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Crowdfunding science: Student raises cash online to follow a flying fox
Date:12/20/2011

The flying fox is an adorable doe-eyed bat with a dark side it is the perfect vector for emerging infectious diseases from Asia. Susan Tsang, a PhD student in ecology and evolutionary biology at The City College of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center, turned to a revolutionary way to help fund her research into how this species spreads disease.

Ms. Tsang wants to track how viruses can spread from flying foxes to humans by tracing the evolution and movements of bat populations. She sampled the genes of wild-caught flying foxes and planned to fill in the gaps with samples from museum specimens around the world. There was only one problem: she needed funds.

"The grants that have dried up are the ones for smaller projects," Tsang explained. Early-career scientists have felt the economic squeeze more than researchers seeking big grants. "What we need is preliminary data, but how are you going to get it if you don't have a seed grant?"

Ms. Tsang is a pioneering member of a brand new movement in science funding. She brought her research proposal directly to the people as a member of the #SciFund Challenge, the largest collection yet of science researchers attempting to raise money online from private donors. Of 240 scientists that signed on to participate in the #SciFund Challenge, 49 cleared the hurdles of the process to produce videos and webpages for their funding campaigns.

The consortium's webpages functioned under the umbrella of the successful crowdfunding website, RocketHub, already known for propelling young artists and small filmmakers toward their first flushes of success.

Some of the #SciFund Challenge researchers have seen their funding dreams realized. Projects that caught the public's imagination and early funding dollars included investigations into zombie fish and exploding duck penises. Charting the flying fox evolutionary tree may seem more prosaic, but results pointing to disease transmission or aidin
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Contact: Jessa Netting
jnetting@ccny.cuny.edu
212-650-7615
City College of New York
Source:Eurekalert

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