What do Darwin, penguins, poop, fire, and sheep have in common? A crowd-funding quest(ion)

Another insight into how little funding is available for real science.

The Contemplative Mammoth

It’s no secret that science funding rates are, in a word, abysmal*. As a pre-tenure faculty member, this has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I’ve devoted a substantial portion of my year to grant writing (fingers crossed!). There’s a running joke that you typically get funded to do the work you did already, and in a way, it’s true; “preliminary” data is an important component of a strong grant proposal.

Rockhopper penguin, Kidney Island. The Falklands are home to the largest rockhopper rookery in the world. Photo by the author. Rockhopper penguin, Kidney Island. The Falklands are home to the largest rockhopper rookery in the world. Photo by the author.

But how do you get that data? There’s a critical gap in opportunities to fund promising, early-stage, and potentially risky work. This becomes especially true when you’ve got graduate students, like I do, that came with their own funding (in my case, an IGERT student and a university fellowship). They’re not on a grant, which means while they’re funded…

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