If you are looking for ways to share your big idea with the world, this series is the perfect place to start!

I am a scientist and an illustrator. I published an art-meets-science book through a Kickstarter campaign, and in this 3-posts series, I am sharing how I did.

In the previous posts, I talked about how to better define the idea and why and how you can do a crowdfunding campaign to realize it. This article is all about other resources and opportunities to consider outside crowdfunding.

Crowdfunding alternatives for scientists

binocular country lane filter focus
Look for an alternative path. – Photo by SplitShire on Pexels.com

Crowdfunding is definitely fun. In the first post of this series, I listed three good reasons on why to use crowdfunding for your project but I have a confession to make.

I chose to crowdfund Inking Science mostly because I rushed into it. I had this idea, and I was so motivated that I did not stop to look for other options. And while I do not regret my choice, I thought that it would be much better for you to be aware of all the options. Or at least a few more crowdfunding alternatives you might want to consider.

Apply for grants

Science communication is a growing field. More and more scientists realize the importance of sharing the process and results of their research. And so are funding agencies.

Many professional associations offer grants and awards for the publication of products related to science communication. Writing a funding proposal might not be the most fun part of a scientists’ job, but we sure know how to do it. So why not to make use of this skill to fund our own dream projects?

For example, the Marie Curie Alumni Association (a volunteering research association, of which I am elected vice-chair) provide microgrants for the publication of media resources, like websites or books, that can boost your career in science communication.

Plan it as part of your project

Grants as crowdfunding alternatives? Well, maybe! Since funding agencies are more aware of the importance of public engagement, a viable alternative to crowdfunding is to include your big idea as part of your research project.

For example, the most prestigious European funding grants are awarded to research projects that have a sound plan for communicating scientific results to the general public. Take advantage of this trend and be creative in the way you are planning to do your communication, whether it will be a comic book, a podcast, or a wearable device that uses the result of your research to function.

The publishing game

If your final product is a science book, you might be in luck.

Publishing a book through an editor is a cruel game. The average book sells very few copies, and most of the expenses both for production and advertising rests on the author’s shoulders – making publishing fiction a very tricky market.

On the other hand, non-fiction books see brighter prospects in the publishing landscape.

This brilliant post by Sarah Olson illustrates how the more traditional path for book publishing represents a wonderful alternative to crowdfunding and self-publishing for scientists. The post highlights the requirements for publishing a non-fiction book, and they are not as insane as for fiction books.

Fiction authors are often required to approach an editor or an agent only when the book is completed, including editing and sometimes even a cover. However, for a science communication book you might need to prepare only the first chapter and a good story on why you would be the perfect person to talk about this topic. This amount of work is not more than what you would need if you were to self-publish your book through crowdfunding. It might definitely be worth a shot.

Let people support you long term

Patreon, Ko-fi and Buy Me a Coffee logos – modified from original photo by cottonbro from Pexels

If you are planning a physical object, crowdfunding for its production might give you the seed money and the motivation to go on with your idea. But if your project is difficult to turn into a physical product, and your willpower is strong enough to bring you to the finish line, you should consider a recurring donation site like Ko-Fi, Buy Me a Coffee, or Patreon.

This crowdfunding alternative allows your supporters to fund you, and not your project, in exchange for periodical rewards. To be successful with these platforms, you might need to have an established community that shares your idea and follows your work. But once you’ve built the community, it gives you the freedom to support any long term project, not necessarily tied to a single one-time outcome.

Just do it!

crop female colleagues drawing on paper sheets at work
Just do it! – Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

In the process of publishing Inking Science, I connected with a wide network of science communicators. A lot of these people have produced their big idea without the use of crowdfunding. Or anything else. They just rolled up their sleeves and turned their idea into reality.

For me, doing a Kickstarter was the push I needed to start my career as a science illustrator. I thought of this career since I was half-way through my PhD, but I never seriously acted upon this dream. I would not call myself an illustrator and I would not tell people about my passion.

Once the book was funded, I had enough confidence to start introducing myself as a scientist and a science illustrator. I now dedicate time and effort to continuously work toward producing my ideas. In the future, I plan to try alternatives to crowdfunding.

If you are like me, crowdfunding could be all you need to get you started. But if you are one of those amazing people who does not need this boost, own it. Be proud of your skills and make your dreams happen. At the end of the day, crowdfunding is only one of the many tools that you can use to share your ideas and your passion. And there are many crowdfunding alternatives to rely on.

In my previous two posts, I went over all I learned on why and how to plan a crowdfunding campaign. Here I proposed a few alternatives to crowdfunding for scientists specifically. Now all that’s left is for you to start creating.

Remember that unless you do it, no one will ever write that message, paint that beautiful art, compose that inspiring music. There is someone out there whose life might change by reading, looking, or hearing what you have to say.


I want to thank my fellow scientist and illustrator Gaius Augustus for his help editing this blog post.

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