Crowdfunding Scientific Research
Crowdfunding may provide much-needed financial resources, yet there is little systematic evidence on the potential of crowdfunding for scientific research. We first briefly review prior research on crowdfunding and give an overview of dedicated platforms for crowdfunding research. We then analyze data from over 700 campaigns on the largest dedicated platform, Experiment.com. Our descriptive analysis provides insights regarding the creators seeking funding, the projects they are seeking funding for, and the campaigns themselves. We then examine how these characteristics relate to fundraising success. The findings highlight important differences between crowdfunding and traditional funding mechanisms for research, including high use by students and other junior investigators but also relatively small project size. Junior investigators are more likely to succeed than senior scientists, and women have higher success rates than men. Conventional signals of quality - including scientists' prior publications - have no relationship with funding success, suggesting that the crowd applies different decision criteria than traditional funding agencies. Our results highlight significant opportunities for crowdfunding in the context of science while also pointing towards unique challenges. We relate our findings to research on the economics of science and on crowdfunding, and we discuss connections with other emerging mechanisms to involve the public in scientific research.
We thank Experiment.com co-founder Cindy Wu for help with data collection and for extremely helpful insights on the platform and its projects. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.