Direct Fundraising for Social Science Research: Pros and Cons

Direct Fundraising for Social Science Research: Pros and Cons
Source: © intheskies -

My posts up to now have been focused primarily on crowdfunding in the area of health care, and the vast majority of research-related crowdfunding campaigns to date have been natural science or technology development projects.  As a social scientist, however, I am curious about the extent to which crowdfunding might be be used to support social science projects.

On the one hand, social scientific research is usually much cheaper than that in the natural science or engineering disciplines, so the impact of crowdfunding dollars on this type of work could be quite significant.  On the other hand, potential donors may perceive less potential social or personal value in research that is often viewed as less rigorous and as less likely to lead to direct real-world applications, so those crowdfunding dollars may be harder to come by.

The few examples of social science campaigns on Microryza (the specialty science crowdfunding portal), however, suggest that this application of crowdfunding is quite plausible.  The table below lists 22 social science projects (where the focus was on understanding more about human cognition, behavior, or society) posted on Microryza.  Of the 8 campaigns that have expired, 7 met or surpassed their goal, raising an average of $6,679 per project.  Given that social science research is often relatively cheap, this is encouraging.

That said, of the 4 campaigns expiring tomorrow, only one has met its goal and the other three don’t appear likely to do so.  The $6,679 average is also heavily influenced by the “Gun Policy, Gun Culture & Guns across the U.S.” campaign, which raised $22,305.  If we omit this campaign, the average amount raised by successful expired campaigns goes down to $4,074.

The average donation across the 7 successful expired campaigns is $96.59, and $91.38 across all 22 campaigns.  These figures lie squarely in the $60-$100 range of donation size that Ethan Perlstein finds in a more general sample of successful science crowdfunding campaigns, which suggests that social scientists are not necessarily disadvantaged in the research crowdfunding sphere relative to natural scientists or engineers.  Overall, while I do think that medical research projects, in particular, are likely to have an inherent advantage in the crowdfunding arena, politically relevant social science research (like the gun control project) is also likely to do quite well.

Ultimately, this data suggests that the success of social science research crowdfunding campaigns will depend primarily on the marketing savvy of the fundraisers and the details of the project itself, rather than on the broad disciplinary background of the researchers.

List of Social Science Research Crowdfunding Campaigns

Campaign Title Amount Raised % of Goal Days Remaining
Gun Policy, Gun Culture & Guns across the U.S.: What Makes Us Safer? $22,305 101% 0
Crowdcuring the Blues: People, Technology and Research Against Depression $10,000 100% 0
How do spammers harvest your e-mail address? $5,191 576% 0
Y-DNA A00 and the Peoples of Cameroon: In Search of the Homeland $5,000 200% 0
Impact assessment of Kenyan Orphan Empowerment Program $2,050 29% 0
Can music improve memories in patients with brain damage? $1,950 130% 0
Why are jokes funny? $1,205 104% 0
An ethnographic study of the illegal trade in Javan slow lorises $1,100 100% 0
Understanding the psychosocial impact of a motor skill intervention $3,035 109% 1
Does mindfulness increase altruism and well-being? $1,862 21% 1
How do we learn words from speech? $1,710 17% 1
Does genetic compatibility play a role in our mate choice? $664 22% 1
Belonging and Well-being in the Context of Sorority Recruitment $1,266 115% 3
Which of Cameroon’s peoples have members of haplogroup A00? $5,705 71% 8
Understanding How Organizations Remember $1,170 78% 8
Can we use social media to identify emerging drugs and their effects? $0 0% 10
Can Multinational Corporations Bring Environmental Best Practices to Firms in Developing Countries? $340 6% 12
Are prejudiced reactions to same-sex couples characterized by specific physiological patterns? $5,830 77% 17
Using Ouijas to Explore the Unconscious: You Know More Than You Think… $765 12% 21
What is the underlying psychology of gun rights sentiment? $200 8% 22
Does censored news affect political attitudes in authoritarian China? $52 3% 28
Exploring the role of alternative and activist new media in contemporary student activism in college $1,705 17% 30

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Following up on drug development campaigns

Following up on drug development campaigns
Source: © Nenov Brothers -

In a recent post, I provided a list of active crowdfunding campaigns that were aimed at supporting drug development and had raised at least 10% of their stated goal.  In this post, I follow up on these campaigns to see how they have fared in the past 3 weeks.

Of the 12 campaigns featured in the original list, 5 campaigns (of which two have now ended) have not raised any additional funds since September 23rd, and one other has only raised an additional 1% of its funding goal in that time.

The other 6 campaigns, however, showed substantial increases in the amounts raised, ranging from 10% of the funding goal to 79% for the  “I am a little mouse and I want to live longer!” campaign, which has reached its funding goal of $15,000 and has set a stretch goal of $20,000 for its remaining 6 days of fundraising.

Notably, the “Cure Black Bone Disease” campaign has raised an additional $42,000, putting it at 71% of its funding goal of $98,000 with just 3 days left in its campaign.  The “Can anle138b delay the onset of genetic prion disease?” campaign, for its part, raised an additional $4,800, for a total haul of $17,217, or 215% of its funding goal.

I have also added a new entry, the “Boost Cancer Survival Rates” campaign, which has raised $67,750 of its $200,000 fundraising goal with 62 days left.

Overall, then, it’s clear that while some crowdfunding campaigns for drug development peter out after a strong start, others roar ahead to meet their funding goals.  Understanding what factors drive campaign momentum and success will be an important task for the research crowdfunding community in the coming years.


List of Active Crowdfunding Campaigns Relating to Drug Development
                      (Updated October 15, 2013)
Campaign Title Raised Sep 23 Raised Oct 15 % Funded Change in % Days Left
Testosterone Therapy for Prostate Cancer: Feeling Better while Defeating Cancer $2,775 $2,775 11% NC 46
Monosomy 7- cancer that can start before we are born… $665 $1,136 23% +10% 49
Mitochondrial Gene Therapy $1,105 $4,995 71% +55% 44
Short of Breath: Increasing Available Lungs for Transplant $9,529 $9,529 19% NC 16
Can we use 3-D printing to engineer organs affordably? $580 $1,680 56% +37% 11
I am a little mouse and I want to live longer! $4,600 $16,535 110% +79% 6
Targeting Fusion Genes in Esophageal Cancer $1,820 $1,820 36% NC 31
Cure Black Bone Disease $37,699 $69,887 71% +33% 3
Determining Genetic Risk of Ovarian Cancer $10,904 $11,224 45% +1% 16
Halting Tumor Cells from Spreading by Blocking ‘Hostile Mergers’ $9,634 $9,754 50% NC 0
Can we treat sepsis? $885 $885 49% NC 0
Can anle138b delay the onset of genetic prion disease? $12,413 $17,217 215% +60% 0
Boost Cancer Survival Rates NA $67,750 34% NA 62


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List of Healthcare Startups using Equity Crowdfunding

List of Healthcare Startups using Equity Crowdfunding
Source: © Africa Studio -

In a previous post, I compiled a list of healthcare-specific crowdfunding portals that included both donation-based and equity-based models.  The number of campaigns to fund health research is growing rapidly on donation-based portals, particularly in the emerging set of cancer research-specific websites.

Equity-based crowdfunding campaigns to finance medical startups are more difficult to track.  Many equity-based portals do not list their projects publicly, in part due to varying regulatory requirements that restrict soliciting the public for securities investments or limit participation to accredited investors.  Unsurprisingly, then, the following list of health-related companies that have attempted to use equity-based crowdfunding to raise capital carries less information than the drug development campaigns list.  If you know of any other campaigns, please let me know.

Company Pitch Platform Status
Ambiotis Ambiotis is the first Contract Research Organisation (CRO) working on the active resolution of the inflammatory process and making the proof of concept of innovative compounds. WiSEED Ended
Antabio ANTABIO is a France-based biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of first-in-class molecule compounds to treat severe hospital- and community-acquired infections caused by multi- and pan-drug resistant bacterial pathogens. WiSEED Ended
Aroma Therapeutics Aroma Therapeutics est une Biotech spécialisée dans les produits naturels pour la prévention des maladies du CNS (Système Nerveux Central) type Alzheimer. WiSEED Pre-Campaign
BioEnergetics This professor-led, high-growth and revenue-producing CRO provides services to big pharma. Their niche is in toxicity testing at an early stage of drug development cycle using proprietary technology significantly reducing drug development costs. BlazeFund Pre-Campaign
Caviskills CaviSkills (Lyon, France) aims to increase chemotherapeutic penetration into target cells with devices based on their patented ultrasound technology. WiSEED Pre-Campaign
Cell Guidance Systems Cell Guidance Systems make research tools to aid stem cell scientists. Stem cells are being developed to provide treatments for diseases inc. stroke, coronary disease, diabetes and Parkinson’s. Crowdcube Ended
Destiny Pharma Limited Destiny Pharma is an established, UK based, private pharmaceutical company which develops novel drugs to prevent and treat bacterial infections. Crowdcube Active
Intelligencia Nous proposons aux patients des établissements de santé et aux résidents des maisons de retraites d’accéder depuis notre terminal tactile mobile, MEDICALVISION, à des services de visiophonie, Internet, informations, éducations thérapeutiques. WiSEED Ended
Log Six Systems Ltd Log Six Ltd (LSL) has invented patentable ultrasonic based technology which could revolutionize hygiene in the healthcare and food industry with its range of products. SquareKnot N/A
Neuronax NEURONAX is a biotechnological company developing first-in-class candidate-drugs supporting neural repair in order to treat traumatic or severe degenerative disorders of the central nervous system (CNS) and to contribute to restore neurological function, and thus to improve the quality of life of patients. WiSEED Ended
Perle Bioscience The bioscience company is engaged in the development of new pharmaceutical compositions – and methods for reversing Type 1 and 2 Diabetes. The innovative company, founded by an expert in the field of diabletes with prior experience and success, is setting the stage for usage of a new proprietary peptide therapy for generation of new insulin producing cells – a breakthrough with the potential to benefit millions of people BlazeFund Active
SD-INNOVATION SD Innovation fabrique et vend deux matériels d’analyse automatisés du sang (Agrégomètre et Osmocells) pour les hôpitaux, cliniques ou laboratoires. WiSEED Pre-Campaign
Urodelia Urodelia développe des produits pour combattre le cancer en mobilisant et organisant les défenses de l’organisme WiSEED Ended
ZoVolt Ltd ZoVolt Ltd is producing a miniature wireless ECG/Heart Rate sensor, able to send data in real time to mobile devices. Crowdcube Active


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h/t to Patrick McCarthy for pointing to several of these campaigns.

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