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Science Funding Attracts a Crowd

Science Funding Attracts a Crowd

By Tina Thorburn

Crowdfunded scientific research has hit Australia as researchers communicate and engage with the public in exchange for their funds and their faith.

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

It’s the day after Halloween, and Dr Melanie Thomson is preparing something that would make any trick-or-treater scream. Mixing horse blood and agar, Thomson carefully pours the “blood jelly” into containers to set.

At the same time, in Sydney’s Westmead Hospital, little maggots hatch from their eggs. These squirming larvae are not destined to become buzzing flies that irritate picnickers – these maggots are special. They’re medical maggots, and Thomson is preparing a feast for them.

Thomson is a microbiologist at Deakin University and, like her colleague Dr Euan Ritchie, was one of the first researchers in Australia to successfully run a campaign to crowdfund their research.

Traditionally researchers like Thomson and Ritchie seek the majority of their funding from government bodies like the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC). However, only 16% of the grants submitted to these organisations are successful. Alternative sources of funding come from philanthropic organisations or directly from industry and business.

To address the uncertainty of funding, new funding mechanisms are driving scientists to step out into the public sphere and engage with the masses. Crowdfunded scientific research is emerging at a time when government focus and funding is elsewhere.

“We have a Minister...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.