Friday, March 13, 2015

Crowdfunding Physics?

I read this article on Symmetry yesterday and started to think of the idea of going directly to the public for funding. It is an intriguing idea, especially since federal funding of the physical science in the US has been declining for the past decade or more. This is especially true for high energy physics, which is the focus of this article.

I look at how much research grants that I had gotten, and they seem to average between $150k to $250k per year, and each of these grants ran for a period of 3 years. The money typically paid for part of my salary, a postdoc, a graduate student, M&S (materials and supplies), and the relevant overheads. In some cases, it is for the purchase of capital equipment.

But this is not a "sexy" area of study that most of the public are enamored with. It is not a search for exotic, godlike particles, or searching for the elusive dark matter/dark energy, or anything remotely front-page news. This is a "workhorse" area of study, where our advances allow other areas to be able to achieve progress in their areas. We do a lot of the behind-the-scene dirty work that seldom get appreciated, but yet, are vital components to progress.

Crowdfunding for something that isn't sexy? Might be improbable.



Douglas Natelson said...

In my area, $150K/yr is on the high side for a single-investigator grant these days. Regarding crowdfunding, you might want to look at Benefunder. Their argument is that things like kickstarter are ill-suited for science at the right scale, and that it's better to try to persuade investors (e.g., work through financial advising firms to suggest to clients that investing in science is an avenue for philanthropy).

Carl said...

Sounds likes a good idea, although you'll get a select group of givers. SETI used the idea back in the 90's, I participated with my little laptop crunching data for them as a very cool screen saver.