New startups aim to help budding researchers with the click of a mouse

The Eureka Fund, based in San Francisco, is one of a handful of new nonprofit organizations that aim to finance small-scale, independent scientific research through online contributions, reports the New York Times. Created to give the general public an opportunity to pay for scientific research that is not fully supported by government or private sources, these organizations are part of a fledgling movement to take the idea of “crowdsourcing” and crowd financing to scientific research—although the notion of citizens financing public research that ultimately could produce profits raises questions. Two other web sites—, based in St. Petersburg, Fla., and, in Pittsburgh—plan to roll out their donation platforms to finance independent research by this summer. Eureka Fund, the first to accept donations, allows the public to give a few dollars to help young scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, and Stanford with their research projects. “I do think there’s value in having a variety of funding sources, particularly for the risky stuff,” said Franklin M. Orr Jr., a professor of energy resources engineering at Stanford. “You can get a grant for a significant amount of money, but the whole review process is pretty risk-averse.” Paul C. McIntyre, a professor of materials science and engineering at Stanford, was intrigued by the Eureka Fund model but slightly concerned about a possible lack of controls. “Unless a professor is party to these proposals and is … really the one who is given the responsibility by the university to submit them,” McIntyre said, “there’s no telling what kind of abuses could happen in their labs. Professors would never go along with it, because they’re liable for any safety or ethical violations that might occur.”

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