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Microfinancing in the us

Microfinancing to solve academic poverty?

09 August 2010

With budget cuts starting to bite and a fresh wave of bad news expected in the Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010, UK scientists are looking for new ways to finance their research. One funding method gaining momentum in the US is 'microfinancing', where many members of the public donate small sums of money, usually online, to research projects they feel are worthwhile.

Microfinancing is a term most commonly used to describe the financial services provided to help people out of poverty. Now the term is being applied to research projects funded by numerous small contributions of money. Over the last 3 years, a number of microfinancing initiatives for science research have emerged in the US.

The Open Source

Science Project allows researchers to propose projects and pitch for funding from the broader online community. Priyan Weerappuli, the project's executive director, believes it is successful in helping researchers find alternative funding sources.

Could lots of small donations be the future of research funding?

'The project started in a time of funding cuts in the US and intended to give researchers a different funding model and also increase scientific literacy in the public,' he says.

'Initially most projects were "pop-science" - subjects that were already in the public eye - but now many projects that are funded are in niche disciplines.'

Although the way projects are financed differs greatly from the traditional funding routes through government, charity or industry, there are many familiar features.

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