Crowdfunding scientific research: Descriptive insights and correlates of funding success

Published on January 06, 2020

Abstract

Crowdfunding has gained traction as a mechanism to raise resources for entrepreneurial and artistic projects, yet there is little systematic evidence on the potential of crowdfunding for scientific research. We first briefly review prior research on crowdfunding and give an overview of dedicated platforms for crowdfunding research. We then analyze data from over 700 campaigns on the largest dedicated platform, Experiment.com. Our descriptive analysis provides insights regarding the creators seeking funding, the projects they are seeking funding for, and the campaigns themselves. We then examine how these characteristics relate to fundraising success. The findings highlight important differences between crowdfunding and traditional funding mechanisms for research, including high use by students and other junior investigators but also relatively small project size. Students and junior investigators are more likely to succeed than senior scientists, and women have higher success rates than men. Conventional signals of quality–including scientists’ prior publications–have little relationship with funding success, suggesting that the crowd may apply different decision criteria than traditional funding agencies. Our results highlight significant opportunities for crowdfunding in the context of science while also pointing towards unique challenges. We relate our findings to research on the economics of science and on crowdfunding, and we discuss connections with other emerging mechanisms to involve the public in scientific research.


Authors

Henry Sauermann

Henry Sauermann is an associate professor of strategy (with tenure), at ESMT Berlin. Previously he was an associate professor of strategy and innovation and the PhD Coordinator at the Scheller College of Business at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Henry explores the role of human capital in science, innovation, and entrepreneurship. Among others, he studies how scientists’ motives and incentives relate to important outcomes such as innovative performance in firms, patenting in academia, or career choices and entrepreneurial interests. In new projects, Henry studies the dynamics of motives and incentives over time, and explores non-traditional innovative institutions such as Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. Additional work is underway to gain deeper insights into scientific labor markets and to derive implications for junior scientists, firms, and policy makers.

Chiara Franzoni

Dr. Franzoni has a long-term interest in the incentives of scientists to conduct research and how these may be altered by policies and emerging trends in science and innovation. She has studied the international mobility of scientists and its implications on research performance and collaboration networks at the individual and team level. In the latest years she has investigated the implications for Science of the emergence of social networks and digital platforms, with a focus on citizens and crowd science, crowdfunding of entrepreneurial ventures and of scientific research projects. Her current research focus is on emotions, risk perception and risk-taking, and on crowd V. expert panels perception of risks.

Kourosh Shafi

Kourosh is an Assistant Professor at the College of Business and Economics, California State University East Bay. He received his Ph.D. in Management from Politecnico di Milano in Milan, Italy. His research interests include venture capital, corporate venture capital, and crowdfunding.

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