Ever been disappointed by your annual pay rise? Spare a thought for the University of Portsmouth research fellow who will be asked to fund his or her own salary via an online appeal for donations.
In what is thought to be a first for a UK university, Portsmouth will hire a scholar to research crowdfunding, the process of securing investment by appealing to the public for donations. But an initial two-year contract will be extended only if the fellow can personally raise cash towards the post’s salary costs.
“Because of the nature of the successful applicant’s research, we’re hoping they can practise what they preach and secure some funding to continue their work,” said Joe Cox, an economist who leads a team that has won a £750,000 grant from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council to research the intricacies of crowdfunding.
If the newly appointed researcher fails, it could mark the end of the road for their time on the project, Dr Cox said. But he conceded that Portsmouth would not necessarily expect the applicant to raise 100 per cent of their earnings.
“If you look at sites that feature people attempting to crowdfund their research, then the figures aren’t always that high but we hope they will raise a good amount,” he said.
The researcher will also be expected to advise other academics in the university on how to generate crowdfunding support for their research. Websites such as Geekfunder and RocketHub allow researchers to outline their proposed research projects in the hope of attracting public contributions to its financing.
The practice is becoming more commonplace, particularly in the US. The University of Virginia has created a crowdfunding section on its website, where alumni can donate to the institution’s research projects, while the Georgia Institute of Technology has developed Georgia Tech Starter: a site that allows science researchers to court investment from the general public.
“To an extent, the UK has been slow out of the blocks on crowdfunding,” Dr Cox said.
“This person we bring in will spend two years developing a thorough understanding of crowdfunding – establishing the key factors that attract funding.
“This will allow us to look at research projects within Portsmouth that might be suitable for this approach and will have a good chance of attracting funding.”
Despite the potential of crowdfunding, it has some way to go if it is to replace existing funding mechanisms, Dr Cox added. “It certainly complements traditional funding nicely, though.”