Georgia Tech’s Starter: Crowdfunding for Science Research

Starter is an independent crowdfunding site based out of Georgia Tech. think backing cool science projects à la Kickstarter or IndieGoGo. The projects that appear on Starter must be submitted by a faculty member. They’re also vetted by a department chair, who looks for conflicts of interest. Projects will be posted on the site for 60 days, and donors will only be charged if the funding goals are reached (similar to Kickstarter and IndieGoGo).

Here is a description of one project that caught my eye, The Georgia Tech Urban Honey Bee Project:

Wiring our beehives will not only allow students to collect large amounts of data about the impact of urban environments on bees, but will also allow us to share this information with the public and to easily participate in other ongoing research like NASA’s Honey Bee Net, which uses beehive data to track the effects of climate and land use change. We also plan to live-stream video from inside and outside the hive on our website, bees.gatech.edu.

We will use the RFID system to determine whether urban bees require longer foraging flights to find nectar and pollen than bees in suburban or rural settings. RFID detectors will be set at the entrances to the hives. Tiny RFID tags will be attached to bees and we will then be able to measure the foraging flight times of individual bees.

This concept isn’t unique to Georgia Tech. As Fast Company notes:

Automatic government spending cuts that went into effect this year have made grants harder to come by, and Georgia Tech isn’t the only research institution that has sought to fund its researchers through crowdfunding. Arizona State University and the University of Virginia have both partnered with a crowdfunding site called Useed. The University of Vermont has partnered with another called Launcht. And the University of Utah has partnered with still another called RocketHub.

One of my concerns is that the funded projects will take a large percentage (35%) as a fee for running the review process, site administration, and lab facility upkeep. But Starter appears to be promising and a great way for people to “invest” in science projects which they think are interesting.

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Read more:

1) Georgia Tech’s press release in May 2013, before the site went live.

2) Stephen Fleming’s blog post on Starter and crowdfunding.

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