15 Sep 2014

Crowdfunding Science – from cosmic rays to cows!

By Lily

This is a guest blog by Natalie Jonk, founder of Walacea.

Walacea is the first UK crowdfunding platform exclusively for scientific research.  Our aim is to help more research get funded and to give more scientists an opportunity to fulfil their careers in academia.  Britain has always had some very exceptional brains, Darwin and Wallace (evolution), Fleming (antibiotics), Newton (gravity) and we want to help the UK nurture scientists rather than stifle them which is what the current funding system is doing.  It has never been more difficult and time consuming for scientists to secure funding and we believe society is in need of some major scientific discoveries, particularly when you look at global warming and looming antibiotic resistence.


We want scientists to have the opportunity to conduct the experiments they wish both for their own fulfillment and for the progress of mankind.  Walacea will introduce the public to the experiments our scientists want to conduct and for the first time give them the opportunity to take you on their journey of discovery by offering all sorts of opportunities to track their research as it develops. Our vision is for the public to be able to create your own bespoke Discovery Channel through lab notes, video tutorials, field trips and lots of other fun and slightly geeky science ventures!


Here are some of our star projects so far…

1. Measuring brain plasticity in Children

Ever wondered about how much of what you see is real and how much is manifested by the mind? This project is being conducted by leading scientist Prof Bruce Hood who is doing a TED talk in October. If you back this project you will have the chance to win your very own glasses that tilt your vision by 30 degrees.  The brain adjusts fairly quickly to wearing these glasses and if you have your own pair you can compete with your friends to see whose brain adapts the fastest! He likens is research to a real world version of The Matrix…

2. Ocean Acidification in the UK

It’s really happening, the oceans are becoming more acidic due to rising CO2, there have been a number of disasters worldwide in relation to this including oysters not being able to survive in parts of America as their shell integrity is reduced, this is bad for the economy but there are other disasters too, recently 50 tonnes of popoche cub fish died and no one know why.

One of our scientists, Dr Suzanne Jennions (university of Bristol) is researching what will happen to crabs and mussels in UK water if CO2 levels continue to rise so we can make sure we develop the knowledge to look after our marine life and safeguard their future.   Suzanne will be offering podcasts, lab visits, seminars and live online Q&As for those who back her work.

3. Cosmic Ray Detectors

No one knows a great deal about cosmic rays so another one of our scientists from Bristol has decided that a great way of collecting more data is to get schools involved.  It’s a win win project, school kids get to learn how to conduct a real experiment that involves them applying physics, maths and computer science and solve scientific problems rather than repeat experiments where the answers already exist.  In addition, we as a society quickly grow overall human knowledge in this mysterious area.  Jaap will be offering tutorials on a range of detectors including those used for nuclear bombs and volcanology. He will also give a lucky few a tour of his lab where you get to see the making of all sorts of detectors and visit the highest point in Bristol.

4. Sustainable Milk production and keeping cows happy!

This project is seeking to find out the truth about whether feeding cows grain or grass is better for the environment.  There are arguments that grain is better but the data has largely ignored the environmental cost of growing the grain and transporting it.  The scientists at Wyke Farm are planning on using complex algorithms to find out the truth.  They want cows to be fed grass not grain and they want to show the benefits and hopefully influence policy. Rewards are seminars, live Q&A and most importantly a party on the farm in Somerset which is located conveniently close to a cider farm!!

5. Tracking mammals in Borneo from the Sky

This project is the first of it’s kind.  The scientists who are part of the SAFE project (A world leading ecology science programme researching Sustainability of Altered Forest Ecosystems) are recording what happens to mammals as the forest is removed using drones and radiotags.  Do the mammals find new homes, do they breed again, how skilled are they at surviving. Backers of this project will have the opportunity to learn lots more about life in the jungle in Borneo through podcasts, seminars and even going to stay at the research camps and get real ecology research experience with a range of scientists working out there.

Read more at http://www.walacea.com/