RMIT University
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Is Crowdfunding a Sustainable Research Funding Model for Australian Universities?

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posted on 2024-06-05, 04:55 authored by Jonathan O'Donnell
Since the early 2010s, a small number of Australian university staff have embarked on crowdfunding campaigns to fund their research. This project explores crowdfunding as a new model of research funding and aims to clarify whether crowdfunding could serve as a sustainable model for research funding at Australian universities. In the period reviewed for this Thesis (2011 – 2016), crowdfunding campaigns demonstrated the potential to provide new research funds in a system where calls for increased funding are a common refrain. Crowdfunding provides a novel means for researchers to engage directly with people who value their research, whereby openness and generosity may help to build the audience for the research. Drawing on a review of 79 crowdfunding projects involving Australian university staff and 19 interviews with 22 researchers and administrators, this Thesis examines the shift in practices required to accommodate crowdfunding as a research funding mechanism in Australia. While research crowdfunding can work as a sustainable funding mechanism for a small proportion of researchers, most Australian universities have not embraced it. Of the researchers who have undertaken a crowdfunding campaign, few have undertaken another. The reasons for this are various, including practical challenges and issues related to the risks inherent in research crowdfunding and its situation within the social norms of research behaviour and expectations, as well as the small amounts of funds raised in relation to the work involved. This Thesis provides academics who crowdfund and universities that intend to support crowdfunding with suggestions on developing an effective business case and improved administration of research crowdfunding.


Degree Type

Doctorate by Research


© Jonathan O'Donnell 2023

School name

Grad School of Bus and Law, RMIT University