Featured project: Domesticating algae for the 21st century

Jai Ranganathan


Today’s featured #SciFund Challenge project is Domesticating Algae for the 21st Century by Steve Herbert.

Pond scum
Pond scum: the planet's last hope?

Let me be honest: I love this project. Steve, a professor of plant sciences at the University of Wyoming, wants to better grow algae in a vat. Sounds boring, right? Think again.

The world’s human population just topped 7 billion people.   How are we going to produce enough food and fuel for the earth’s growing population without exploding the planet? The answer might just lie in pond scum. As anyone who has a pool or birdbath knows, pond scum (which is a form of algae) can grow extremely rapidly without any encouragement at all. What if we could genetically engineer this fast-growing algae to produce biofuels? What about protein for us to eat? Suddenly, all of the pressure that we are placing on the earth’s ecosystems might just lift.

Week three of #SciFund: unbelievable momentum

Jai Ranganathan

We are now three weeks into #SciFund Challenge projects going live on RocketHub. Where do we stand?

SciFund contributions
Contributions to #SciFund projects, as of morning of Nov. 16 (click image for larger version).

Astonishingly well! As of this morning, #SciFund projects have together raised  $49,294. Incredible. And if you look at the figure above, you can see that contributions are rising steadily.

On the Complementarity of Crowdfunding and Traditional Grants

Aditya Rao

Note by Jai: Aditya is a #SciFund Challenge participant and he is pursuing his doctorate in cellular and developmental biology at SUNY Upstate Medical University. Check out his great #SciFund project: C-Cilia in Motion! You can find Aditya on Twitter at @nishantaditya.

For a lot of people their early exposure to “science” was through science fiction. This was a great thing for those of us who eventually became scientists because science fiction inspired us to think creatively, imagine fantastic things, “to boldly go where no man has gone before”…  And to have bad grammar.

The vast majority of people, however, only ever got the distorted, dramatized, exaggerated view of science. This view, that ‘science = laboratories filled with glowing lights and colourful, bubbling solutions in complicated looking glassware‘, is very misleading to the general public. It doesn’t give a true account of what a scientist does or how science progresses. This is where initiatives like The #SciFund Challenge would be VERY useful. These initiatives will bring in real scientists with real experiments and will force them to explain their work to a broad audience. This sort of exercise in public communication will help fuel public interest in science and, more importantly, give them an insider’s perspective on the vocation of science.

Lessons from Ancient Rome: how to make crowdfunding work

Jai Ranganathan

Ancient Roman party
Let's get down - Ancient Roman style - to celebrate a #SciFund success!

One #SciFund Challenge participant has had a very good couple of days! Kristina Killgrove, who is behind the Ancient Roman DNA project, has gotten all sorts of media coverage (like at CNN and Forbes). Even better, she has blown right past her financial target of $6,000 in less than two weeks. She is now at $9,000 and rising fast! How did she do it? I talked with her yesterday to learn her crowdfunding strategies. This is what I learned.

There are two parts to Kristina’s success: success at crafting a compelling science message and success in promoting her project. Let’s deal with message-crafting first.

How would you fund research? – An Open Science perspective

Cross-posted from Science 3.0/EvoMRI

On Twitter, Mary Canady asked whether there are any blog posts on the relationship between the SciFund Challenge and Open Science. As I had already started drafting this post, I mentioned that there should be one up soon, and I reframed it a bit to match that perspective, pointing out in the meantime that a blog post on the relation between SciFund and Creative Commons already exists. With a bit of delay due to server problems, here we go now.

The Food Truck Phenomenon – or, what animal behavior tells us about crowdfunding

Shermin de Silva

Note from Jai: Dr. Shermin de Silva is an elephant researcher and she has a project in the #SciFund Challenge (check out Help Elephants & People in Sri Lanka). She has a doctorate in biology from the University of Pennsylvania and she is the founder of  the Elephant Forest and Environment Conservation Trust.

During my six years in grad school slaving over grants and statistics, I avoided starvation thanks to the lunch trucks hovering around West Philly.  They sell everything from vegan chili to doner kebabs, rescuing hundreds from this predicament each day. I used to be puzzled at why there were TWO Mexican trucks competing side by side.  Everyone seemed to know which one was better –you could tell from the lengths of the lines.  Wouldn’t the other want to move off to some remote corner and claim its poor victims all to itself?  In stark contrast to this was the strategy of the ever-elusive wandering cupcake truck – a beast that was seldom spotted, brightening up random corners on each day.  Well, you couldn’t count on a cupcake for desert, but you could always count on the burritos.