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A new plea from professors: Buy my idea

Shawn Graham is used to pleading the case for his work. A professor in the history department at Carleton University, he spends ample time competing for research grants, filling out forms and relying on rhetorical skills he honed as a grad student. But for his latest project – setting up research fellowships in digital research for his students – he is bypassing the usual expert panels that hold the purse strings and taking his pitch directly to the public via crowdfunding. “The traditional route has one pot of money that every academic chases. But everybody has five bucks in their pocket for a coffee and a doughnut, and there’s 33 million Canadians,” Prof. Graham says. Universities are just starting to experiment with crowdfunding, the popular online appeals for donations to fund everything from writing a book to building a public-access telescope. Perhaps the best known crowdfunding campaign in Canada was the one on Indiegogo.com this summer that raised more than $200,000 to buy an alleged video of Toronto’s mayor doing hard drugs (the money was donated to charities when the video’s owner disappeared). Kickstarter.com is another popular crowdfunding site; Hollywood actor Zach Braff used it this year to raise more […]

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