Crowd-funding for science: Carleton students try novel approach to raise money
Published Monday, April 11, 2016 4:43PM EDT Last Updated Monday, April 11, 2016 6:40PM EDT
What does a Red Devil squid have in common with potato salad and a space suit? Those are all crazy crowd-funding projects; including one of them right here in Ottawa that may change the way we fund science. Crowd funding is getting crowded as everyone competes for the same consumer dollar. Add to that now, a new phenomenon of crowd funding for science. And two local students hoping their giant squid will capture your heart and your wallet.
In a biology lab at Carleton University, far away from the coastal waters of California, Hanane Hadj-Moussa and Sam Logan, both Masters of Biology Candidates in Dr. Ken Storey’s lab are trying to unravel the mystery of the jumbo flying Red Devil Squid.
“They terrorize oceans,” explains Hadj-Moussa, “and have been known to rip the mask off scuba divers. We are talking aggressive little animals here, though they are not little. They grow to six feet long.”
They are aggressive but interesting, too, because the squid have some pretty cool attributes that could one day help with organ preservation or stroke. AT night, they rise to the surface of the warmer water to feed but by day, they have the ability to occupy the oxygen minimum zone hundreds of meters below the surface, in a dormant state of suspended animation.
“We believe these marine invertebrates are able to alter their basic biochemistry and internal functions to survive extreme oxyten deprivation,” she says, “but only by doing basic science and examining how nature is able to do this, can we look to apply to human applications or medical applications.”
But, basic science costs money. So, the researchers have turned to an old trick with a new twist. Crowd funding for science through a platform called www.experiment.com. Their campaign is at www.experiment.com/toughsquid.
“This is a great way of asking the community to help you follow your dreams of researching what you're really interested in,” says researcher Sam Logan.
After all, crowd funding has worked for some pretty ideas like the man in Columbus, Ohio who wanted to raise $10 to make a potato salad and instead raised $55,000. He used the money for a public party in his hometown to benefit charity.
"This is bonkers,” Zack Danger Brown admitted, “I don't know how I did it. I don't know why this happened.”
Then there was the $700-thousands raised to help the Smithsonian conserve Neil Armstrong's space suit. It was called “Reboot the Suit.”
So, is there money for one giant squid? Dr. Ken Storey is a professor of Biochemistry at Carleton University.
“Granting has changed from my day, when you had one grant and hoped for the best,” says Dr. Storey, “to a more multi-platform funding model.”
He is cautiously optimistic the girls will make their goal.
“This squid is tremendously interesting,” he adds.
They are counting on that interest to raise $3000 by the end of April with incentives for those who donate $100, like a tour of the weird and wonderful labs at Carleton University.
“We have two-storey facility,” says Hadj-Moussa, “we can show you frogs that freeze, our hibernating squirrels, our sleeping marsupials. You name it, we've got it.”
Now, you have to admit, that's better than a batch of potato salad.