Journal Club: Crowdfunding Science

What is better than Open Access?! Citizen Science AND Open Access! The March issue of JMBE was all that. You have probably already heard of Kittybiome and/or The Koala Project, 2 ongoing projects in the Eisen Lab. Both projects were featured in the paper, “Crowdfunding Campaigns Help Researchers Launch Projects and Generate Outreach”, published in the current issue of JMBE.

The paper hardly seems to cover all that we learned as we took on the task of making our first crowdfunding campaigns. There were some things that seemed really important at the beginning, such as which platform to use. It turns out that the platform really doesn’t matter unless you’re after certain bells and whistles. Then there were other things that we didn’t think were that important, but ended up being the main reason our campaigns were successful. Having friends and family contribute gave the campaigns the momentum and attention they needed to reach their goals. Soliciting is always uncomfortable, even with your own mother, but well worth it in the end.

After the campaign has ended, the perks have been sent out, and the money has arrived in it’s own grant account, the work has only begun. Since we wrote this paper, we realized that there is nothing we could have done to prepare for all of the hiccups we encountered as we started the actual science part of this journey.

My experience was my project had to be revised numerous times. Politics at the wildlife hospital, time restrictions, and ethics approval meant I wouldn’t be able to get enough mother/joey pairs to do my original project. I changed my focus to how the antibiotic treatments were changing the gut microbiome of individual koalas instead. My project still ended up smaller than I expected because koalas kept dying before I was done sampling from them. I also encountered a lot of failed experiments in the lab; it turns out koala poo is so full of inhibitors that it is really hard to work with. Holly had the opposite problem; her project ended up bigger than she expected. There was no way she could keep up with sending kits out, processing samples that came in, and the data communication. Luckily Holly was able to form a mini-science army to help with lab work and the web app design. Everyday it seems there is a new challenge that arises.

If I had the chance to revise any part of the paper, I would change the section of “Setting a Funding Goal”. The truth is that money doesn’t go very far in science. After a few DNA extraction kits and a sequencing run, there isn’t too much left over for the little reagents and supplies that we underestimated when setting our funding goals. Because Holly and I didn’t want to cut corners, we ended up having to spend our own money and seek additional support from other grants at times.

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Katherine Dahlhausen

Katie Dahlhausen is a PhD student in Jonathan Eisen’s lab and is interested in the biogeography and mechanisms of antibiotic resistance. Find out more at her Twitter feed .