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Crowdsourced Discovery


By Graham Steel

Princeton’s Ethan O. Perlstein describes himself as an ”Evolutionary Pharmacologist, Open Scientist, Self Publisher.” As of this weekend, he can now describe himself as the most successful crowdfunding researcher to date. His project Crowdsourcing Discovery, looking at how amphetamines really work was succesfully funded on Rockethub, to the tune of $25,000.

Crowdsourcing Discovery from Crowdsourcing Discovery on Vimeo.

Not only is this an interesting project that has come into the world in an unconventional manner (at this time), but Ethan is also determined to share the research outputs as openly as possible. figshare is very happy to play a role in this.

We’ll maximize openness via the Web with the following covenant:

1. We will upload all data generated to a data-sharing site called figshare in a timely fashion, where it can be downloaded, cited and discussed endlessly.
2. We will upload regular written and video blog reports on this project’s homepage at, detailing research progress.
3. Eventual publication of our findings in an Open Access scholarly journal article written in the plainest possible English.

In fact, one of the rewards for funding was as follows:

A 3D printed molecule of methamphetamine, and an open-invitation to be acknowledged as a coauthor on the data-sharing site figshare, which will be the official home of all project data.

Previously, crowdsourced projects which involved a lot of citizen science authors, such as galaxyzoo have managed to credit all of the contributors in the published articles. Previous attempts to crowdfund science have never raised much more than $10,000. By reaching $25,000 (and counting) the project has set a new bar as to what the future of research funding could look like. As many new models come about in the academic publishing space, it will be exciting to see how innovation can disrupt other areas of academia.

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