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Scientist to crowdfund their salaries

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The Story

In what might be a first for a British university, a new researcher will have the chance to practice what they preach by crowd-funding their own salary.

The researcher will effectively be among the first to understand how the research landscape might change in the wake of crowd-funding.

The University of Portsmouth is advertising for a research fellow whose role will be to examine the type of academic research that successfully generates crowd-funding support and whether crowd-funding has the potential to decide what research is carried out.

Once their tenure is up the researcher could keep their job for an additional year if they show they understand the practice of crowd-funding as well as the theory.

The post was created to coincide with a broader study, for which economist Dr Joe Cox won a £750,000 grant to examine why people give their time and money to help others through crowd-funding and crowd-sourcing projects.

Better understanding this new phenomenon is an economic imperative for universities, according to Dr Cox.

He said: “Do people tend to give more to imaginative projects or those with greater levels of scientific rigour?  If so, what are the implications for a whole range of subjects and projects?”

Asking a researcher to crowd-fund their own salary wasn’t as peculiar as it sounded, he said, because any researcher who wins funding is likely to have their tenure extended. But he does think Portsmouth is ahead of the curve in tackling this new subject and possible future funding stream.

He said: “Relatively little is known about the crowd-funding phenomenon and the impact it might have on academic research.

“We want to know more about the sort of research projects that inspire people to open their wallets and donate.  Crowd-funding has the potential to close the gap between academics and the public, making it much easier for people to choose the research they want to support and to see exactly what is being done with their money. These are challenging and exciting times.”

The researcher will also be expected to advise other academics in the University on how to generate crowd-funding support for their research projects.

Dr Cox said: “If you spend two years researching crowd-funding it seems reasonable that you would know how and where to source crowd-funding for research.

“Crowd-funding is a new and exciting area and this is an unusual and novel challenge, almost a case of asking the candidate to practice what they preach.”

The post-holder’s research has interesting implications for the sustainability of research activity more broadly and that it was likely to become increasingly important for researchers to better understand the types of projects the public typically choose to support, he added.

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