Blue-sky research funding for young researchers

Dr Martin Rees
Date Published :
Thursday, August 7, 2014

UNSW Medicine’s Dr Martin Rees is one of the first young scientists whose cutting-edge research will be funded by members of the public through a new crowd-funding platform, rather than through a government research grant.
Dr Rees, of the Redox Cell Signalling Laboratory at the Lowy Cancer Research Centre, has been given the opportunity to showcase his cutting edge research on, a platform created by UNSW scientist Dr Ben McNeil with launch partner UNSW Australia. The site aims to fund transformative ideas and support the next generation of bright, young, curious minds.
The platform enables researchers to make a case for public support and members of the public to engage with and fund research that matters to them. Its overarching aim is to encourage young researchers to push the boundaries of their research and test new ideas, whether or not they fail.
Dr Rees’s research focuses on how inflammatory proteins and oxidants impair the function of blood vessels during heart disease. His goal is to use this knowledge to develop novel drugs that can target these processes and prevent disease progression.
But, like up to 80% of grant applications in an increasingly competitive funding environment, his most recent bid for funding was rejected.
UNSW Pro-Vice-Chancellor Professor Mark Hoffman says success rates for competitive grants are at record lows, particularly for early career researchers, so there is a need to look at innovative new ways to support research.
To join the platform, scientists need to be working in a university or research institution and have at least two referees who endorse their project.
Researchers who join the platform must provide regular updates on their progress as well as short videos on interesting aspects of their research.
Among the first scientists – all UNSW Gold Star recipients - to showcase their research through are:

  • Dr Martin Rees, UNSW Medicine: research into heart disease.
  • Dr Alishia Williams, UNSW School of Psychiatry: Research into internet-delivered cognitive training programs for obsessive compulsive disorder.
  • Associate Professor Nick Di Girolamo, UNSW School of Medical Sciences: Stem cell research to treat corneal blindness.
  • Associate Professor Lucy Burns, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre: Study of patterns of alcohol use by people over 45.

Click here to sign up as a researcher.
Information on how to build you profile is here and a video on how works is here.
Register for a seminar for all UNSW researchers on here.
For more information, email Ben McNeill on

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