Vertaisrahasto.fi (literally “Peer Fund”) is a new way of collecting and allocating funding for research. The idea is very simple. There are two roles for volunteer participants: donors and applicants. Everyone is invited to donate to the fund, the minimum sum is 10 euros. Donations are piled up during a predesignated time. During the same time, everyone is invited to supply applications for research funding. The lenght of the applications is limited to 3100 characters, and the applications are anonymized. After the designated time has run out, there is a period of voting, in which donors (one donor, one vote) vote over which application to fund.
The goals of the fund are likewise simple. One is the democratisation of research funding (implying the one donation, one vote rule) and the leveling of the institutional & expert hierachies of doing research (implying anonymisation and limitations to the size of the application). Another is forging a more direct link between researchers, research topics and people not affiliated with research institutions.
The project was initiated by the co-op Rohkean reunaan that developed the concept together with the Demola open innovation platform. The first round of the fund was run during spring 2011. There were over ca. 80 donors, including individuals and institutions, and 8 applicants. The winner of the first round was Tuomo Alhojärvi & Otto Bruun’s research proposal, “Ecologies of freedom in the Finnish countryside”, which was awarded the collected sum of 1100 euros. The sum was lower than hoped, but higher than feared. We hope that the sums awarded during rounds will rise as word gets around and the model gets further embedded into the research landscape.
The software running the operations was written by Miro Nieminen and is, naturally, open source. It would be great to find individuals and partners to develop the software further.