Public agree to fund environmental report into Brazilian mining disaster

Photo credit: SciDevNet

Copyright: Julio Etchart/Panos

Dam project proves power of science crowdfunding

“The success of the campaign shows that the general public cares about science, and it sends a powerful message to the government.” – Suzana Herculano-Houzel

by Barbara Axt

Speed read

  • Public agree to fund environmental report into Brazilian mining disaster
  • US crowdfunding site has raised US$3 million in five months
  • Method engages public and allows them to shape research agenda

Just weeks after two dams collapsed in Brazil, releasing a flood of toxic mining waste, a crowdfunding campaign to pay for an independent environmental report into the disaster’s impact has exceeded its target.

“This is one of the biggest environmental disasters that ever happened in Brazil, involving rivers and local populations,” says the crowdfunding page of the researchers behind the campaign, which asked the public to pay what they could.

The dams, owned by mining companies Vale and BHP Billiton, burst on 5 November, killing at least 11, leaving 12 missing and 750 homeless, and contaminating the waters of the Rio Doce.

“Considering the vague response of the public institutions and the economic power of the parties involved, it is extremely important to have an independent and impartial report,” the researchers add. So far, the campaign has raised 144 per cent of its 50,000 real (US$13,300) target.

More and more scientists in developing countries are turning to crowdfunding to get research off the ground. Not only is it a way to fill gaps in traditional research funding, but it can also be a valuable way to engage the public and attract funding from other sources, researchers say.

Read the full article: SciDevNet

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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