Funding’s Too Tight To Mention

You may or may not have read the recent blogposts by Ed Yong, in which he lists and donates £3 to the authors in his top ten favourite blogposts of the month and provides PayPal buttons for his readers to do the same, if they wish.   This is all part of his “Science Writer Tip-Jar initiative”, set in place to acknowledge the work of interesting bloggers and give them a little something back for their efforts (for no salary) that they put into writing.  I think this is a brilliant idea because I imagine that the vast majority of bloggers begin to write as a hobby with no intention to earn from it, but as they improve and become hooked on sharing their work, checking their blog stats or receiving encouraging feedback, there probably comes a point when writing is all they want to do and they think that their work could actually be worth something – but it’s not that easy.

With Ed’s “Tip-Jar” initiative, some authours do find out that their work is worth something and it must be quite flattering for them, however, without them actually asking for the money, they may feel inclined to politely turn down the offer.  With that in mind, together with a recent conversation I had with Colin Stuart about self-funded research, I got thinking.  The very thought of applying for science funding, be it for further education or grants for research is at an all-time low lately; and this is where I am at the moment; applying for further education that comes with a “self-funded” price tag.  Having carefully thought about it, it will definitely take some strict saving up to achieve and I suspect that, with research, you never really can tell what will be around the corner nor may you be prepared for any unexpected financial burdens.  I do believe that there are so many other people out there who are in a position where they can fund the baseline cost, but may give up hope in pursuing their dream (whatever that may be) “just in case”.

In support of (and analogous to) Ed’s initiative, I strongly believe that this sort of thing should be taken seriously because maybe there are people out there who would love to help donate money to particular projects, be it science writing, the running of seminars and conferences, arts projects, contributions to certain legal costs in a case that particularly interests them (I know I made donations to Paul Chambers’ Twitter Joke Trial at the end of last year), student’s research projects, school equipment – absolutely anything.  I do realise that when it comes to donations, people need to be reassured on where their money is going.  I’d be far too reserved about embedding a PayPal button within my blog as a cry for help to raise funds for my research and I very much doubt that anyone (if anyone) would trust that their money was being spent on my project – and who could blame them?  So, to combat this problem here’s a sort of run down on how I think people could get some help:

1)  A reputable, well-established and trusted company could adopt this as a scheme on their website,

2)  Applicants would need to have their project approved by the company as proof of its legitimacy,

3)  Applicants will need to indicate, with supporting evidence, their target sum of money,

4) The company’s allocated webpage would divide the projects into categories and subcategories so that potential donators can easily navigate their way through to the projects they have an interest in and would like to donate to,

5)  Each project would be allocated a page on the website to provide structured details (as per company’s template) of what it involves, including aims/objectives and exactly what the money is needed for.  This complete breakdown should reassure donators, so they will be confident about where their money is going,

6)  A donation link will be provided for each individual project,

7)  The company will take charge of all donations in that they will receive all monies paid into each project.  Donations will not go directly to the applicant.  This will allow for the monitoring of the total funds received so that no profit can be made.

8)  When the fund target is achieved, the project is removed from the company’s website.

This idea is not to create a whole means to fund students throughout their PhD nor is it meant to be a profit-making scam, it’s an idea for a project that should only “assist” people with their projects who may just need a little financial boost; because every little helps.

So, what do you think?  Have I got my head in the clouds with this one?  I probably have, but it’s just an idea and I didn’t know what else to do with it besides blog about it.  I know very little about how or if this could work, though I’m sure if a company was to take this on they’d no doubt expect something in it for them.  But maybe you actually think something like this could work.  Maybe you know how?  Maybe you’re an altruistic character who would actually donate £5 here or there to some project you admire or find interesting.  Maybe you could benefit from such a scheme yourself? Maybe there are similar schemes already out there that I just don’t know about.  Please, do let me know.

[Edit]:  Feedback and related information

  • Dr Karen Wright of Lancaster University has informed me (in the comments below) that she will soon be launching a scheme very similar to the one I have outlined.  Watch this space for the link.




  • Ed Yong has shared this link for a similar scheme within Cancer Research UK, known as “MyProjects”, where people can donate to specific areas/projects of Cancer Research, rather than CRUK as a whole.



Image credit: Money & World:

Head in the Clouds:

9 Responses to “Funding’s Too Tight To Mention”
  1. Karen Wright says:

    I have been working on this approach with Lancaster University Alumni for the past year. Some logistical issues arose and website design changes, but we are pretty close now to launch. We have no idea how successful it will be, but I can let you know when we launch and how it pans out, if you like.

    • Della says:

      Thanks Karen,

      That would be brilliant if you could let me know when you launch it, I’d love to check it out. I can also link to it from this post. I’d be very interested to see how it goes and I think it’s a brilliant way for people to find some encouragement in taking on their projects as well as being the nation’s way of fighting back from the cuts.

  2. Ed Yong says:

    Cancer Research UK have a cool system called MyProjects that is perhaps tangentially similar to what you’re describing. People can donate to specific projects

    • Della says:

      Thanks for sharing the link, Ed. Yes, a scheme pretty much *exactly* like this, I think, would be brilliant for other disciplines/projects that lack the platform of being part of a major charity.

  3. So…a Science Kickstarter?
    One project you might find of interest on there is Backyard Biology, which was up I believe late summer/fall of 2010…could try to team up with Kickstarter for a science-specific site affiliated with them…

    • Della says:

      Thanks for your comment, Perrin. I just tried to google those details, but there were no results for Backyard Biology – even within It’s probably just me not seeing it, but do you have a link, perhaps? The other projects look great though – and yes, that’s something very similar to what I’ve outlined above and that’s really encouraging to see, actually. Maybe it is a possible concept, afterall. Thanks once again.

  4. HennaHonu says:

    This exists for school projects in the US:

  5. great article! It’s sounds like a really good scheme. There is such a big community of science writers and for me it’s the only way to keep to blog. I recently completed by PhD and hoped to find a research or lecturing position but with the funding cuts, they’re very difficult to find and are very competitive. Schemes like this are a great initiative and vital for the future interest in research. Thanks!

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