In his 20 years of conducting research, UW Atmospheric Sciences professor Dan Jaffe had always gone the conventional route of writing grant proposals to fund his scientific research projects — until now.
For his current project, he reached out to the general public, which responded by helping him achieve his fundraising goal of $18,000 in 10 days.
His project concerns measuring the environmental impact of coal trains, particularly their impact on air quality and human health.
“The proposal to increase the amounts of shipments of coal going through Washington state caught my attention, and I think that we should be looking carefully at the implications,” said Jaffe, who splits his time between teaching at UW Seattle and at UW Bothell.
Since this research project deals more with environmental impact than fundamental science, he said he never considered sending a grant proposal to the National Science Foundation, his usual source of funding.
He started out instead by spreading his research idea through word-of-mouth to his colleagues and various state agencies. However, he received a disappointing response.
“The indication that I got, not explicitly but between the lines, was that they were going to stay away from this issue,” he said.
He then heard about Microryza, a Seattle-based crowdfunding website for scientific research.
“I [initially] thought it was a crazy idea, but I went and looked at several of the websites of groups that do this, and after thinking about it for about two weeks, I finally decided to give it a try,” he said.