Researcher Guide

Create a Project

Project Basics

Now that you've defined your project and audience, it's time to create the project page, the digital centerpiece of your experiment.

The Title

Your title should be simple and concise. The great title will capture the attention of your audience and make them curious to read more. Your main research question should come through the title.

Sometimes it can be good to phrase your title as a question, but try to avoid questions that can be easily answered with a yes or no.

Here's some examples of great project titles:

How do hormones make a bullfrog feel full?
This title helps the reader understand what broad research question is being answered. What hormones will be used and how the researcher knows when a bull frog feels full is still a mystery. This title keeps the reader interested.

How do Bobtail Squid choose their glowing bacterial partner?
This title is an open question that describes different elements of the project, squid and bacteria that glows. Similar to the first example, this title gives the reader enough information to understand the main question and keep reading.

Impact of urbanization and coastal change on Florida's mangrove ecosystems
This title is concise and clearly explains how urbanization and coastal changes have impacted a specific area. The reader still does not know exactly what specific areas of impact the research team will look at, so it gives the reader a reason to learn more.

Some examples of bad titles:

Studying the ocean
Too broad, not specific about the project goals

Can we cure breast cancer?
An example of a bad question title, too easily dismissible with "Probably not!"

Improving the Biological Synthesis of Metal Synthetic Nanoparticles with Electrochemical Methods For Alternative Vascular Therapeutics in Endothelial Cells
Too much technical jargon, and too long!

Campaign Duration

Most researchers choose to run their campaigns for 30 days. It is essential to be prepared and available during the days your campaign is running. At Experiment we use an all-or-nothing funding model, so you must reach your funding target within this campaign duration to receive any of the funds. Keep this in mind when planning.

It is a common misconception that campaigns that run longer have a higher likelihood of getting funded. The funding success of a project is dependent on the time and effort you put into sharing it every day of the campaign. It is easier to keep the momentum going with a shorter campaign. If you're not sure, pick 30 days.

The Abstract

This section is intended as a short summary of your project. A great abstract will include a minimum amount of background information, shares what you want to do, and explains why it is important. Keep this section as concise as possible. There is another section for you to share more details of the project. Keep the abstract to just a few sentences, the shorter the better. A reader should be able to read this and then turn around and accurately tell another friend what you're doing.

Be specific about what you plan to accomplish and what research question you are answering.

Here's some examples of great abstracts:

"Regions of natural gas fracking in Utah, Wyoming and Colorado often experience high concentrations of ground-level ozone, which has severe impacts on respiratory health. But where does this ozone come from? Our project will try to answer this question in Utah's Uintah Basin. Understanding the causes of high ozone levels is essential for regulators to design effective strategies to improve local air quality."

This example starts by introducing what states natural gas fracking occurs and why you should care. Directly following is the question this project plans to answer. The last point concludes how knowing this information will add to an immediate solution to the problem.

"There is no previous population study that exists on the Diamondback terrapins of Cumberland Island, Georgia. The main objective of my study is to provide baseline population data that will be used for the continued long term monitoring and management of this species on the Island. Another major objective is to identify the active nesting sites on the Island and make recommendations for protection, if warranted. Finally, I will assess the predators affecting this population."

This example starts by explaining what we know about this terrapins population, nothing. She explains what she will accomplish with this specific project. She will be the first to collect data on the population, identify nesting sites, and look at what is eating these terrapins. It is very clear to the reader what she will accomplish if the project is funded.

Project Budget

Now that you've defined your project title, categories, campaign duration, and abstract, the next step is deciding on your budget. When creating a project the budget items you list will add up to your funding target. It is important to choose your funding target wisely.

The Funding Target

Researchers use Experiment to raise funds to cover the cost of carrying out a specific research project. The funding target needs to be enough to guarantee the completion of the project you outline on the project.

Experiment is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding platform, so you need to consider what amount you can realistically raise from your networks. All-or-nothing means you must reach the funding target you set, or you won’t receive any of the funds. You are almost always better off starting with the lowest funding target possible that still allows you complete the first step of the project. You can always raise beyond your funding target and you keep all the funds beyond your first funding target.

Experiment charges a 5% platform fee plus payment processing fees (3-5%). If you do not reach your funding target there is no fee and none of your backers are charged. The best way to show this in your budget items is to add the fee to each budget item. Try to keep the numbers even, so round up and down when necessary.

Below is a graph that shows a distribution of budgets for projects that have successfully fundraised on Experiment.

This shows a distribution of successful projects so far - so manage expectations accordingly! It is always better to break down your project into the minimum amount needed to get going.

Most projects that successfully fundraise chose budgets of $5,000 or less. If this is your first time crowdfunding and you have no yet built a community of engaged supporters, choose a budget of $5,000 or less. If you cannot break your project down into a roughly $5,000 chunk, reconsider whether or not crowdfunding is the most effective strategy for acquiring funding.

The great thing about crowdfunding is you control your own destiny. You have the power to set yourself up for success. You set the funding target. You set the funding timeline.

Any funding target beyond $5,000 takes a substantial amount of planning to be successful at fundraising. All crowdfunding campaigns start with people you know and grow from there.

Budget Summary

How do your budget items help you complete your research project? Why you need the budget items listed? How will they be used? When do you plan to complete the project? If you are using the funding for a small part of your project explain why this small part is critical to a larger project.

Project Context

Chances are you came up with this idea because you were inspired by something you observed, experienced, or read. What inspired you to focus on this research question? Explain what we know about the topic and cite peer-reviewed research papers. You can cite papers by linking key words directly to a paper.

Here's some examples of great answers to the question "What is the context of this project?":

"During the late Pleistocene epoch, an ice sheet stretched across Canada with lobes reaching into WA and MT, damming the Clark Fork River in western MT. This created a massive lake known as Glacial Lake Missoula, and 15,000 years ago, the dam broke. This caused a series of catastrophic floods with discharges more than ten times the combined flow of all rivers on earth, scarring the landscape forever. Some of the waters back-eddied into the Willamette Valley, depositing massive boulders, fertile soils, and potentially living trees that persist today! The location, structure, and proximity of these aspens to flood deposits suggests that they were not planted, but originated somewhere in the flood's path. Sequences in their DNA can be analyzed in-depth to indicate their true origin."

This example explains the history of the floods and exactly why they are led to believe that the aspens are not planted. They propose a known technique, DNA sequencing, to analyze where these trees originated from.

"The fundamental question I am trying to answer is whether PARP inhibitors can be used to prevent the production of BRCA mutant gametes. This may provide a mechanism to prevent transmission of BRCA mutations to offspring.

To test the hypothesis that BRCA mutation transmission can be prevented with PARP inhibitors, an animal model that is highly relevant to human BRCA mutation carriers will be used. BRCA mutant mice develop breast tumors that histologically resemble human BRCA mutant cancers and Brca deficient cells from these mice are exquisitely sensitive to PARP inhibition, similarly to humans. The Mendelian ratio of inheritance of Brca mutations is identical to that of human BRCA carriers. Therefore heterozygous mutant mice can be used to determine whether PARP inhibitor administration during conception can prevent transmission of BRCA mutations to offspring.""


This example is very technical, however concisely explains the background. To start off she explains the fundamental question and follows this with a sentence that explains how answering this fundamental question could provide a solution for preventing transmission of mutations to offspring. To understand how this works, the reader needs to have quite a bit of background information. She explains that she is using a mouse model that inherits mutations at the same ratio as human BRCA carriers. She ends by stating her expected outcome if the PARP inhibitor works. Most cell and molecular biology projects are going to be difficult to explain to another person, but as you see here it can be done. Don't try to dumb down the science. You can keep the text technical, but it has to be clear and concise.

Project Significance

Now is your chance to convince people this is a problem worth working on. This research question is so important that other people should give you their money. Focus on a well defined part of the research question and why having data is immediately valuable. It is okay if you are replicating a study, but it is your job to explain why replication is important.

Here's some examples of great answers to "What is the significance of this project?":

"anle138b is the most promising anti-prion compound yet discovered, but to date it has only been tested in vivo against one prion strain. This project will determine its efficacy against an entirely different strain of prions, in a model that closely mimics the pathology of a human prion disease.

Prion diseases are extremely rapid, with mortality following only months after initial symptoms. However, many carriers of genetic prion diseases - including us - have undergone predictive genetic testing and know their status decades before the onset of any symptoms. Genetic prion diseases provide an opportunity for early intervention and a potentially large therapeutic effect."


The scientists start off by explaining why we should bet on this anti-prion compound. This compound has already been tested against one prion strain. What they want to know is if this same compound will be effective against a different strain of prions that affect humans. The second paragraph explains the significance to patients. If we are able to show that this compound can combat prions disease in a model similar to humans we could treat patients before they exhibit symptoms.

"Research on the vocalizations of these songbirds is essential to better understand birdsong evolution as well as the impacts human land use has on bird populations. What this study intends to do is to look at a never-before studied population of non-native birds in Hawaii. We hope to see, through recording songs, if geographical distance as well as anthropogenic influences have changed the songs from their mainland counterparts, and identify exactly what those changes are.

This study is especially important as, with this information, we not only will be able to see if speciation is occurring between populations, but also be able to observe these changes in real time.""


This explains how her study will show the impact of human land use on bird populations. This study needs to be done because it looks at a population of birds that has never been studied in Hawaii before. She states the specific impact this study will have on the scientific community.

Project Goals

What are you actually going to do to answer the research question and when? Explain your experimental design. If it is too complicated for a few sentences, explain it briefly and link to a lab note with greater detail. You should be able to accomplish all of these goals with the budget or funding goal you outline.

If you plan to publish your research you can include this here. Do not include goals that are not immediately achievable like curing a disease, saving a species. Be honest about what you can accomplish with the budget for this specific project.

This section needs to be written in paragraph form. It can be tempting to write this in bullet points or in a numbered list. The style this should be written in is the same style you would use when talking to another human in real life, conversational.

Here's some examples of great answers to "What are the goals of the project?":

Banner Image

The banner image is the best way to hook people into your project. It's also the first thing people will see!

A compelling banner image is not only visually exciting, but it's unique to your project. Great banners can be intricately detailed or very simple, but every project should use it as a chance to stand out.

This photo must be at least 1280 pixels x 720 pixels in size, and high quality. Avoid blurry or pixelated images. The best way to get captivating and relevant images is to provide them yourself, but if you're unable to do so then there are plenty of great resources online for finding openly licensed images.

For examples, just browse through our Discover page to look at past funded projects.

Flickr.com and 500px are great repositories with many images under Creative Commons licenses. There are a number of other optimized search engines, such as Creative Commons Search and Compfight.

Research Team

Your donors will want to know the people behind the science. Here are a few questions that can guide you in writing your biography section of the project:

  • Why are you passionate about this area of science?
  • What experiences have prepared you to conduct this research project?
  • Where did you earn your relevant degrees?
  • What is it about your background that makes you the best scientist to take on this project?

Have you published in a scientific journal? Presented at a conference? Do you have any presentations that you are willing to link to? Great credibility here will make funders more likely to trust that you'll deliver real scientific progress.

Helpful Storyboards

On Experiment, the very best projects are also great at storytelling. These projects treat backers like they are collaborators on a journey, and in order to do this well the project must be clear, concise, and engaging. Anyone should understand why your project is important.



Storyboard Template

Link: Download A Storyboard Template

Storyboards look like the template above: individual frames where you can outline the talking points. It can helpful to know what you'll be conveying visually as well. This is especially helpful when making a project video.

Take a look at storyboards made for other Experiment videos:



Storyboard Examples

Example #1: Using smart feeders to increase lemur activity and stimulate human interest
Example #2: Assessing oyster restoration using morphological records and next-generation sequencing
Example #3: Mycobius Project

For more, click here to see a small collection of storyboards.



Defining Your Project Message

We've also created an outline of questions that you can use to determine your project's message that you would convey through the video.

1. Why should I care about this project?

Immediately in your video you should state why this project is important. Don’t wait to say this, and try to avoid being too technical. Make it extremely clear - why should someone care?

By stating the impact of this project first, you capture people’s attention right away. Your audience will have short attention spans, so dive straight to the good stuff.


2. What’s challenging about this scientific approach?

Get into the high-level challenges about this project. What’s difficult about solving this problem? Why has no one done this before? Is there something novel or unique about what you are doing?

Help your audience to understand why this experiment is worth pursuing. This is also how you separate your project from others out there that are similar. Stand out by laying down the scientific gauntlet and share how you'll address it.


3. Why are you excited about this project?

At this point, you should get personal. Clearly and loudly make a claim for what you believe makes this project cool. There are many possible reasons an experiment can be cool, but it's a good starting point to hear why you're personally excited and can't wait to get started.

If you have trouble with this step, then tell the journey. Share how you arrived at this idea, explain your previous attempts and failures, or discuss the history of this topic of research. Somewhere along that path will be clear evidence of why you think this project is so scientifically awesome.

If you can get readily excited about this, then so will others. It’s all about projecting and sharing your confidence about your science. A world where other strangers can also get excited about your work is a better world for everyone.


4. Make the ask!

Every good message ends with a clear and direct ask. Inform the audience what is needed to move the science forward.

A successful ask feels like you're inviting someone into a rare opportunity to be a part of something bigger. Think about it from your audience's perspective: this is the first time anyone's had a chance to directly fund a great research project. They'll be excited to participate and see the results, but the audience will need to hear about this opportunity from you first.

Motivate people to action by laying out a clear plan of how their contributions will help. What will the funds unlock? Give your best pitch as to why an incredible scientific journey won't be as grand without their participation.

Project Video

Making a great project video will help win over backers through effective science communication. This can be difficult, because you have to be concise, you have to think about your message, and you'll probably go through a few tries. Even if it's a new thing for you, you're guaranteed to be challenged in a good way. You'll definitely walk away having picked up a few new skills!

This science communication approach works. Projects with videos are 60% more likely to be fully funded, and are shared twice as much. But, it’s not just putting up a video that works, but making a great video that thoughtfully conveys the science behind your project to a wide audience.





Beforehand

Here are some things you should consider before making the video


Get early feedback on the idea.

Talk through your project idea with people who are not familiar with your work. Try to find what makes your project interesting. Ask yourself: what gets others excited? Once you figure this out, you can incorporate and emphasize it into your video.

You’ll need some equipment.

The bare minimum you will need is a smartphone or computer camera that can record videos. Better would be a microphone of some sort to capture great audio. The best scenario is a multi HD-camera setup with lighting, but it's definitely not required.

Make a storyboard for your project.

In case you haven't already checked out the previous section, a storyboard is an outline of what you’ll be saying in your video. It’s similar to a script, but more flexible. The most important part of putting together a storyboard is figuring out your message before you go to shoot the video.

Your storyboard should be simple and short. Try to fit everything into just a few minutes' worth of talking points. The final video should be 2-3 minutes long, so don't try to script too much content that you'll end up later having to scrap.





Video Content Requirements

All project videos have a few requirements that must be met. These requirements are meant to ensure that each project video addresses key parts about the project, and that they'll follow the format.


1. Videos must be under 3 minutes in length

2. You clearly describe the experimental hypothesis

3. Describe why the project is important (i.e. what is the project impact?)

4. Describe what's novel about the experiment (i.e. what are the challenges?)

5. Make a clear pitch on why backers should support the project

6. No vertical videos

7. Audio must be clear and coherent

If your project video is missing one or more of these guidelines, then we'll ask that you address it or we can work with you to improve the video.





Style and Voice Guidelines


Don't use words that you would say to another scientist.

Jargon, abbreviations, and specific terms may be effective in a technical setting, but it’s the easiest way to turn off and lose an audience who may not be familiar with the topic. Instead, strive to...

Be simple.

Even if you’re dealing with complex technical topics or procedures, try to find the simplest way to describe it. Your goal is to convey your message with as few words as possible. This takes practice, so don't be afraid to get feedback from friends and family first.

Be confident.

As a scientist, you sometimes have to juggle the roles of saying things that are accurate while also trying to explain things broadly. Even if you’re unsure of the results or the science, you can still be confident about why the experiment is important.





Visual Guidelines


Have interesting visuals.

The best way to support your voice is with great images or footage that compliments your topic, but you have to make sure that the images are relevant to the discussion.

Almost always, shots of an empty lab bench or someone pipetting isn't as exciting as you think. Instead, dig deeper and show the inner workings of the project. Mix it up!

Avoid powerpoint slides.

Avoid uninteresting figures with lots of white space, or too many data points. Just like your storyboard and message, your visuals should be concise and simple.

Get in front of the camera.

It’s always great to see the bright smiling faces of the people behind the project. It helps build trust and lets the audience begin to connect with you. Introduce yourself, your collaborators, and anyone else who can help make the science a reality.





Sound


Clear and crisp sound is the difference between a bad video and a good video. Even if you can’t get great visual footage, a project with bad or unclear sound is simply unusable.

If you’re able to, obtain a microphone to record external audio which you can later sync up in video software. If you can’t, then try to reduce any extra background noises (e.g. lab fridges) or distracting sounds (e.g. squeaky chairs or echos).





Technical Considerations


Easy and free editing phone apps like Directr and Magisto can produce great videos in a pinch. Most free editing software like iMovie or Movie Maker can also edit videos.

Try to export to formats like .mov, .mp4, or .avi.

Videos should be 2-3 minutes in length.

No vertical videos!

If you have any technical questions, just send us a message and we can help.





Examples

In the end, don’t worry too much about production value or fancy slides. The video just has to be clear, describe what you are doing, and short.

Now that you’ve learned about the basics, check out these great examples from past successful Experiment campaigns to see how it all comes together.





Milestones

Inviting a community of individuals to financially contribute to your research project is hard. We know. By accepting money from the crowd you are not just taking money, you are signing a social contract with your community. This gives you a lot of power. With power comes responsibility.

We believe that scientists should keep control of their research. Milestones are intended to allow you to share your research expectations openly on your own terms. By setting milestones early, your backers will know what to expect.

Science rarely turns out the way we expect. The fact that science is non linear process is a message that needs to be heard by the community and we strive to continually push this message. Because of the unpredictable nature of answering a question no human has answered, Milestones allows for flexibility. We understand that objectives and goals change. Alexander Fleming did not discover Penicillin by following a linear path. In the same vein, when you make your next big discovery we don't expect you to follow a linear path. Milestones allows you to change your objectives at anytime. To be fair and transparent with the community changes will be reflected publicly in your timeline.

At least one milestone is required for project submission and launch. Each milestone requires a description and a expected completion date. Milestones are marked as completed and communicated to your community with an accompanied lab note. Once all your milestones are completed, the project will be considered finished and you will be able to submit a final result.

We closely follow the success of projects on Experiment. We want to be clear that success is not defined by the a successful fundraise. Success to our community means that the research project was fully executed to the best of your ability. Whether or not the data is conclusive doesn't matter. Here at Experiment we believe that the value is sharing the process and the learning.

Knowing that, here are some tips for setting your milestones.

Be realistic.

It is better to exceed expectations than to fall short. Try not to be overly ambitious. Be realistic. Be honest.

Be specific.

Break down large milestones into smaller parts. Try to see each milestone as something specific that you can finish.

Know that you can change your mind.

The way we structure how funds are transferred gives you and your team full flexibility of funds. If your project changes, don't be afraid to change direction. We know it is hard to write this type of message to a large audience. Our staff is always available to review your changes if you're afraid how the community will respond. If you change your mind too much, you may lose the trust of your community. No one wants that.

Be concise, but don't over communicate. Keep an open channel.

Milestones have a strict character limit which requires conciseness. Make it easy for your audience to understand what you're trying to accomplish in a short message. One way to keep your audience engaged is to let them know you are an open channel. Encourage backers to ask you clarifying questions.

Setting Milestones

Milestones are set before your project is submitted for review. We recommend setting between 4-8 milestones. Milestones are set in your project proposal.

Each Milestone requires a description and a estimated completion date. The estimated completion date requires a month, date, and year. If you don't know the exact date, but can estimate the month of completion choose the first of the month.

For projects funded before the existence of Milestones, you can go into edit your project and add Milestones.

Milestones will be locked once your project launches. Once your project is launched changes to Milestones will be logged publicly.

Milestones are reflected in your Timeline on your Project Page and on individual Lab Notes.

Completing Milestones

Milestones are completed with a published lab note. To mark a Milestone as complete, create a new lab note and write a post about the completion of the Milestone. Including photos, data, or other visual content is encouraged.

Before publishing your lab note, in the Milestone section select the Milestone that you've completed. Lab notes can have many Milestones. However a single Milestone can only belong to one lab note.

Changing Milestones

After your project launches, Milestones are publicly available.

You can go into edit your Milestones at anytime. When a Milestone is edited the updates will be reflected in your project Timeline.

It is recommended that you include a lab note with a Milestone change to keep things transparent, but it is not required.

We know that delivering bad or unexpected news can be difficult. We're here to deliver this news with you. If you need another opinion, our staff is always available to give our opinion. We've got your back.

Cancelling Milestones

If something comes up and you are unable to complete your project you can cancel milestones. We encourage you to keep the funds and use it for research. Cancelling a Milestone requires an accompanied lab note which is emailed to your backers. If you're struggling to write this lab note, we can help. We know this can happen.

We believe in you.

We believe in the novel work you're doing. Know that with each milestone you accomplish you're throwing a new stone on top of the mountain of knowledge. This mountain was created over thousands of years of humans throwing new stones onto the pile. Your stones matter.

Style and Voice

Visitors and backers will be coming from around the internet to view your project. They will sometimes be fellow scientists, but more likely, they’ll know very little about your area of expertise.

Keep the target audience in mind. Rather than trying to simplify a really complex topic, here’s a suggestion: focus on how you'll deliver results. The big message that you want to stick with your audience is going to be painting the bigger picture – we're close to answering an important question and you're inviting everyone to be a part of it.

Use accessible language. While it may be normal for you and your journal club members to use technical jargon to wrap up scientific ideas, it might not form the connection with backers that you’re thinking of. That doesn't mean avoid technical topics, since viewers are always eager to learn. Just be aware of the vocabulary you are using and the pace of the ideas you're presenting.

At Experiment, we try to bring out the magic and quirkiness of science. The best part about being a scientist isn't the glamour, the fun equipment, or the money. When you've been in science long enough, you realize it's about people, and what people bring to the research that they do. This is what your project should convey - creativity and individuality.