Monday, April 13, 2015

Support Science!

Dearest blog readers, depending on how much you follow our blog and Facebook page, you may not have heard of about our crowdfunding campaign to bring underfunded scientists to an international conference.  A collaborative group I work with, the Cooperative Predator Vocalization Consortium, is hosting a symposium that aims to “synthesize a new approach to the study of the cognitive-communicative-social complex, and its implications for future research into the evolution of cognition and language.”  We need the scientists at this symposium to be a diverse group to ensure that the science coming out of this symposium incorporates in depth knowledge of a wide range of species. Underfunded scientists like Bilal, who studies tigers, wolves, and dholes in India, will not be able to attend this conference without extra help.  Without extra help, I won't be able to bring my own hyena expertise, meaning hyenas may get left out of the new approach all together.  This sets science back.  We need to include all species in the framework being built at Behavior2015 to ensure that framework is strong enough to make good predictions about how language and cognition evolve.  

We can’t do that without your help! 

We are in the last couple days of our campaign and it is an all-or-nothing goal, so please, consider donating.  When we meet our goal, I will be sending hyena ringtones to all of our backers.  Don't miss out!!  Please share our link on Facebook or Twitter and help us get the word out to others that want to push science forward!

If you're curious to know more, read on to see my answers to some of the questions we've had about our campaign:

How did this idea come about?
I have been working with the Cooperative Predator Vocalization Consortium for almost a year now.  We are a group of scientists and professionals that have come together to collaborate on understanding the entwined evolution of communication, cooperation and cognition in social carnivores.  During our Skype meetings, we realized there was a real need to gather ourselves for an in-person exchange of information and experience.  We need the time and hands-on interaction to really tackle this topic. 

How did you become involved in this effort?
As an assistant professor at a teaching university, a researcher in an underdeveloped country, and a graduate student, Jessica, Bilal, and I do not receive financial support to attend international conferences.  Our inability to self-fund participation in these in conferences does not mean that we have less to contribute.  In fact, I believe it means we bring unique experiences and knowledge to the table.  Leaving us on the sidelines can only hurt scientific advancement.  Our organizer, Arik Kershenbaum decided that something needed to be done to resolve this issue.  He began spearheading the effort and asked us to participate.

Along with being able to go to the consortium, what else do you hope to accomplish?
 I will be educating my fellow researchers on the social structure and vocal and cooperative behavior of the spotted hyena.  Spotted hyenas have a social structure that is very complex but unique among social carnivores.  Being such a strange mammalian outlier, it is important to incorporate what we know about them into the scientific framework that our consortium plans to build at this conference.  I also hope to gain insight from my fellow researchers working on communication and behavior in other species.  Their years of experience will be invaluable to my work.

I’ve seen other crowdfunding requests. What makes this one unique?
This crowdfunding  campaign is not just supporting a single project that answers a single question.   It is supporting the advancement of the field of cooperation, communication, and cognitive science.  Helping to bring three scientists to this conference, that would otherwise not be able to participate, ensures that their work, knowledge, and experience are incorporated into the projects and collaborations that push our field forward.

What sold you on taking this approach?
Really, a lack of other options.  The funding I have obtained has already gone in to my research.  I am still developing as a scientist and it is very important to me to develop into not just a good scientist, but a great scientist.  This means I need to gain as much access as possible to other great scientists to learn from them.

Will this approach become a common tool for you or is this a one-time deal?
I plan to someday be well-established in the scientific community.  At that point, I will no longer require crowd-funding tools to fund my own research and collaboration efforts.  I would like to believe that, by that time, funding for conferences like this, and funding in general, will be commonplace for PhD students, assistant professors, and researchers from underdeveloped countries.  But, until it is, I will utilize whatever tools necessary to support the science of myself and others.


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