What do you know about crowdfunded research projects? Most college and university research administrators are very familiar with the term “sponsored research”, meaning projects that are funded by a specific sponsor, that are restricted in the use of the funds, and that have predefined goals. They may be less familiar, however, with the concept of “crowdfunding.” Crowdfunding is another means of acquiring funding to support research projects, but it allows many people to support a project with much smaller amounts of money. We recently posed the question – is there a way to use research administration software to manage crowdfunded research projects?
In answering this question, we discovered that crowdfunding has been around for a long time with roots in using the concept to write and publish books. The concept has recently taken on a new and unique energy with the power of the internet. Lisa Mosley, Assistant Vice President of Research Operations at Arizona State University shares more in a video by NCURA where she discusses some insights into the use of crowdfunding for research projects.
Crowdfunded Research Projects
In the past, crowdfunding was used to gain funding in areas such as new business startup, independent film making, and raising funds for excessive health care costs. It has also been used to support numerous charity causes. Today, practically anyone can raise money for a wide range of projects (including research projects) via crowdfunding. The recent use of crowdfunding to support research projects is the reason for today’s blog.
The general idea behind crowdfunding is in its reliance on a campaign that receives many small donations from lots of donors, rather than a large sum from an individual funding source. Thus, a key to a successful crowdfunding campaign is crowd appeal. And, large crowd appeal occurs when there’s a compelling story to share, which creates a sense of wanting to help and urgency about the cause or research project.
According to Lisa Mosley, there are several concepts and ideas that are very different among crowd funded research projects than traditional sponsored research projects. Below are several concepts that make the idea of crowdfunding different and unique.
- Crowdfunding relies on social networking. People need to have a way to get the word out to a very large crowd, and social media venues are the way to do that. Compelling stories, viral videos, and/or a celebrity are frequently used to entice individuals to support a project and meet specific funding goals.
- Projects funded through various crowdfunding sources are not peer reviewed. So unlike traditional sponsored research, they may or may not be based on solid scientific standards, and are subject to all federal compliance guidelines. However, the research project through crowdfunding will be accountable to the public that supported the project, which may be just as serious as a scientific peer review.
- Minimal project contributions. Individuals may support a cause or research project with very small contributions.
- Minimal reporting requirements. There are many assumptions made on the part of a contributor to a crowdfunded project. Supporters typically understand that investing in a project might be a gamble, and understand that information regarding the status of the project may be limited. When using a crowdfunding mechanism, however, reporting expectations should be explained in detail prior to launch of the fundraising campaign.
- No traditional spending restrictions. Crowdfunding assumes the owner of the project will perform due diligence in following through with using their funds as advertised. Unlike traditional sponsored research initiatives however, there are no sponsor requirements for oversight on fiscal accountability for crowdfunded research projects.
Using Research Administration Software to manage Crowdfunded Research Projects
There are several uses of research administration software in the management of crowdfunded projects. First, a grant management software solution can be helpful in tracking standard pre and post-award concerns such as award type, project periods, key personnel, institutional compliance issues, and milestones. It can also be used for document management and sub-recipient monitoring. Second, a grant accounting software solution can be helpful for internal fiscal reporting and budget spend-down management. Additional uses of research administrative systems include time and effort certification solutions, output or publication management systems, and research space management systems.
At IT Works, we offer a modular research administration software solution that supports both traditional sponsored research and crowdfunding management requirements. Please contact our team to find out how we can assist the research administrators at your institution.