There are many ways to get funding, although researchers are normally expected to apply for grants and scholarships. Unfortunately, the competition for these is fierce and the success rate of such applications is rather low. I felt this was not the kind of funding route I wanted to rely on. Instead, I decided to try science crowdfunding, an innovative way for scientists to raise funding and engage with the public at the same time. This is important to me for several reasons:
Firstly, I think it is necessary to bridge the gap between scientists and the public. The public rarely knows what exactly scientists do, how their research is performed and what the challenges are that scientists encounter. And often, the public are confronted with research results which are poorly communicated and do very little to increase understanding and support of science in the public domain. How can we scientists expect to get support from the public if we don’t manage to connect with them?
Secondly, I believe that it is important to show children and adults alike how interesting and important science is. And how much fun it can be!! Unfortunately, I encounter many school children who have lost an interest in science, who found it boring and irrelevant in their daily lives. They don’t see the point of learning scientific topics unless they need to pass an exam at school, so they study it ‘against their will’ and don’t associate science or indeed learning with fun. That is a huge shame and the school systems in most countries fail our children if they kill the natural curiosity and the thirst for exploring and learning, which most children display from a young age.
As a science communicator and a life-long learner, it is important to me to spark an interest in science, to show learning can and should be fun and to show the relevance of science in our everyday lives. It is just the best feeling to see children and teenagers (and indeed adults!) enjoy a science workshop and leave with bright eyes because it was so much fun and interesting at the same time. A 15 year old girl recently said to me during a STEM workshop “I always thought that science was boring and just for boys. But this is fun and I am actually good at it!” She could not have given me a bigger compliment!
Thirdly, crowdfunding is a good way to inform the public and raise awareness about problems and challenges in scientific fields. In this case, I would like to highlight the plight of the cheetah, which continues despite the conservation efforts of numerous organisations. I therefore think it is essential to inform and include the public and raise awareness of – and funding for – cheetah conservation!
For all these reasons, I would like to share my research journey with you! You will be able to follow my research on Fit Cheetahs' social media channels. You can learn about cheetahs and find out how the research, both in the field and in the laboratory, is conducted and you will hear about the highs and lows as well as the everyday life of me as a researcher.
In 2018/19 we did a crowdfunder with Crowd.science, which resulted in raising just over £4,500. I would like to thank everyone who contributed at the time. Your donation has helped fund laboratory equipment as well as field work in Namibia, the UAE and the UK. This enabled me to collect data of almost 50 cheetahs of two subspecies.
It is still possible to contribute to this important research via PayPal and I am very grateful for every donation. Schools and corporations are very welcome to support this cause as well and in return we can either arrange a webinar or a visit at your school/corporation for me to hold a talk. More information on this on the page for schools.