What if your research was funded by 100 strangers who had read your research proposal online and clicked “donate”? You’d feel responsible to write about your research in a more widely accessible way. You might pledge to provide monthly updates to your patrons in lieu of sending them a physical object. Or maybe high-paying donors could receive a 3-D printed physical representation, a piece of software, or access to an application online. While mathematics may not be winning any popularity contests amidst the general populous, scientific research is still appreciated enough by the general public that researchers are currently using sites like https://experiment.com/. This site is particularly tailored to funding science research just as sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo are tailored to help start-up businesses. I was first drawn to this idea when I noticed several mathematics education projects seeking funds through crowd funding:
- Gary Antonick at the New York Times Numberplay blog recently featured Primo, a mathematical game designed by Dan Finkel, who blogs at Math For Love. The game is based off of thinking of prime factors as corresponding to different colors, allowing even younger children to play the game and learn basic operations as well as logical strategies for controlling their two pawns.
- Similarly, the Moebius Noodles blog is hosting a crowdfunding campaign for Camp Logic, a book that introduces older children to logic via games and puzzles. You can preview the book for free, which is written by Mark Saul and Sian Zelbo from the Courant Institute’s Center for Mathematical Talent.
Seeing the success enjoyed by these campaigns so far made me think about how this could be a partial solution to the problems discussed by Cathy O’Neil at Mathbabe concerning the declining number of research projects funded by government funds. One example of a research project involving mathematics that seems to have engaged many individuals enough to garner their dollars is OpenWorm. This is a project that aims to create a digital worm from scratch by using scientists’ knowledge of the molecular structures within the worm. The idea would be that in the future, some research on an animal could be conducted by simply “downloading” the animal. By programming low-level interactions within the worm, the project organizers have seen the movements that one might expect arise “organically”. Of course all of this modeling requires a ton of mathematics. The model is open source so that anyone can view the code using GitHub.