Last year pH7 writer, Alyssa Jones, discussed the concept of crowdfunding and the implications it could have in the scientific world. In this article I pick my top 5 favourite crowdfunding campaigns that have been used in many different science projects, from new technology to vital research and important conservation.
(The Oculus Rift virutal reality headset raised over $2 million on Kickstarter)
Most Supported Research Project:
‘Curing Batten Disease’ raised $1,972,706 with Experiment: https://experiment.com/projects/finding-a-cure-for-batten-disease
The crowdfunded project that has raised the most money is a video game, Star Citizen, raising a whopping $105,189,806 on Kickstarter. However, when looking at specifically scientific research-based projects, the most supported campaign has been ‘Curing Batten Disease’ with donations from Jennifer Lawrence, Reese Witherspoon and Mark Wahlberg. The project started when Kristen and Gordon discovered that both of their daughters, Charlotte and Gwyneth, had Batten Disease, a neurodegenerative brain disease that is extremely rare, has no cure and is fatal. The money raised for the project aims to accelerate research in treatments including gene therapy, cellular therapy and small molecular therapy.
Most Beneficial to Humans:
‘Scanadu Scout’ raised $1,661,988 with Indiegogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/scanadu-scout#/
Think Baymax in Big Hero 6, but not a giant marshmallow robot – instead, a small handheld electronic device. If the Disney Pixar reference flies over your head (you’re missing out!), then the Scanadu Scout is a medical grade scanner that can read your vital signs in seconds and then send them wirelessly to your smart phone. All you have to do is place the Scanadu Scout on your forehead for 10 seconds and it will read your heart rate, skin/core body temperature, respiratory rate, blood pressure and blood oxygen levels, giving you an overview of your health. You can track your health every day and have a lasting record of it that could prove very useful in determining your future health. Though currently it seems more like an elite personal device for the fitness fanatic or the latest trend, this technology could be vital in speeding up, improving and taking some weight off the medical service.
‘Sending the Garden of ETON to Space’ raised $15,315 with Experiment: https://experiment.com/projects/sending-the-garden-of-eton-to-space
In order for long-term space missions to be successful, a renewable food source is needed. Three high school sisters that name themselves, ‘Chicks from Space’ set out to tackle this issue. They developed a hydroponic garden specifically designed to function under microgravity. They call it ‘The Garden of ETON’, ETON standing for ‘Extra Terrestrial Organic Nutrition’. Hydroponic refers to a method of growing plants without soil, but using mineral nutrient solutions in water that’s circulated using ebb and flow or drip mechanisms. In space, however, the garden must work under microgravity conditions and they are hoping that centripetal force (a force which acts on a body moving in a circular path) can be used to circulate the water. In this campaign the sisters developed their initial porotype into a smaller version, NanoETON to send to space with the support of NASA to test the hypothesis that water can be circulated in microgravity using centripetal force. This research may help the development of hydroponic gardens for future space missions and therefore provide the key to long term space exploration.
‘Oculus Rift’ raised $2,437,429 with Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1523379957/oculus-rift-step-into-the-game
The Oculus Rift is taking the world by storm as the best VR (virtual reality) gaming experience with its incredibly wide field of view and high resolution display that immerses you in the gaming world. Now available to preorder, the Oculus Rift is hitting the masses as a relatively affordable VR, however it started life as a prototype that needed a kick-start in order to get it into the hands of developers faster. Founder of Oculus Rift, Palmer Luckey, put together a rough prototype in his parents’ garage in 2011. Through virtual reality discussion forums, John Carmack, lead programmer in games Doom and Quake, stumbled upon Luckeys development and they joined forces. Now we have an amazing VR that could transcend gaming and put you in any place at any time. Whether you’re watching a movie, have courtside seats to your favourite sport, spending time with friends or on the other side of the world. Also VRs have the potential in the working environment, giving people realistic practice situations to improve their skills. Whether its pilots, soldiers, technicians, doctors, the possibilities with virtual reality are endless.
‘Stand with Palau’ raised $53,872 with Indiegogo: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/stand-with-palau#/updates
As a biologist with a keen interest in environmental change and conservation the ‘Stand with Palau’ project, with its aim to turn an area the size of France into the world’s first nation-wide marine sanctuary, is the campaign that has most appealed to me. The oceans are at a deep crisis from over-fishing, with 90% of the world’s largest fish stocks gone. Not only are target species threatened, current fishing practices are detrimental to all sea life, as up to 40% of fish caught are simply by-catch that is wasted. Palau aimed to close off its water to industrial fishing in order to become the largest National Marine Sanctuary. Unfortunately, it didn’t hit the $100,000 target it was looking for, however the campaign managed to coordinate with The Republic of Palau to set aside 500,000 km² of ocean as a no fishing and no mining zone, making it the largest marine sanctuary in recorded history. The remaining 20% has been set aside for small scale commercial fishing and local fishing. The project is continuing to improve enforcement and upkeep of this amazing marine protected area.