What do antimatter, beer and rescue dogs have in common? Answer: they will all soon be the topics of crowdfunding campaigns for science projects on Kickstarter, the global reference for online fundraising. And these campaigns will be created by research teams from partners of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre during a weekend hackathon in New York later this month.
Hackathons are grassroots initiatives by technology enthusiasts to build new devices or software. The Science x Kickstarter Hackathon that will take place on 28 February – 1 March at ITP, NYU’s Interactive Telecommunications Programme, is a novel twist on this theme. Co-organized by Kickstarter, ITP and the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, this first-of-its-kind hackathon brings together designers, makers and writers to help scientists develop compelling crowdfunding campaigns for their research.
Crowdfunding allows anyone on the Internet to contribute a small amount to a project they feel inspired by, often in exchange for a reward such as getting their name in the project credits, access to behind the scenes information about the project, or some actual physical output of the project itself, a gadget, a publication or a piece of art. Kickstarter, the Brooklyn-based company that has become synonymous with crowdfunding, has helped some 78,000 projects raise over $1.3bn with the help of over 7.9 million supporters since 2009.
Kickstarter has given a great boost to independent artists, musicians and movie-makers, and helped launch many a high-tech product that might otherwise not have seen the light of day. But scientists, who are used to dealing with funding agencies rather than with the general public when raising support for their projects, have yet to fully embrace the opportunities that this approach to fundraising could provide them.
The Science x Kickstarter Hackathon represents a concerted effort to change the status quo for science in this area, and is supported by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, as well as receiving in-kind support and mentorship from Atmel Corporation and Wolfram Laboratories.
“We’re delighted by the diversity of the projects that were selected for this event,” says Francois Grey, coordinator of the Citizen Cyberscience Centre, “ there’s everything from artificial intelligence for sorting trash to laser cooling for detecting antimatter, and from studying the genetics of beer to GPS-enabled harnesses for rescue and mine-sniffing dogs.”
Aurora Thornhill of Kickstarter remarks, “The Kickstarter community has a lot to offer scientists, beyond just financial support. Some successful projects have gone on to receive technical help from major technology and engineering companies, support from organizations like NASA and National Geographic, and build sustaining, long-term communities that continue to create amazing things and do exciting science! There’s a snowball effect that comes from the exposure that Kickstarter provides, along with the support from a community backers from all over the world.”
Nancy Hechinger of NYU’s ITP remarks, “Our students and alumni have been using Kickstarter successfully for years to raise money for their art and media projects. But this is our first foray into supporting science this way. The science hackathon format, which we’ve done a lot of at ITP, maximizes the creativity of participants by confronting people of very different backgrounds in the arts, media, business and science with a common challenge. We’re looking forward to see the Science x Kickstarter Hackathon launch some novel and ambitious science projects.”
Science x Kickstarter Registration URL: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/science-x-kickstarter-hackathon-registration-15143555783k
Projects from researchers at CCC partner institutions that have been selected for the Science x Kickstarter Hackathon (for the full list, see the registration page above):
Beer decoded: The 1,000 beer genomes project led by Gianpaolo Rando of University of Geneva
Cosmic Pi: A compact Cosmic Ray detector designed by scientists working at CERN for educators and enthusiasts to visualize particles from space led by Ruslan Asfandiyarov of CERN, in collaboration with University of Geneva
Ice drop: Firstever lasercooling of negative molecules to cool antiprotons to make ultracold antiatoms to test gravity led by Michael Doser of CERN
SMARTDog: The wearable tracking and demarcation system for dogs in rescue and demining operations led by Daniel Dobos of CERN