Microryza brings crowd-funding to scientific research
By Darren Quick
April 13, 2012
Crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter have proven popular for groups and individuals looking to get a consumer product, movie, music or video game project off the ground. Now a group of researchers and scientists is adopting a similar crowd-funding model to raise money for scientific research projects. The Microryza website, which launched this week, lets the public get behind research they care about and maybe help it get out of the lab.
Microryza is named after a microscopic fungi called Mycorrhizae that lives in the roots of plants. Just as the fungi can support an entire ecosystem of roots in sufficient numbers, the team behind Microryza hopes that a community of individuals will support the development of new ideas and discoveries.
Unlike Kickstarter projects that can offer backers a tangible product for their support, a lot of Microryza projects can only offer the warm fuzzy feeling you’ll get for aiding in something worthwhile. Although, due to the nature of research, no guarantees in terms of results can made. But like Kickstarter, no money changes hands until the project’s target goal is reached.
Importantly, the researchers retain 100 percent ownership of their project and its results and get to choose how much material they disclose. While backers will generally like to keep apprised of project developments and findings, researchers aren’t obliged to provide updates. Those worried about getting scooped by a competitor will need to find a balance regarding just how much data they make publicly available and how much they keep to themselves.
The site has already attracted a number of projects, from excavating and bringing the bones of a triceratops to Seattle’s Burke Museum, to exploring the evolution of butterfly bushes, with backers able to get on board for as little as US$1.
There is a long history of scientific breakthroughs coming from surprising sources, so here’s hoping that Microryza proves fertile ground for some worthy discoveries.