Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute
Translating Science into Solutions for Better Health

SC CTSI Gets Help from Experiment to Teach Scientists at USC and CHLA New Skills in Crowdfunding


SC CTSI initiative introduces researchers to novel online approaches to raise funds and increase the visibility of their research.

With competition for traditional sources of research dollars growing stiffer every year, the Southern California Clinical and Translational Science Institute (SC CTSI) has launched an initiative to help scientists become experts in the latest digital and social media fundraising techniques to advance their work and careers.

The recent workshop is part of a new Digital Scholar Training Initiative that provides lectures, hands-on training, and consultations to help researchers use the Internet and Web as a unique resource.

"It's critical right now that researchers develop real expertise with increasingly important digital approaches and social media tools, including crowdfunding," said Katja Reuter, PhD, director of Digital Strategy and the electronic Home for Clinical and Translational Research program at SC CTSI. "Researchers can use these tools to obtain funding, expand their teams through networking, increase the impact of their research products, and tap new sources of digital data to gain new insights."

Science gets social

Crowdfunding is the practice of raising money from a large number of contributors. To appeal to the public, project organizers typically create a video and describe their goals for the venture and the funding sought. On many platforms, the campaign only gets the money if contributors pledge enough to meet the organizers' funding target.

For the Digital Scholar workshop, SC CTSI invited a team from Experiment, a science-oriented crowdfunding platform built for scientists. Since 2010, Experiment has funded nearly 200 projects, with more than $1 million raised, said co-founder and CEO Denny Luan, making it the largest science-focused crowdsourcing platform.

Luan provided guidelines and strategies for creating successful crowdfunding project videos and write-ups. "Researchers need to learn how to communicate through social media and connect with their potential constituency of supporters," said Luan. 

Workshop attendees prepare crowdfunding campaigns

“I have been interested in crowdfunding as many of my business friends have utilized this method for their startup companies, and I never thought about its utility in funding my clinical research projects. That’s a phenomenal idea,” said workshop attendee Salima Thobani, MD, assistant professor in pediatrics at USC who after the workshop has begun to work on her own campaign.

“After the workshop, I have a better understanding of crowdfunding. The direct connections with the public could provide an important new way to strengthen research in general,” said Todd Chang, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at USC and associate fellowship director in pediatric emergency medicine at CHLA, who is currently working on his crowdfunding campaign. Additional perspectives from Digital Scholar trainees

Researchers interested in developing digital scholarship skills are invited to view the resources on the Digital Scholar webpage and contact SC CTSI for help.

SC CTSI is part of the 62-member Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSA) network funded through the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS) at the NIH (Grant Number UL1TR000130). Under the mandate of “Translating Science into Solutions for Better Health,” SC CTSI provides a wide range of resources, services, funding, and education for researchers and promotes online collaboration tools such as USC Profiles.