Tag Archives: academia

Mel’s crowd funding wheezes have jumped the shark…

This is my first (and perhaps last) post related to my third crowd funding campaign, that I have attempted in as many years.

In that time, I have been nationally and internationally feted, as a guru on the topic of crowd funding research, as an academic. Which was nice….validating as it were, in this day and age, when the catch cry of ‘excellence with impact’ in academia – is paramount.

But with some trepidation (given my current health status and the on going mental health impacts of such, documented in several posts here since the start of 2015) I decided to attempt to crowd fund a project I had been working on since 2012, that was the most promising from a ‘bench to bedside’ patient outcome and traditional peer reviewed perspective.

However, the disease in question, which could kill people with a toxic bacterial diarrhoea…had a distinct image problem, as it was decidedly non glamorous, from a marketing angle (and I say this from the perspective of a scientist that had ‘sold’ the value of medical maggots to the masses!)

I had previously discarded this disease as ‘impossible to sell’ via crowd funding, due to the general narrative of philanthropy for killer diseases and the hierarchy of ‘significance’ that exists with in this space. (If I had $10 for every time I wished I had stayed working in cancer research, I wouldn’t need to crowd fund!)

Perhaps it was the brain lesion talking, but I honestly thought that all that a disease that kills people with toxic mega colons (but mostly just gives people the shits) needed was the ‘Mel treatment’ of awareness raising and crowd funding.

And this with with the over arching aim of having an interesting and compelling narrative to tell, as an invited speaker to the Cdiff Foundation Awareness conference, in Boston in Nov 2015. I thought that I could detail the process of attempting to crowd fund and then hopefully present them with a new resource, with up to date info (such as, it’s not just a nasty hospital super bug….it can be acquired in the community and perhaps from pets and contaminated meat).

To create this resource, I would need to engage a professional animator, the fabulous James Hutson, from Bridge 8, who I had worked with before on my previous Hips for Hipsters campaign – who I knew to be exactly the person to create a witty resource that could hold mass appeal, on such a taboo topic. But I want to pay him properly for his intellectual property and his time on this occasion, which means I need to raise over $10k via my current campaign.

It was a risk, asking for funds for an awareness resource, instead of directly for my research…as my existing successful CF paradigm was to exploit the ‘Woe is me, the EMCR with no proper grants’ ….as feeling often shared by my peers and people of certain political persuasions on Social Media.

But, as I had been communicating to all and sundry, the concept of ‘engagement’ and ‘awareness’ as the best ‘outcome’ and ‘impact’ of academic CF campaigns, I thought I would just cut to the chase…and fund the actual awareness raising resource. But if the levels of bemused interactions with peers and some unsolicited advice (from those who have no track record of doing anything like this)…is anything to go by…I’ve made a huge mistake.

And my moment, when I strapped on the water skis and jumped the shark, Fonzi style? The moment when I uploaded a #undiesforcdiff selfie yesterday, in a vain attempt to garner any interest in a gimmick related to this project. It got me a couple of nice donations, but has left me pondering the last shreds of my professional reputation.

Certain events, beyond my control, involving mistakes made by the ‘powers that be’, with some of my most staunch previous supporters, leading up to the launch of the No more Poo Taboo campaign, left me wondering if I should pull the plug, less that a week out. I had 45 days, but needed 2-3 weeks of clear air time, to allow the generated toxic aerosols to settle (a habit picked up when working on liquid cultures of PC3 level clinical strains, during my PhD)

This strategy has left my woefully short on dedicated communication time, to clarify the goals of my project this time. I now often wished I had the bravery to press the ’emergency stop’ button, a few weeks back.

The only consolation I have is that when looking at the overall stats for success versus failure, on crowd funding campaigns, I’m currently ‘on trend’ heading for a 2/3 success to failure rate. And as a scientist, I need an internal negative control…(she tells herself forlornly!)

But, perhaps I can get an ‘ice bucket challenge’ viral campaign going, if I could get a celeb to represent this issue, like Carrie Bickmore did for a recent awareness campaign for brain cancer, in Australia. But I’m thinking we come back to my original issue…Poo is too Taboo for anyone to be associated with.

I would like to thank @greenepidemic (Dane) for the #undiesforcdiff hashtag idea and @ivalaine (Miranda) for the ‘nominate friends to do undies selfies, a la ice bucket challenge’ idea. And to all of the early adopters of my campaign, fingers crossed I won’t be giving your money back!

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Smart Geelong Week 2014

Phew! What a week, Smart Geelong Research Week has been! For an early career researcher like myself, I had an embarrassment of riches to choose from, for inspiration during the program. And my penchant for ‘live tweeting’ when I attend such events, saw me in the front row, madly tip tapping on my tablet, so that the Geelong based folks who follow me on Twitter, could ‘see’ the proceedings.

On Monday, we had the launch with keynote speech, delivered Professor Terry Speed (Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne) who is a recent Eureka Prize winner for science engagement. Introduced by Barwon Health CEO, David Ashbridge, Terry then gave an excellent and accessible talk to a large crowd on the topic of ‘Epigenetics’, which he defined as the ‘punctuation marks’ to allow the appropriate expression of physical characteristics for the ‘text’ of our genes in our DNA. Professor Frances Quirk, Head of Research, Barwon Health, then gave me the priceless networking opportunity (thank you!) to join the party taking Terry to dinner on the Pier.

Wednesday saw the Barwon Health Research Week Poster session and the first speech from my collaborator and new Deakin Medicine Chair of Orthopaedics, Professor Richard Page. Richard regaled us with his distant family history in Tasmania (involving the sly grog trade) as well as offering advice to newer researchers (always say ‘Yes’ and Innovate, don’t emulate).

Thursday saw the launch of the Inaugural Smart Geelong Network Harrison Lecture, named to honour pioneering Geelong innovator James Harrison, introduced by Addy Editor, Nick Papps. Harrison was a polymath, who educated himself at night school around his day job and savvy enough to recognise the potential of evaporative cooling whilst chemically cleaning his news printing die sets.

It was standing room only at the National Wool Museum & the Geelong innovators who spoke, Professor Saeid Nahavandi from the Deakin Centre for Intelligent Systems Research (CISR) and Mr Steve Atkiss, GM of the Deakin Carbon Nexus, gave fabulous insights into the ‘toys’ they had made, including robot movement simulators and carbon fibre Storm Trooper armour. Some of their staff and students were on hand with the more ‘portable’ toys to let us have a play!

Friday evening arrived and with it, the Smart Geelong Network Gala Dinner, and thank you to my colleague Dr Sarah Shigdar for shouting my ticket! It was good to see both federal politicians from Geelong, Hon Sarah Henderson MP and Hon Richard Marles MP, were able to get back from Canberra, for the evening. The guest of Honour was the Hon Barry Jones (one of my science heroes) who was there to present the inaugural Barry Jones Medal to Sue De Gilio, one of the founders of the Smart Geelong Network and a worthy winner. The other major prize of ‘Researcher of the Year’ went to newly promoted Professor Bronwyn Fox, leader of the Carbon Nexus project and an inspiration to all women in science and engineering.

My week didn’t finish until Saturday lunch time, after I took part in the Deakin 40 years celebration at the Geelong Gala day parade. Spurred on by our fearless leader, Professor Jane den Hollander, we waved our flags at the crowds lining the route. Surely, the good people of Geelong were bemused (or perhaps entertained?) by the incongruous sight of academics in full robes and regalia, playing volleyball with a giant inflatable world, with their boss? I certainly relished the opportunity to disrupt the stereotype that we are elitist and stuffy boffins, scared of leaving the ‘ivory tower’. Jane shouted us to an impromptu coffee afterwards and I got to introduce her to my husband and kids. I also got to chat to Saeid about his three adult children as he scrolled through his Facebook photo roll. Those labelled as ‘Smart Geelong’ have much in common with the rest of the people of Geelong – we are humans.

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