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Deakin University's Professor Deb Verhoeven has been named as one of the top five research innovators by Campus Review.
Professor of Media and Communication in the Faculty of Arts and Education, and a member of the CMII Strategic Research Centre, Professor Verhoeven has been honoured for using Reinventing research funding using crowd funding and social media to help small research projects launch and survive.
Wanting to help small-scale research projects get off the ground, Professor Verhoeven set up the first official partnership between crowd-funding website Pozible and a university - the Research my World initiative.
Pozible allows people to promote their idea or project to drum up financial support. Professor Verhoeven voluntarily led eight diverse research groups from across the university as they ran their crowd-funding campaigns.
The media campaigns lasted between 30 and 50 days, depending on the project. Members of the public were able to pledge donations. Once a project achieved its funding target, pledges were converted into paid donations. Of the eight projects, six were successfully funded within the timeframe, raising more than $60,000 altogether.
“There are so many barriers for young, early researchers with small-scale projects," Professor Verhoeven said. “They just want a small amount of money, so I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do this?’ It just looked like a brilliant way to reconnect universities to the public.”
With the assistance of other media experts, Professor Verhoeven coached and mentored the researchers through the process – helping them set up their social media feeds and promotional materials and guiding them throughout their entire campaigns.
The campaigns helped generate more than 200 stories in traditional and online media over the 45 days. The projects were mentioned in TV reports and received more than 3000 tweets. The campaigns also worked closely with smaller communities – led mostly by the researchers themselves, who attended town hall meetings, gave lectures to community groups and attended fetes and festivals. Such involvement allows research success to be measured in terms of a project’s importance to the public rather than just the view of other academics, Verhoeven said.
“By going directly to the public to fund their projects, researchers break down the walls between universities and the community, giving the public greater insight and involvement in what we do as academics,” she said.
Verhoeven's efforts have been praised by the researchers, who are grateful to her for helping them get their message out to the public to build their profile on a local and global scale.
Professor Verhoeven said she and her team were now working with Pozible to extend the project to the wider university sector.