This is the second of a two-part series to cover the changing dynamics of academia in USA and other Western countries. In the first part, we discussed about bloated university system in “Columbia U. Kicks Out ‘Star’ Profs for not Getting Enough NIH Grants to Cover 80% Salary”.
Ethan O. Perlstein for years followed a traditional path as a scientist. He earned a Ph.D. in molecular biology from Harvard, spent five years doing postdoctoral research at Princeton and led a team that published two papers on pharmacology.
But last year, Dr. Perlstein was turned down by 27 universities when he sought a tenure-track position to set up his own lab. Hundreds of candidates had applied for a small number of positions, the universities said, a situation made worse by cuts in federal research funding.
So Dr. Perlstein decided to raise $1.5 million for his lab in a different way: through crowdfunding.
That is a very commendable effort and an expected outcome of the parasitic bloat at the universities. As we explained in many commentaries -
(i) Internet is cutting down the cost of communication and thus the cost of teaching/research,
(ii) Universities are becoming utterly incompetent by fully relying on debt- funded grants and debt-funded student tuition,
(iii) The centralized bureaucracy at the government likes to reward big wasteful projects from by people they know well,
(iv) The money for those centralized projects come from taxpayers (individuals, small businesses, mid-sized businesses), who are feeling pinch in their own life due to competition from (i).
If you follow (i)-(iv) to a logical conclusion, you will clearly see that the current university system will collapse on its own weight. Therefore, it is necessary to have an alternative in place to continue scientific progress, as we discussed below.
Will crowd-funding work? It should, given that tax-funded research is a wasteful way to crowd-fund science anyway.
Dr. Perlstein and a colleague created a short video explaining the concept and posted it on RocketHub. The scientists offered prizes, including the chance to talk science over beer for people who donated $100 or more. The men quickly raised $25,000 from family, friends and strangers. Experiments on the theory are under way.
Still, crowdfunding for scientific research poses challenges.
Margaret Anderson, executive director of FasterCures, a group that tries to accelerate the development of drugs, agreed that crowdfunding allows the public to play a greater role in science. The problem, she said, can come when people without a strong understanding of science watch a pitch on YouTube and try to determine “which idea is good and which isn’t.’’
That, some say, could result in sexy but scientifically questionable research being funded while less flashy but worthier efforts aren’t.
The real challenges are elsewhere, as discussed by several readers of ‘In the Pipeline’ blog. The centralized government created myriads of laws that the small organization like the one by Perlstein will have to abide by.
A qualified or accredited investor is a specific term defined in Rule 501(a) of Regulation D. By getting investment only from qualified investors one substantially simplifies the amount of paperwork, regulatory approval, and potential legal problems.
This is something I’v always wondered about crowdsourcing. How entities handle not only the question of accredited investors but also getting around regulations which limit “general solicitations”.
The only way it works with small investors is they are given a product in return - or the promise of a product. So, if I invest $100 in his ‘research’ it is illegal according to the SEC (that is another story of government meddling) but if he in turn sends me say three coupons that can be redeemed for some product or service, it does not get the interest of the SEC.
Seems a little green to me with no MENTION OF PATENTS-
When trying to make money in science they really mean a lot to investors.