Seeking to Help Budding Researchers With a Click of the Mouse

April, 2010
The New York Times

Dan Kammen advocates a new class of funding opportunities for young researchers. A handful of new nonprofit organizations give the general public the opportunity to finance innovative research proposals that are not fully supported by government or private sources. The new movement is called crowd-sourcing and crowd-financing and it allows internet users to easily donate small amounts of money to selected research projects. While the homepage of EurekaFund seems already well advanced, other players like Scieflies or Fund Science are expected ramp up this summer.

The traditional funding infrastructure is often oriented towards senior principal investigators who receive large funds with which they can finance a number of graduate or postdoctoral students. To the extent that a young researcher works outside of the traditional research foci of an university and their professors, funding may become scarce though.

“The more you want to be interdisciplinary, break boundaries,” Dr. Kammen said, “the less well it works because those big grants help senior investigators who are in traditional areas.”

With the help of the EurekaFund research at RAEL leading to the Berkeley FIRST program was initially financed, which has now received national support in the form of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) programs.