And We're Off!!

from Matthew Leslie – check out his #SciFund project Why is this dolphin’s fin on backwards?!

Whether your #SciFund project is prize pony or bumbling burro, just keep running the race - and keep talking up your science!

The first week of the #SciFund Challengehas been nothing if not exciting… I’m finding myself hitting the browser refresh button as if I was watching the close of a tight college basketball games on ESPN GameTracker (pardon the first of several sports references).

As Jai’s post from day two exclaims, some projects have “raced off and pulled in more than a thousand dollars each”, while others are stammering a little in the starting gates (…looks like my Backward Fins do create some drag indeed).

So far the Secretariat approach of  “just letting her run” isn’t going so well for me. It has been painfully apparent from the beginning that, although I know my project is a winner, it isn’t going to run like a winner without some skilled riding.

The #SciFund Challenge is certainly that – a challenge. It isn’t enough to have good research ideas, sell those ideas in a cool video (playing all the parts of production from writer-director to key grip), come up with creative rewards, navigate administrative hurdles and develop a sufficient yet attainable goal.

No, No… now we also have to promote the BEJESUS out of our projects for the wheels to grab!

All of this takes time.

In fact, my adviser has been very supportive of all of this, but today he did utter these words in a very Gandalfish tone, “… a scientist does have to balance the costs and benefits of any fund-raising effort, be it a grant or other”. I can only assume what he meant by “other”.

As you work out the balance of time for this and other fund-raising efforts, remember that the unmentioned intangible of the $14K raised in the first two days, is that people are engaging directly with scientists!! Forget about the money for a minute. This is the public engaging in the process of discovery! This is point-to-point contact. This is Johnny Lab-Coat and John Q. Public all but swapping bodily fluids!! This is something that NSF, NIH, AAAS, every science-based government agency and even some academics (Gasp!) try to do… and usually with less-than-marginal success (pers. obs.).

So whether you’re feeling like Ron Turcotte on Secretariat or Juan Valdezon his trusty donkey, remember that you are surrounded by fellow riders who want to see everyone finish a winner, AND you can take comfort in the fact that you are teaching people about your noble and often under-appreciated craft as well as showing them the amazing wonders of the world around them.

As my fellow scientifically-inclined “Crowd-Sorcerers”, I encourage you to grip those reins tightly and kick your project horse hard, but don’t forget to enjoy the simple pleasure of talking about your science! In doing so you may just be inspiring a new generation and reinvigorating the old!