes naturally, he said.
"Navigating social media is really second nature to them," he said.
Gutierrez and his business partner launched the site in November 2011, making it one of the oldest research crowdfunding sites on the Internet. At the time, artists and musicians already used sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to fund their projects, but nothing similar existed for scientists and inventors.
Although the popularity of sites like FundaGeek is growing, only about 40 percent of the projects listed on such sites ever reach their funding goals, Gutierrez said.
But Bradley, the OSU researcher, said he's optimistic about his project's chances.
Although the project builds on several years of research he's done on the topic, it deals with an issue that's been in the news following the shooting of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black Florida teenager.
"I think that it has a good shot because it's topical," he said. "It's something that's in the news."
(c)2013 The Oklahoman
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