Crowdfunding: Good practice for science communication and citizen science

Lab Note #14
Apr 28, 2015

Has my experience crowdfunding been practice for starting a citizen science program in South Africa? I hadn't thought of it as practice until Andrea, a friend (and backer), asked about engaging stakeholders.

Well Andrea, I plan to do some of the same activities that I have been doing for crowdfunding (e.g. spending time at local markets, community events, out at trailheads, etc). I also hope to work with school teachers and national park outreach coordinators. If you have additional ideas, please comment below.

Have these interactions and conversations been good practice for what I set out to do in South Africa?

I have personally handed out between 200-300 flyers, and most of those interactions included unique conversations. Though I have had a couple hundred conversations with strangers, they are generally brief, requiring me to quickly get to the point and make it socially relevant. I think I have improved as the campaign has gone on, but I still think I am a poor salesman.

Science communicators often advocate for creating and practicing 'your elevator pitch'— a challenge to communicate the scope of your research to someone outside your field within the time it takes to ride an elevator a few floors. Crowdfunding compels you to practice your elevator pitch hundreds of times.

I expect to spend time at local markets and trailheads learning from locals and providing information about the program in South Africa.

I didn't really know what I was getting into when I launched this crowdfunding campaign. I saw it as a way to engage the public, which to me, is a clear way to make a positive impact.

Photo adapted from: 'Science through a microphone'

Effective science communication will be key for closing the gap between scientists and the public. Being able to communicate technical details to a lay audience broadens your reach, ultimately inspiring more people, informing more decisions, and making a greater impact.

Science communication is so important that I have made a separate lab note all about it: A city model for producing effective science communicators.

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