#SciFund Panel Discussion: The truth about science crowdfunding (Live Feed)

Stream the live feed above or visit the Google+ Page. You can also participate via twitter using #SciFund.

Truth about science crowdfunding: panel discussion


What does it take to succeed at science crowdfunding? Join us for a free panel discussion on the topic, broadcast live on YouTube and Google+. Our panel features scientists who have succeeded at crowdfunding, researchers who are studying the field, and even a founder of a science crowdfunding site. And we’ll be taking questions from the audience, via Google+ and Twitter (use the #SciFund hashtag). We are sure to have a fascinating discussion, so please jump in! [Read more...]

SciFund science crowdfunding paper published!

What leads to success in science crowdfunding? For over three years, SciFund Challenge has focused on this question. And through an exhaustive analysis of the over 150 SciFund science crowdfunding projects – the most comprehensive  data set in the field – we now have the answer. Our research has just been published in the journal PLOS ONE (you can read the article for free at the journal).

The bottom line? It is the headline of our paper: To Crowdfund Research, Scientists Must Build an Audience for Their Work. Want to know more? Check out this five minute video that summarizes the paper:

Video Class 2014, Week Five

Week Five: even more fantastic than Week Four.

Week Five: even more fantastic than Week Four.

Welcome to the fifth – and final – week of the 2014 SciFund Challenge video class. In this last week, we’ll be working on putting the final polish on our videos.

Here’s the assignment for this week:

1. Work on a draft of your video and upload the draft to the class Google+ page for comments.

2. Give comments to the videos of your classmates.

3. Participate in an hour-long discussion section, via Google Hangouts.



Before you start going through your video with a fine toothed-comb, to put a final polish on things, it is critical to first ensure that the major elements of your video work. If you skip this step, you will find yourself redoing a lot of work and wasting a lot of time. What should you do, to make sure that the major parts of your video fit together? Put on the best pair of headphones to which you have access and carefully listen to and watch your video.

1. Audio. Listen for distracting background noise as well as for any lack of clarity in your voice. Is the quality of the audio good throughout the video? Is the audio quality basically constant throughout the video? Although you likely recorded your audio in more than one session, ensure that the audio flows together as if you recorded the whole thing all at once. If there are jarring discrepancies in the audio, now would be the time to re-record the offending sections.

2. Video. If any of your video is out of focus, pixelated, or poorly-lit, it will need to be reshot. Is the framing or camera angle of any of your shots not working? If so, reshoot! Is any of your B-roll irrelevant or not illustrative? If so, remove it.

3. Transitions. Ensure that the transitions between your shots are working. How do you know if the transition types you are using between your shots appropriate? Here’s a quick tutorial on using transitions in iMovie:

And here is the resulting video illustrated in the above tutorial:

3A. Transitioning between A-roll and alternate angle shots. If you are using an alternate angle shot in your video, be sure to use it for least a phrase or sentence. Let that alternate angle breathe! Additionally, be sure that your essential points are made with A-roll, not your alternate angle shots. Check out the following video for an illustration of these tips:

3B. Content. Make sure you are not cutting to your alternate angle shots or B-roll when you are at pivotal points in your story. Listen out for them in your audio track and plan the transitions around them.

3C. Timing. If the content of the shot allows, try moving the cut on the iMovie timeline a bit earlier or later. Sometimes a cut is more successful when the visual cut is made just before that part in the audible story kicks in.


1. Ambient sound and sound effects. You have your narration and music tracks added to your video, but one last audio secret that can really help tell your story and transport your audience to places you are showing them is by the careful use of atmospheric sounds and sound effects. They can even work with still images. Showing pictures of the rain forest? Find some rain forest sound recordings. An insect that makes an awesome sound? Find recordings to match. Use audio levels in iMovie to make sure they don’t compete with your narration, or if they are important enough, give the new sounds time to be heard on their own. The instructions for Week Four of the class detailed where you can find sounds that you can use in your video. An additional place to find sounds is freeSFX. For an illustration of how important this kind of sound can be for your video, please watch the following short video:

2. Put your headphones on again and listen to your video. Is the volume relatively steady throughout your video? If not, you can adjust volume levels using an iMovie tutorial we posted in last week’s instructions. You can also soften transitions between audio elements, by fading the ends of those audio clips (see the video to learn how).

3. One of the final stages of post production is color correction. This is a process where we apply the final touches to how the images look in our video by tweaking things like contrast, brightness, and saturation to get the best out of our images and make them look their best. Wondering how to do color correction in iMovie? Check out the video below for some basic advice:

4. Likely your last task is to add closing credits, which is where you can properly credit other people’s work that you included in your video. In the credits, please credit material in the order of appearance for each category of material (audio, photos, video). There is a very specific way that you should credit Creative Commons material, which is as follows:

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 9.17.01 PM

Finding the Creative Commons license (in red box) in ‘get info’ dialogue box on a mac.

  1. Very frequently the Creative Commons copyright information is embedded in the file itself. To find this information, find the original file of the material on your computer (these instructions assume the use of a Mac as your computer).
  2. Right click and select ‘get info’.
  3. Under ‘more info’ there might be a copyright section (see screenshot), where you will find two links, one to the creative commons license, and another to an online copy of the material.
  4. In the credits for your video, in this example you would write: Music: “Route 17″ by djollej (2012), licensed under CC BY (3.0).
  5. If this information is not attached to the file, go back to the place you downloaded the material to find the correct Creative Commons attribution.


Please work on your video and upload it to the class Google+ page for comments (tag your post as Week Five on the page). Even if feel that the video is not as polished as you would like, we would strongly encourage you to upload the video anyway. It is our experience that getting feedback is an essential component to creating a good video, so please get that feedback! Second, please give comments to at least three other videos of your classmates. Third, let’s talk about our videos in a discussion section, which you can sign up for on the Google+ page for the class.

Video Class 2014, Week Four

Week Four of the video class is a fantastical wonder.

Week Four of the video class is a fantastical wonder.

Welcome to Week Four of the SciFund Challenge 2014 video training class. We hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving! This week, we’ll be focussing on four things: 1) using other people’s stuff in your video (legally), 2) choosing the right music for your video, 3) adjusting audio levels in iMovie, and 4) learning the art of editing. [Read more...]

Video class 2014, Thanksgiving Week

This pilgrim is sad because he can’t work on his video.

Here we are in Thanksgiving Week for the 2014 SciFund Challenge video training class, which is officially a week off for our course. Unofficially though, please do keep working on your videos and giving comments to the videos of others. Happy Thanksgiving! [Read more...]

Video Class 2014, Week Three

Unfortunately, no 3D movies for Week Three of the class. No space aliens either.

Unfortunately, no 3D movies for Week Three of the class. No space aliens either.

Welcome to Week Three of the SciFund Challenge 2014 video training class!

Last week, we looked at planning our videos and adapting our narratives to the visual medium of video, using storyboards. This week, we’ll start shooting scenes from our storyboard. To do that we will be thinking about principles in audio recording and cinematography that you can use to make your video feel more professional. [Read more...]

We’ve gone non-profit!

scifund-nonprofitIt brings me great pleasure to announce that the #SciFund Challenge is now officially a not-for-profit organization. After two years of planning and careful execution we’ve finally received our IRS approval. Now the REAL fun can begin.  [Read more...]

Video Class 2014, Week Two

As this guy knows, the key to effective storyboarding is a very big board.

As this guy knows, the key to effective storyboarding is a very big board.

Welcome to Week Two of the SciFund Challenge 2014 video training class!

Last week, we focussed on how to convert our science into interesting narratives. This week: how do we turn those narratives into compelling visual stories? To do that, we’ll be using a standard planning tool for film making, known as storyboarding. Also this week: script writing!

This week you’ll be doing the following:

1. Putting together a storyboard and script for your video, which you’ll share to the class Google+ page for comments.

2. Giving comments to the storyboards and scripts for others in the class.

3. Taking part in a one hour group discussion, via Google Hangouts. The more of the class assignment you can get done before your group discussion, the better off you’ll be. At the least though, please get a draft of your script completed before your group discussion

On with the show! [Read more...]

Video Class 2014, Week One

You'll be raising your arms in triumph at the end of Week One.

You’ll be raising your arms in triumph at the end of Week One.

Welcome to Week One of the SciFund Challenge 2014 video training class!  With this class, we have two goals. One: to build our ability to tell compelling stories through video. Two: to help our classmates to build their video abilities. So let’s get started with both!

The center of good video is having a good story. But how do we craft a clear and compelling story from our science? That’s what we’ll be focussing on this week.

The focus of this week is a communications technique called the Message Box. This technique was developed by COMPASS, a fantastic organization that provides communication training to scientists. I can tell you from personal experience that their training workshops are incredible. COMPASS has permitted us to use their materials and I would personally like to thank them for their generous assistance, particularly Nancy Baron and Liz Neeley. Nancy has written an amazing book, Escape from the Ivory Tower, from which we’ll be reading a chapter this week (more on this below).

This week has a five part structure:

  • Part 1: Get started with the class.
  • Part 2: Read about the Message Box and prepare a version of it for yourself.
  • Part 3: Practice using the Message Box with a class partner.
  • Part 4: Record yourself giving an elevator pitch and upload video to Google+ page for class.
  • Part 5: Give feedback to the videos of others.

Things to do first (which will make more sense if you read Parts 1 and 3 of the instructions):

  1. Sign up for a discussion section.
  2. Put your name down on the partner spreadsheet.

[Read more...]

Syllabus for 2014 video training class

The SciFund video class will require less equipment than this. And will hopefully have a fewer explosions than a Michael Bay film.

The SciFund video class will require less equipment than this. And will hopefully have fewer explosions than a Michael Bay film.

The first SciFund Challenge video training class starts next week and we are excited! Here’s our syllabus.

SciFund Challenge Class: Video Outreach 101 for Scientists

Course instructors: Elliot Lowndes, Jai Ranganathan, Anthony Salvagno
Course dates: November 2-December 13, 2014 (six weeks, with one week off for Thanksgiving)

This short course is intended for researchers that are new to science outreach through video, but are interested in getting started with it. The philosophy of this class is that three factors tend to keep scientists from doing video outreach: a lack of knowledge, a lack of experience, and a lack of a community that supports outreach. The purpose of this class is to do something about all three of these things.

In this class, we will be putting a focus on communication and community-building between class participants, emphasizing face to face communication (using tools like group video conferencing with Google Hangouts). [Read more...]

Twitter Chat Storify

If you’ve never experienced a Twitter chat, it can be quite overwhelming. There are so many conversations happening simultaneously and it quickly becomes difficult to keep track of them all. Luckily there are tools that help organize those tweets and preserve them. One such tool is Storify which I use to catalog today’s Scifund Twitter chat. If you had issues keeping up, missed the chat, had to leave early, or would just like to re-experience it then you are in luck… [Read more...]

2014 Outreach Class: Week Five

Going strong through the finish line, SciFund-style.

Going strong through the finish line, SciFund-style.

Welcome to week five of the SciFund Challenge outreach training class for scientists. This is our last week, sadly! But the fun doesn’t stop here, as there are lots of SciFund classes coming, as well as other ways to keep participating. Apply for our free video class, which starts next month!

This week, we’ll be working on our elevator pitches, as well as planning for our science outreach futures. The workload this week is lower than usual, as many are still working on their Ignite talks from last week. If you want more to do though, not to worry! We have a special optional exercise for you. So, here’s the game plan: [Read more...]

New #SciFund-supported paper!

Jet fuel from algae!

Fuel from algae! Will the wonders of #SciFund science every cease?

I am incredibly excited to announce that a new scientific study partially funded through SciFund Challenge crowdfunding has been published.

Dr. Stephen Herbert is a professor in the Department of Plant Science at the University of Wyoming. He was also part of our very first round of science crowdfunding, way back in November 2011. His crowdfunded research has just been published in the Journal of Applied Phycology.

His research focuses on environmentally-friendly fuel – in particular, fuel made from algae. Algae might just be the ultimate renewable resource. There are lots of issues to be solved though before algae-fuel ends up at your local gas station. One problem is that large-scale harvesting of algae for fuel is still very expensive. In the research that was just published, Dr. Herbert – and his co-author Dr. Levi Lowder – detail a new method of genetic engineering for algae that shows huge promise for bringing those harvesting costs down.

You can check out the paper in the Journal of Applied Phycology here. A bunch of SciFund-supported research papers have been published and you can see the full list here.

And definitely take a look at Dr. Herbert’s crowdfunding video back from 2011!

Incredible science outreach!

No Squidtoons, YOU are fabulous.

No Squidtoons, YOU are fabulous.

So the 2014 SciFund Challenge Outreach 101 class is in the final dash to the finish! The best part of the class for me has been learning about all of the amazing science outreach programs that class participants are already conducting. Here are just some of the incredible things that scientists in the class are doing.

Getting kids excited about robotics

Juan Pablo Carbajal, a physicist at the University of Gent, runs a nonprofit – Dwengo – that gets kids excited about getting involved in robotics. Dwengo has such an inspiring mission: to give every child the chance to build a robot before the age of 18. Check out their video:


They Blinded Me with Science

Nichole Bennett, an ecologist at the University of Texas-Austin, is behind the They Blinded Me with Science radio show. It is an awesome weekly science radio talk show featuring guest researchers and science news. You can find it on 91.7 FM KVRX, if you’re in Austin, Texas. Not in Austin? No worries: Nichole has got you covered. You can listen over the internet. And check out an episode right here:

Because Nichole cannot be limited to just one communication medium, she also runs a free outdoor science lecture series in Austin: Science under the Stars! So, next time you are in Austin, go get some outdoor science.

Screen Shot 2014-10-18 at 11.18.39 AM

These sharks are checking you out.

Squidtoons: incredibly awesome science comics

Garfield Kwan, a marine biologist at the University of California-San Diego, is the artistic genius behind Squidtoons. Seriously, this is the best science comic series I have ever seen. You owe it to yourself to take a look.

Talking about conservation

Nathan Johnson, a marine biologist at Texas A&M at Galveston, is a contributing author for the blog BioDiverse Perspectives. It is a really incisive graduate student-run blog that discusses biodiversity and conservation research.

Talking about teaching science

Mirjam Glessmer, an oceanographer at the Hamburg University of Technology, runs a blog: Adventures in oceanography and teaching. How do we teach oceanography – and science more generally – in an interesting way? That’s what Mirjam deals with in her blog, which is crammed full of tips and techniques for those looking for ways to engage their students.

Zen & Ant’s tips for Ignite and blogging success

This bird knows the deal about outreach (click the links in the post to find out why).

This bird knows the deal about outreach (click the links in the post to find out why).

So, my fearless co-instructors for our Outreach 101 class (Zen Faulkes and Anthony Salvagno) have been giving great outreach advice lately on social media. In case you missed their thoughts, I thought I would do a round-up via blog post.

This week’s topic for the class is Ignite talks and Zen recommended a great blog resource for quickly creating a great Ignite talk.

Ant, who happens to be an ace graphic designer, wrote a fantastic blog post about how to develop a killer presentation.

And lastly, once you get an outreach program going as a scientist, how do you keep it going? There is no one better than Zen to answer this question, given that his blog NeuroDojo has been going for well over a decade. Zen was a moderator of a session last year at Science Online on the topic of “Blogging for the Long Haul.” Check out the video of the session here or a Storified version of the session here.

2014 Outreach class: week 4

#SciFund scientists: the podium awaits!

#SciFund scientists: the podium awaits!

Welcome to week 4 of the SciFund Challenge outreach training class for scientists! Last week we focused on delivering our message through blogging. This week we’re going to jump right into the deep end and have you work on public speaking. We are going to use a very specific format called an Ignite talk. Before we go any further, a big tip of the hat to microbiologist Dr. Siouxsie Wiles, who developed the material for this week’s exercise.

This week’s exercise has five parts:

Part 1: Watch a few Ignite talks.
Part 2: Prepare an Ignite talk.
Part 3: Practice your Ignite talk with a class partner.
Part 4: Talk about the experience of preparing and delivering your Ignite talk in group discussion sections
Part 5: Keep going with Twitter.

First off, let me start by saying: Don’t panic!

Preparing talks is usually a very time consuming affair for scientists. This exercise is not like that in any way.

So what is an Ignite talk? Ignite events are organised by volunteers and give participants the opportunity to talk to the public about something they are really passionate about. The catch is, they only have 5 minutes to do it in! Ignite’s motto is: “enlighten us, but make it quick”! Each participant brings 20 slides to accompany their talk; each slide advances every 15 seconds, whether the speaker is ready or not! This is what makes the format so challenging but rewarding.

Part 0: Finding a partner

We’ll be working with a class partner this week. On the Google+ page for the class, under the category of “Week 4″, you’ll find a table where you can find other class participants to partner with. Sign up on the table before doing anything else, as it may take a little bit for you and a partner to connect.

Part 1: Getting started with the Ignite format

Start by watching a few Ignite talks.
I really like Hillel Cooperman’s Ignite talk on Lego and Dianne Stronks one on smiling. And here is microbiologist Dr.Siouxsie Wiles, cheating a little doing a related format called PechaKucha where you get 20 slides for 20 seconds (so a whole 1 minute 40 seconds extra), but you get the idea.

Part 2: Preparing an Ignite talk

Think of an Ignite talk as a 5 minute monologue with timed visuals. To prepare your talk you will need to decide on a topic, prepare your 20 slides/images,and then  map out what you are going to say to accompany each slide. Again, don’t worry: you can do this exercise in a relatively short period of time.

As always with science communication, the first task in this exercise is for you to identify your audience. The more specific you can envision your audience, the better.

Once that is done. start by watching the following great Ignite talk on how to give an Ignite talk by Scott Berkun, while Cory Forsyth also has some great tips:

Choose your slides carefully. They can be informative (but avoid long quotes and complex diagrams), symbolic (back up the point you’re making) or decorative (an attractive screen to speak in front of). Try to avoid the situation where you’re trying to explain the slide, as that eats up your 15 seconds really quickly. Last but not least, be creative. 15 seconds per slide equals about 2-3 sentences, depending on how fast you gabble! If needed you can duplicate a slide (so the same image is on screen for 30 seconds).

Let me repeat, don’t panic! And don’t spend a week trying to get your slides together. You can do that when you do one for real!

To save preparation time, don’t write out a speech for your talk. At most, write out a word or phrase per slide to remind you of your points. This actually will make for a better presentation anyway, as hearing someone read a written speech is usually rather excruciating (written speech is very different than spoken speech, a point often forgotten by speakers).

Whatever program you use to prepare your slides, please save your file in Powerpoint format and be sure that your files don’t contain animations (read on to learn why).

Part 3: Getting some practice

Don’t worry, we aren’t going to insist you go out and give a real Ignite talk, but trying it with an audience is best. So, for part three of this week, we’ll be pairing off with another class participant to practice our talks. If you haven’t done so already, on the Google+ page for the class, under the category of “Week 4″, you’ll find a table where you can find other class participants to partner with. Try to find a partner who is not in your field. By Friday, please connect on your own with your partner to do your Ignite talks with each other, via Google Hangouts.

But how do you share your slides with each other on Google Hangouts? Read on!

1. The first step is to upload your Powerpoint file to Google Drive, which is Google’s version of online storage. But how do you get to Google Drive? Here’s one way. If you open your gmail account in a browser, the top left of the screen should something like the picture below (minus the big white box below the grid icon). If you click on the icon though, the white box should open up. Among the icons, you will find Drive. Click on the Drive icon.

Finding Google Drive. Click image for bigger version.

Finding Google Drive (click image for bigger version).

2. Now that you are in Google Drive (see picture below), click the white arrow in the red box (upper left of your screen) to upload your presentation. Once your presentation is uploaded, click the box to the left of the file name (again, see picture). Press the More button at the top of the screen (also in picture), followed by “Open with” > “Google Slides”.

Using google drive (click image for bigger version).

Using Google Drive (click image for bigger version).

3. Your presentation should open in a new tab or window, within Google Slides. Under the File menu of Google Slides, click “Publish to the web…”.

4. In the “Publish to web” box that opens (see picture below), select “every 15 seconds” in the “Auto-advance slides:” box. Click the blue Publish button.

Publish to the web box (click  image for bigger version).

Publish to the web box (click image for bigger version).

5. The “Publish to web” box should now show a text box that contains a long web link (see picture below). Copy and paste that link into a new browser window.

Getting the link for your slides (click image for bigger version).

Getting the link for your slides (click image for bigger version).

6. Your slides should appear in the browser. To play your slides, move your mouse over your slides in the browser window. You should see a series of controls appear in the lower left of the browser window (see picture below). One of those controls is a play button. Press the play button to play your slides. They should auto advance every 15 seconds.

Playing your slides

Playing your slides

7. When you are in a Google Hangout with your partner, you can present your slides to your partner by sharing your screen (the relevant section in those instructions is “Use the Screenshare app”). You should share just the browser window that contains your slides.

8. When you are listening to your partner’s presentation (and thinking of feedback), keep one question in front of your mind: is this presentation compelling for the intended audience? As before, keep an eye out for for jargon and double-meaning language!

Part 4: Group discussions

Once you and your partner have done your Ignite’s, let’s talk about it! We have scheduled a series of Google Hangouts for facilitated group discussions for the end of this week. You can sign up for a hangout on the Google+ page for the class.

Part 5: Twitter

Let’s keep rolling with Twitter, being sure to use the #SciFund hashtag so we can find your tweets.

Send at least three tweets about the Ignite talks you watch for inspiration.
Send at least three tweets telling us how you found the process of preparing or delivering your Ignite talk.

Where to go next:

If you fancy going out and getting some experience of public speaking, there are plenty of places you can start. Check out your local museum and see if they run a science cafe/cafe scientifique series. Or try local community groups, like Rotary, University of the 3rd Age (U3A) and Zonta. But for a real thrill, check to see if there is a local chapter of Ignite, Pecha Kucha or NerdNite in your town.

Good luck!

New FREE outreach training class for scientists: intro to video

The SciFund Challenge video class: your ticket to fame and fortune Spielberg-style.

The SciFund Challenge video class: your ticket to fame and fortune Spielberg-style.

UPDATE: We maxed out on applications for the video class, so registration is closed early. Not to fret though, as we’ll be doing this class again. If you would like to be the first to know about our new classes, sign up for our e-mail list.

SciFund Challenge is offering yet another outreach training class for scientists! This one is all about learning to make short videos!

Scientists, do you want to learn how to tell the public about your science through video? Do you want to have the skills to put together short videos that are compelling to general audiences?

But how do you get started with video? Join the SciFund Challenge community for our free online course aimed at helping scientists get started with video. Over 5 weeks, we’ll demystify the business of communicating science through video and equip you with the tools and confidence you need to get started. Plus, at the end of the class, you’ll have completed a short video about your research (perfect for your website or YouTube).  [Read more...]

Outreach Class 2014: Week Three

SciFund blogging: even more hearts and smiley faces than usual!

SciFund blogging: even more hearts and smiley faces than usual!

Welcome to week 3 of the SciFund Challenge outreach training class for scientists! Last week we focused on crafting our message. This week we’ll develop skills to deliver that message through blogging. This week’s exercise has five parts: A) take a look at a few science blogs, B) write a blog post, C) comment on others’ posts, D) talk about the blogging exercise in a hangout, and E) keep going with Twitter. As a small note, for those of you with your own blog, please do the blog exercise as we suggest and not on your own blog. [Read more...]

Outreach Class 2014, Week Two

Welcome to week 2 of the 2014 SciFund Challenge outreach training class for scientists! How do we craft a clear and compelling message from our science? That’s what we’ll be focussing on this week.

[Read more...]