How Science Explained became a non-profit organization

Science Explained started about 3 years ago with the aim to provide high-quality background information on scientific subjects in such a way that it is understandable by people lacking an educational background in science. With approximately 10 to 20 thousand visitors each month we feel that we provide valuable information for a large group of people interested in scientific subjects. What we really wanted to do is to take you along behind the scenes of science and show you how science works, every step of the way. Unfortunately, we can only write about science that has already been published. This is because scientist are not allowed to publically disclose results before publication. When Chris received a prize from the Dutch Entomological Society (which provided the funding to found the non-profit organization), we were finally able to change that!

What has changed?

Before, Science Explained was completely open for everyone. Which meant that as soon as we wrote something on the website it would be publically available. Now, we have created ‘member’ pages (My Science Explained). This makes it possible for us to write about what we are doing without directly making it publically available to everyone, preventing problems for us when we are ready to publish the results in a scientific journal. In this way, we are able to give you updates about the project we are doing on a regular basis. We can tell you what we did and whether it worked or not. Instead of the traditional science reporting, which generally only reports the success stories, we will tell you what we did, irrespective of whether it was a success or not. This way you will get a unique view of science. We will of course always provide background information if we need to clarify the methods we are using (like for example the post about PCR).     

So why do I have to pay?

You might think: “But you don’t need to be a non-profit organization to have member pages?”. You are absolutely right. So why do we ask for donations in order to see the updates? The reason is that premature disclosure of research findings can be a risk for a scientist. This is because science is highly competitive. If there is another scientist working on a similar subject that reads the updates and sees that you are working on the same thing, he or she might quickly publish what they already have. That means that they were the first to report a particular finding and this makes the Science Explained researcher’s own findings less valuable. Asking for donations does not prevent ‘competing scientist’ from seeing the updates. They can of course also donate and read what we are doing. The donations are there for two reasons.

1) Communication through Science Explained about the scientist research also provides benefits, not only risks. When we ask scientist to communicate what they are doing it means that we are asking them to write about their research at the risk of prematurely exposing their data to competing scientists. When they gain nothing in return this likely prevents many scientist from taking this risk. By providing a modest financial stimulus we hope to convince as many scientists as possible to show you what science is really like..

2) Writing for a general public takes time. Scientists tend to be busy people. This is partly due to the fact that the more they can publish the better their chances are of getting their research funded in the future. So why would they ‘waste’ their time on science communication? By providing the scientist with a modest financial stimulus we hope to convince more scientists that science communication is worth their time investment.


How does it work?

In the picture above we show the difference between ‘Traditional funding’ and Science Explained. We all pay for scientific research. This is because a percentage of the taxes we pay (often <1%) is used to fund research&amp;development. However, because there are so many steps involved, you will never know what exactly is done with that money. We at Science Explained aim to create a direct link between the people investing in science and the scientist themselves. We do this by providing a platform where scientist can share what they are doing without having to worry about writing publically about their data. In return for their efforts they receive funding to perform their research. The people investing in science through Science Explained will see exactly what is being done with their money. They will have a unique view of science that is nowhere else available. Furthermore, by reading about science they will learn something new with every update they read!

Try it for free!

Because we enjoy writing about science we of Science Explained provide one project (Fast eggs / slow eggs) that can be accessed with a free account! So go ahead and make a free account here.

Can’t wait for full access to all content of ‘My Science Explained’? Become a supporter of science through our donation page!