We saw that crowdsourcing pays some cheques to the scientist making his own research lab in the garage. But how to find a relevant research demand?
You have already read about Fold.it, the site where people play online to solve protein structure for free. Imagine now an online pavillion who is actually paying the intellectual work of scientists working at home through different calls - named Challenges - to take part in a real scientific problem. This is InnoCentive. There are different challenge calls on InnoCentive: the theoretical one, the analytical one, etc. Take a look on their page where they are briefly explained. Each challenge is defined and written up by one innovation manager in collaboration with the seeker posting the challenge. Usually, InnoCentive offers problems and awards from highly reputable seeker companies and not-for-profit organizations, such as Procter & Gamble, Eli Lilly, and the Rockefeller Foundation. To have an idea of the level of the creativity required to solve a typical challenge, read this Science article excerpt:
This week, Massachusetts-based InnoCentive announced the winners of its latest Web-based challenge: to use smartphones to detect potholes. Building on a city of Boston app called Street Bump, which uses GPS and accelerometer data from a smartphone to record a car's location and sudden bounces, contestants vied to find ways to pool this data from many vehicles while distinguishing potholes from jolt-inducing features like railroad crossings... [from: Science 24 February 2012, page 897]
How can I find a Challenge that might interest me? All the open challenges reside in a Challenge Center whose tab is available from your My InnoCentive page. Different disciplines classify a challenge and some pavilions determines their themes or populations features. You can choose challenges by selecting tags, then sorting them by posted date, deadline, award amount or number of solvers who have opened a project room. At that time you may also request a weekly digest of your selected view sent to your email address.
Do I need to sign an agreement? Of course. Each challenge type has different Solver Agreements to be signed. The Seekers, who also have signed agreements and are paying to post their challenges, decide in conjunction with the project manager what challenge type best fits their problem. InnoCentive has been in business since 2001 and has awarded over 7 million dollars to over 850 Solvers. To check out these solvers and previously awarded Challenges you can have a look at the Awarded Challenges page.
Working on a Challenge. So find that challenge you want to solve. For instance, sell how to recover Bacillus spores from swabs at $30,000, or minimize surface damages on chocolate for 20,000 bucks. When you open the corresponding Project Room, all the details of the Challenge will become visible. You will find confidential data that the seekers want to make available to you but do not want to share with everybody. One of the things you do when you sign the Solver agreement is to keep this detailed information private. In the Project Room you will also see a Message and Solution tab. If you need to ask questions about the technical details of a Challenge click on the Message tab and select the Compose New Message button. The manager following this challenge will answer your question or get an answer from the seeker. Click on the Solution tab when you want to submit a solution for reducing fat absorption in french fries, get it accepted and enjoy the $8,000 money reward. Happy searching and solving!