Crowdfunding… for science! Some thoughts in media res.

This is a guest post by Rachel Aronson, who’s project Climate Refugees: Don’t let their culture melt away” is currently featured on Petridish.

When my advisor, Kiki Jenkins, asked me two months ago if I could pull together a crowdfunding proposal for Petridish in one weekend, I wasn’t thinking about what it all meant. I was too busy writing, editing, and conning my good friend Dave into making the video (and my boyfriend into being the boom operator).

Once the video, photos and my project summary had been mailed off, I had the chance, somewhat belatedly, to do a little thinking about what the real implications of crowdfunding a science research project are.

At the beginning, the worst part of crowdfunding my thesis research on climate refugees was that I had to face my own fears about showing people what I want to do before I have any research to back it up, and being afraid that the world was going to laugh in my face. The best part has been finding out that if an idea is powerful enough, people are willing to back you first and then give you the chance to go out and learn something new.

Then there were practical questions. How can I tweet my project in a way that people want to read? When will my Facebook friends start thinking that I’ve gone overboard with updates? I think I’ve been walking that tightrope by sharing content about climate (and not just my own, but other people’s work that I find interesting). No one has defriended me… yet.

Crowdfunding has been a great personal adventure. Seeing that so many people also want to know how place-based cultures can survive climate change has been a huge confidence booster. I’ve been interviewed by an Australian journalist. One classmate told me that my video made her cry. People whose work I really admire have backed the project, and people who I’m meeting online for the first time have donated too.

Currently, I personally know just one out of every six backers on my project. That’s five out of every six backers who are total strangers, just people who agree that it’s important that we put a human face on climate change.

As the next two weeks close, I’m excited to see who else I can connect with through this project. As I start making concrete plans to go to Alaska and meet the people who I want to write about, it’s exciting to know that it’s not just me, I have a whole crew cheering me on.

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