I was introduced to kickstarter some time in early 2012 by the much publicised Double Fine Adventure project that ended up raising ~$3 million. My thoughts at the time were “I WANT THAT!” and I clicked the pledge button for all I was worth, having not really read any of the advert beyond the very convincing video. Once I had calmed down at the prospect of another psychonauts-esk game in my future, I started exploring kickstarter and all its amazing wonders, though if I am being honest it was mostly the game and technology sections (I try to keep to the normal scientist stereotype). I was amazed at the charity and trust that people had for projects ranging from documentaries to new games from totally unknown developers. I was also amazed at the comments people were leaving around the internet about how they felt involved in each project and how they felt they were making a difference to a struggling entrepreneur. At the time I was just happy to be part of it and I loved helping to fund projects that I thought deserved to be given a shot. I certainly didn’t have any desire to try and do anything as bold as try myself, at least not until Penny Arcade decided to host a kickstarter.
Unlike most of the other kickstarters, Penny Arcade offered not an item, game or even a copy of a movie but simply the ability to help them out in removing the adverts from their site and providing better content. It was a little controversial and it generated no small amount of discussion over what the funds were actually paying for. But through all this discussion I began to realise that you could use kickstarter for more than just funding your new prototype or beta software, you could use it to fund a project where the taking part was more important to people than the end goal. It might be possible to combine something as open ended as university research with my own personal ambition for demystifying science.
Normally, working within a university, we would seek funding from private companies or from various organisations tasked with dividing up public funding for research. All of these traditional kinds of funding come with a variety of caveats; but one that is fairly universal is that your research should remain confidential. I believe that this long-standing culture of confidentiality and black box research, is responsible for making science seem unapproachable and cold. Very few non-scientists understand how exactly scientific research is conducted, which leads to a lot of misunderstandings about reporting in science and general public engagement. This need for greater transparency is what makes open science so important for inspiring a new generation of scientists or simply helping demystify science to people that might otherwise view it with distrust.
The added benefit to us for running an open project is that we might even get some good ideas from the people contributing to the project. In some cases this help may come from people in the field who can use this as an opportunity to have greater interaction with the scientific community but also, scientists don’t know everything – people with different perspectives may see things we have missed. If a backer has an interest in science we would be more than happy to discuss their ideas for our work on our forum and this might even lead to design changes within the project.
So what this means for us (and discussed in our about page) is that we plan on asking (just as soon we secure the appropriate internal approval) for the the public to help us pay for 1 year worth of research which will be as accessible as possible for the public at large and for those that have contributed to the project. A list of all the pledge levels is provided below.
- FREE to all – Twitter ramblings on what I am doing towards the project and occasional rants about the joys of being a parent.
- FREE to all – OpenOptics.info blog where along with other content from the department I will post a weekly update on the project
- £1 – THANK-YOU! – You will be sent a very nice thank-you e-mail and be listed as a backer on our website
- £2 – CERTIFICATE OF SCIENCE! – You will be e-mailed a very nice personalised certificate saying what a nice person you are for backing our project! (may include cartoon bunny) + Previous reward
- £5 -WEBCAM – Access to our lab webcam + Previous rewards
- £10 -Q&A – Access to our quarterly Q&A session with the team, we welcome feedback and suggestions! + Previous rewards
- £15 -DATA – Advanced access to our raw data (all of it will be released a the end of the project) + Previous rewards
- £20 -OPEN LAB BOOK – Access to our Open Lab book which will be updated daily + Previous rewards
- £25 -FORUM + BADGE – Access to our forum where we will be discussing our data and would welcome any public input. Also we’ll send you a cool badge + Previous rewards
- £50 -PUBLISHED – Listed as a backer on any scientific publications that are directly linked to this work. + Previous rewards
- £150 -EARLY BIRD CONFERENCE – Cut-price conference ticket to our end of project conference + Previous rewards (limited number)
- £250 -CONFERENCE – Conference ticket to our end of project conference + Previous rewards (excluding cut-price tickets) (limited number)
- £500 -SCHOOL VISIT – A member of the project team (or possibly several of us) will come to a school of your choice (UK only) and give a demo and talk on our work + Previous rewards (excluding conference tickets) (limited number)
- £750 -DAY OF SCIENCE – We’ll help plan and carry out one day of research on a topic of your choice (we get a veto on anything to crazy). + Previous rewards (excluding school visit) (limited number)
- £5000 -DAY OUT – You +1 (more are negotiable) can come and join us for a day at cranfield, including some lab time, lunch with the project team and a go in our cool flight simulator. + Previous rewards (excluding school visit) (limited number)
While backers will have access to our data during the project the data collected will be released at the end of the project via the open access data service figshare.com. Ahead of the official launch of this project we are very keen to get feedback on what you think about these pledge levels, please get in touch via the comments panel below.