The demographics of science crowdfunders
Close to 400 donors supported Crowd4Discovery (C4D), our $25,000 basic research project to map the distribution of amphetamines in the mouse brain. Who are these supporters? Why did they support us? In collaboration with a NPR science reporting team, I emailed a brief survey to our supporters before the holiday season. Below are the results.
As of this writing, 116 out of 385 C4D supporters filled out the survey (but the data below is based on the 113 responses as of two weeks ago). Keep in mind that only 249 of the 385 actually opened the email containing the survey link, so our sample is not entirely representative of all C4D supporters. Let’s start with the age breakdown:
80% of respondents are age 25-44. Science crowdfunding appears to be a young person’s game. I don’t know how the C4D age distribution compares to crowdfunding projects in general. If anyone has any insights, please share them in the comments thread below. So where do these respondents live? Ours is an international coalition, though 2 out of 3 respondents are American:
We had 1 donor each from: Indonesia (an economist friend living in Jakarta); Mauritius (a science blogger I met at SpotOn London); Mexico (a scientist who follows me on Twitter); Singapore (a grad school friend); Sweden (someone I don’t know); and Switzerland (a science publisher I also met at SpotOn London). So what do these respondents do for a living? Here’s a breakdown of their professions:
During the course of our campaign, I was keeping tabs on who’s a scientist, a determination I could only make for people I knew. The informal tally suggested that the fraction of scientists was at least 25%. The working hypothesis was that scientists are doing most of the heavy lifting. The above data are consistent, and demonstrate that the just over half of respondents are scientists, which includes university professors, academic trainees (grad students and postdocs), and researchers in Pharma. Interestingly, the next largest group is comprised of people working in management positions in for-profit and non-profit organizations, typically in the science sphere. After that are the people in technology writ large, which includes IT analysts, computer programmers, and web designers. My favorite profession (n=1) is the self-described “full-time mama, part-time web geek,” a person I don’t know who heard about our campaign on Twitter.
And that leads me to the next question, which is how did our supporters hear about us? For this question respondents could select one or more of the following choices: 1) Twitter; 2) friend/family; 3) Facebook; 4) word of mouth; 5) other social media; 6) in person at an event. Here’s what we found:
In what is in my opinion the most interesting result of the survey, almost half of respondents said they heard about us on Twitter. This jibes with my own social network analyses, which show that 24% of all C4D supporters follow me on Twitter. Interestingly, 14% of responses are other social media. My strong suspicion is that includes Reddit and Hacker News. The least effective marketing strategy was in person at an event, though in fairness the only formal campaign gathering was our launch party.
Finally, we asked why supporters chose to open their wallets. Again, we allowed respondents to pick one or more answers: 1) supporting a friend; 2) supporting research in general; 3) supporting this specific project; 4) supporting new avenues of funding. Here are the results:
I was a bit surprised to find that most respondents said they were supporting research in general and new avenues of funding, rather than our specific project or a friend. My interpretation of these data is that science crowdfunding has a lot of room to grow..