Financing Science: How Digital Notebooks Can Help Prevent Crowdfunding Disasters
Crowdfunding websites have revolutionized the methods in which individuals and groups both communicate their ideas and raise money; in 2013 alone, the industry raised over $5.1 billion worldwide for a myriad of products and causes. What started as a means to fund art projects and artists has now morphed into a full-grown enterprise, complete with specific websites for scientific projects or technological zaniness, such as one company’s attempt to fund a trip to Mars. Indeed, in a recent article for Wired Magazine, Neel V. Patel describes the work of science historian David Kaiser at MIT, who called crowdfunding the latest “‘pendulum swing’ in how scientists and research institutions fund their work.” Traditionally, the U.S. government has provided the majority of money for scientific experimentation, but as the federal budget shrinks, some scientists will turn to websites, such as Experiment, to pursue their hypotheses and fund their studies.
But as more scientists and other such professionals increasingly find themselves on crowdfunding websites, they must also consider the potential costs involved with such ventures. Part of the issue is the “crowd,” which is not always a group of “intelligent, scientifically-informed individuals.” Beyond the issue of ensuring that legitimate science is separated from half-baked ideas, what is to happen if a project fails? As a group of failed innovators learned, “Disgruntled crowdfundings are not your typical Internet-commenting degenerates…they are affluent, well-educated professionals…the sorts of people you would expect to write off their $250 donation…Yet…they couldn’t.” If a scientist or any industry personnel is interested in crowdfunding to help move his or her latest idea forward, they should carefully consider how to maintain transparency and accountability.
Digital Notebooks: A Dual-Edged Solution
It is unlikely that crowdfunding will replace conventional forms of funding; however, crowdfunding does offer individuals, who might have otherwise been completely shut out of the funding process, a second chance. As such, to avoid frustration and the wrath of angry “investors,” the use of a digital notebook can be a powerful means to protect both the creator and the individuals supporting the project.
Digital notebooks have revolutionized scientists’ and other researchers’ productivity by enabling them to quickly and easily track, record and retrieve information, while also exchanging data with other members of a collaborative team. Additionally, the ease with which researchers can record information allows them to keep track of “the myriad factors” that can affect experimental outcomes, which can help probe correlations that would have been impossible to uncover with a traditional paper notebook.
Returning to crowdfunding, of course projects and ventures fail, but backers want to ensure that creators “have made ‘every reasonable effort’ toward a decent outcome…to feel satisfied.” The careful record-keeping provided by digital notebooks ensures that such a “reasonable effort” is well-documented. Also, backers who donate a significant amount to a specific campaign could be given the ability to access, track and review digital notebooks in order to ensure the project stays on task, without compromising a researcher’s goals. For example, digital notebooks provide multiple layers of security to protect information from unapproved individuals at each step. In the same way that digital notebooks are used for collaborative efforts, significant backers and researchers can collaborate together, to the extent that a researcher feels comfortable, in order to realize a dream or the completion of a project that may have otherwise been impossible.
For more information about how the BIOVIA notebook can be used to help establish, advance and protect your intellectual work in a crowdfunding setting or in traditional laboratory workflow, please visit our website today.