Over the last year or so, crowdsourcing has emerged as a way for lots of people to contribute small amounts of money to make amazing new things possible. Kickstarter (which focuses on commercial projects) has been the best example of this, and a new site called Petridish.org wants to take that model and apply it to scientific research. It's brilliant.
The way the bulk of science funding works now is that researchers put tons of time and energy into writing proposals for grants from the government, and if they're lucky enough to score one, they toil away in secret and then eventually publish a paper. Science is being advanced in this way, no question, but in some sense, it has completely removed the general public from the mystery and excitement of discovery. We don't get to participate. We pay our taxes, the government uses some portion of that to pay for research, and you and I are completely removed from the entire process.
Petridish.org wants to change all that, or at least, it wants to augment it. Petridish is a Kickstarter-type crowd funding site that's dedicated completely to scientific research, offering ways for you to get involved by helping to fund projects.
This is awesome in a whole bunch of ways. For instance, you can help fund research that you're personally interested in. Like exomoons? Cool, help fund a project that's trying to find the first one, and when they do, you'll know that you helped make it possible. And as with Kickstarter, you get more out of all this than just a donation of money. There are perks and rewards for different funding levels, ranging from early access to articles, to invitations to participate in fieldwork, to exclusive rights to name a brand new species. Most projects are only asking for something like $10,000, which doesn't seem like much, but it's enough for dedicated researchers to make a lot of progress, which they can then leverage into bigger grants from the government.
Petridish is currently in beta (and they just launched last week), but they've already got a bunch of projects looking for funding, including one that's looking for the first ever exomoon. If you like science, and want a way to get directly involved with new discoveries, this sure seems like a fantastic way to go about doing it.