Financing Science: How Digital Notebooks Can Help Prevent Crowdfunding Disasters

Digital Solutions, ELN

digital notebooks
Crowdfunding has transformed the ways in which people fund novel ideas; however, to prevent the wrath of backers or your own frustration, make use of digital notebooks to keep track of experiments and all else.
Image Source: Flickr user Rocío Lara

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.

4 thoughts on “Financing Science: How Digital Notebooks Can Help Prevent Crowdfunding Disasters

  1. It is interesting to see how much information could be gathered and reviewed with regards to crowdfunding (which is a new phenomenon in the field of fundraising). I can definitely see where a digital notebook could be beneficial to people who were interested in donating to a cause, but wanted more piece of mind, as well as the opportunity to collaborate with other backers throughout the process.

  2. This is one of the main issues with crowdfunding. Yes, they can make a notebook to appear transparent, but where is the oversight for that? It’s not from the crowdfunders.

  3. Where I think the notebook will be of a lot of use is in keeping track of who donated, how much, what they get as a result of that donation and whether or not those deliverables have been sent. With traditional funding, there was generally only one, maybe a couple, organizations to answer to and the deliverables were clear. With crowdfunding there can be hundreds or thousands of people to answer to, different levels of deliverables and updates promised with the donation, making delivering on the promises made to obtain the funding a much more complicated process, something nearly impossible to manage without an electronic system.

  4. I agree with the comments posted here, and thank you all for your opinions. Indeed, the idea of who should provide oversight is important and probably depends on the project being funded, but there are many ways a digital notebook can significantly improve our current system. For example, digital notebooks can be used to organize information about who donates what as Anne wrote and even facilitate collaborations between the inventors and other interested parties (i.e. backers, other inventors, etc) to quicken the pace of product development.

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