Launches Anew

USF researcher leads effort to connect researchers to a new source of support: You.


By Vickie Chachere

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 22, 2011) – The funding model that helps build small businesses in developing nations, creates revenue for public television stations in the U.S. and even helps budding film directors get their movies made now can be used by scientific researchers to get their projects funded.


For a pledge of as little as $10 on the website, the public can support research projects they find important and relevant while helping scientists bridge the difficult funding gap between initial experiments, prototypes and fully-funded studies. The non-profit SciFlies is being released this week under the direction of the University of South Florida’s David Fries, a researcher and inventor at the College of Marine Science who also holds the title of USF’s first Entrepreneur in Residence.


USF researcher and inventor David Fries.

“SciFlies is helping to build a community of supporters for scientists and their projects,” said Fries, who holds more than two dozen patents on ocean technologies and has founded a series of companies around his environmental innovations. “When people give money out of their own pocket and become engaged in scientific discovery, it helps important projects reach their goal. This one-on-one involvement also enhances the public’s appreciation of science.”


The newly released SciFlies – refined from the first-generation test site created last year – has incorporated more detailed scientific protocols for validation of submitted projects, Fries said.


Proposed research projects are now vetted through a panel of scientists through the participation of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, one of the world’s largest and most prestigious scientific groups and publisher of the journal Science.


The peer review process ensures that the projects on SciFlies are scientifically sound and viable prior to posting to the public. The public also will have the opportunity to engage with other unconventional or high-risk projects in a special section of the site set aside for ideas which have not been submitted to peer review.


Pledges to SciFlies are deposited into an account for each project posted. When donations reach the threshold the scientist has determined is needed to start the project, the funds are released to the researcher to begin his or her work. The full amount of each donation goes to the research project.


Throughout the project, donors will be kept up-to-date with progress and findings, allowing the project to build a community of followers.


“We are interested in not only making funding happen with scientists but increasing the impact and effectiveness of the dollars donated toward research,” Fries said.


Designed to be an engaging experience in itself, potential donors can peruse projects until they find one that piques their interest. Supporters also can read researcher profiles, view videos and learn more about the research they might want to support. The effort includes an interactive community through the SciFlies’ Facebook page.


SciFlies will feature projects in a range of disciplines, from cancer research to environmental issues to funding for new technologies which could lead to new products. As a registered non-profit organization, donations to SciFlies are tax deductible.


SciFlies is the brainchild of Fries and video game entrepreneur Michael C. Lewis, who was eager to see alternative funding mechanisms available to scientists in an era of diminishing federal investments in research. SciFlies has the potential to support smaller projects


Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.