FREE outreach class for scientists is back!

UPDATE (SEPTEMBER 2): Registration for our class has closed early. We have received over 170 applications in a week and we want to make sure that we don’t have more course participants than we can handle. We have more outreach training classes coming over the next few months and you can sign up for our e-mail list to keep informed.

Just like Doctor X, the SciFund outreach class is returning to a (computer) screen near you.

Just like Doctor X, the SciFund Challenge outreach class is returning to a (computer) screen near you.

The SciFund Challenge outreach training class is back, by popular demand!

Scientists, do you want to tell the public about your science? At a time of slashing cuts to science funding, maybe you want to explain to the public why your field deserves public support. Maybe you want to set the record straight about misconceptions the public holds about your field. Or maybe you just want to finally be able to explain to your friends and family what it is you actually do at work.

But how do you, dear scientist, get started with your outreach? After all, most researchers don’t have any experience or training in connecting the public with their science. That’s where SciFund Challenge comes in.

Join the SciFund Challenge community for our online course aimed at helping scientists get started with outreach. Over 5 weeks, we’ll demystify the business of communicating science and equip you with the tools and confidence you need to get started.

[Read more...]


How much can you get with science crowdfunding? How about ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

How you should look if you ever reach this crowdfunding milestone.

How you should look if you ever reach this crowdfunding milestone.

Since the very start of #SciFund the biggest critique we get is, “Yeah, sure, this may work for your summer of research for folks who don’t need the big bucks, but *real* science costs hundreds of thousands, or millions of dollars! You’ll never get that. Therefore, science crowdfunding is a waste of time, Q.E.D.” (ok, that was a paraphrase/amalgamation of comments – for some real examples, see this thread at slashdot)

Putting aside the ‘real’ science comments (what is Ecology, chopped liver?) and the whole misconception that crowdfunding science, even at low levels, has no additional benefits (to be mercenary – one benefit of small cash now is bigger cash later as you build your audience, or preliminary data for big cash at NSF/NIH), is this really true?

Jai and I have always maintained that science crowdfunding would follow the same model as the arts and technology. We’d start small. And after 2-4 years, we’d start to see the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars projects becoming successful.

And now, I feel pretty confident in saying, WE WERE RIGHT! Because we’re seeing the first science crowdfunding project to hit ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

Screen shot 2013-06-27 at 1.27.00 PM

We knew that hundreds of thousands of pounds were being crowdfunded for cancer research in Britain. But some have dismissed this as being due to a pre-existing charity. Fair enough. Then we saw uBiome and American Gut raise hundreds of thousands of dollars each. One off? People want to know what’s in their belleh? But now…

ARKYD: A space telescope for everyone has well surpassed $1 million. As of writing, they’re at $1,225,418. Yep – big science infrastructure building – that thing that the haters at /. and other places said could never be done, has indeed been done. Is it being done by an group that has spent a *lot* of time building up a public presence and an audience for their work – the very things that we think are essential for successful science crowdfunding (and public science education)? You betcha. Effort and citizen engagement *worked*.

Heck, they’re not stopping there, but if they reach their new goal, they are going to take images from the telescope and partner with the citizen science juggernaut Zooniverse to deliver that data back to *you* to involve you even further in new cool science. It is so made of win.

So, a HUGE milestone for science crowdfunding. Head on over and check out the project.


Comics as a tool for science outreach

SMBC by Zach Weinersmith.

SMBC by Zach Weinersmith.

There are nearly endless ways in which scientists can engage in outreach. In a series of blog posts we will explore a handful of outreach outlets, and share stories from people who use these outreach tools. First up, COMICS! [Read more...]


Outreach Training Class: Week 3

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 training class: week 2

Welcome to week 2 of the 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...]


Outreach training class: week 1

Welcome to Week One of the SciFund Challenge outreach training class!  With this class, we have two goals. One: to build outreach skill levels. Two: to build a sense of community among class participants. So let’s get started with both!

For this week, we’ll be diving into the opportunities and pitfalls that outreach presents for scientists. We’ll also get started with Twitter and video. [Read more...]


Syllabus for outreach training class

The first SciFund Challenge class will be exactly like this.

The first SciFund Challenge class will be exactly like this.

The first SciFund Challenge outreach training class starts next week and we are excited! For those of you following along at home, here’s our syllabus.

SciFund Challenge Course One: Outreach 101

Course instructors: Jai Ranganathan (Co-founder, SciFund Challenge), Anthony Salvagno (University of New Mexico), Kelly Weinersmith (University of California, Davis), Siouxsie Wiles (University of Auckland)

Course dates: April 29-May 31, 2013 [Read more...]


Our inaugural outreach class

SciFund outreach class: go for launch!

SciFund outreach class: go for launch!

The first SciFund Challenge outreach training class for scientists launches in a week and we are very excited! Apparently, we aren’t the only ones. When we were planning this class, we were hoping that 50 scientists might be interested in participating. Well, were we wrong. When we opened registration for the class, 171 scientists signed up in less than six days and we had to close registration weeks early.

If you missed the registration window, not to worry! We’ll be running more of these internet-based outreach training classes in the months to come. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in the loop. And everyone is welcome to follow along on the blog, where most class materials will be posted. Consider this the first update on the class, with many more to come over the next month.

So, who are the 171 participants in our inaugural outreach class? Well, we know quite a few things about them from the application forms.

They hail from all over the world, as you can see on this handy map. The majority are in the United States, but 18 countries are represented.


The vast majority of the participants are in academia (no big surprise), with more than half being graduate students or postdocs.


Most of the folks involved in the class are biology types, with a strong emphasis on ecology/zoology/conservation kinds of things. This isn’t surprising, as we had only just begun with our promotion campaign about the class, when we got flooded with people and had to stop early. We had started getting the word out with primarily ecology-related circles of people, hence the disciplines represented.

Scientific discipline Number of participants
Ecology 38
Biology 12
Biomedical sciences 16
Evolutionary biology 11
Marine biology 11
Zoology/wildlife biology 11
Molecular and celular biology 10
Conservation biology 8
Chemistry 7
Environmental research 7
Neuroscience 5
Genetics 4
Physics 4
Botany/horticulture 3
Geography 3
Oceanography 3
Earth sciences 2
Economics 2
Engineering 2
Mathematics 2
Wetland Science 2
Archaeology 1
Astronomy 1
Computational Biology 1
Materials Science 1
Mycology 1
Palaeontology 1
Psychology 1
Synthetic biology 1

Call for short videos on outreach experiences!

Calling all scientists who engage in outreach!

The #SciFund Challenge is running a free outreaching training class for scientists, and we would like your help! We want to convey the diversity of approaches to outreach and experience with outreach, and so we are looking for ~5 minute videos from people engaged in science outreach. If you are interested in having your voice heard, we would love for you to record yourself answering one or more of the following prompts:

  • Why did you start doing outreach? Why do you continue to do outreach?

  • What has been your outreach journey?

  • Has doing outreach helped you/your scientific career? How so?

  • Has doing outreach hurt you/your scientific career? How so?

  • If there have been outreach obstacles, have you been able to overcome them?

  • How have you managed to keep doing outreach while continuing to do science?

  • How has your academic institution been supportive/not supportive of your outreach?

  • What if you research deals with “sensitive” issues?

  • What’s your outreach great story?

  • What’s your outreach horror story?

After you record your video, please e-mail us at Please provide your name, institutional affiliation (if any), and information about the kind of outreach you do (e.g., link to your blog). We will give you access to a DropBox folder where you can place the video. After we receive the video we will place it on YouTube, and will make a public post on our blog to share the responses we received.

Because our outreach class is running in May, we are going to need your videos soon! April 27th would be the absolute deadline, but if you could send your video in the next week (by April 20th) that would be very much preferred.

By sending us a video you are giving us permission to edit the video, put it on YouTube and our blog, and share it with students taking the course. Editing will likely include adding a title slide (with your information and a note about the video being part of the SciFund online training course). We may also edit your video response into a longer video including the responses of others, but we will be sure to indicate who you are and your affiliation.

Thanks so much for your help!

<3, Weinersmith


Registration closed for outreach training class

closedWell, that was fast! 170 folks have signed up in less than a week for our SciFund Challenge outreach training class for May. We are a bit amazed and overwhelmed, considering that we were hoping for a total of 50-100 participants for the course. So  that we don’t get more course participants than we can handle, we are closing course registration early, effective immediately. If you didn’t manage to register, not to worry! We are planning all sorts of follow-up classes for the months to come. If you would like to keep informed about upcoming SciFund Challenge classes, as well as other SciFund news, sign up for our e-mail list.