NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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Crowdfunding Scientific Research

Henry Sauermann, Chiara Franzoni, Kourosh Shafi

NBER Working Paper No. 24402
Issued in March 2018
NBER Program(s):Productivity, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Program

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w24402

 
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