A couple of months ago, I wrote a piece to kick start some thinking about innovative ways to fund research. One of the ideas was to have a site where you can raise money from several supporters, ala musicians seeking funding to make a record. Seems the site already exists: Fundable.org is a site set up to allow you to request sponsorship. If you get the required pledges by your due date, then they actually charge people and send you a check. If the pledges do not add up, everyone's pledge is canceled and you are out of luck. This is bordering on "so simple it is brilliant".
As Kevin Kelly recently pointed out, if you are a musician you can make a decent living with 1,000 True Fans. Since research often involves a little more capital expense, you could probably do good and interesting research with just two to three thousand True Fans. If researchers work together and share capital resources, a little less is not unfeasible.
Can you cure cancer this way? Unlikely. But could new, innovative and interesting discoveries whose investigation government science agencies consider too risky be made this way? Without a doubt. From browsing the site, I have not seen any scientific research projects, but if people can get someone else to pay for their ski trip and their vet bills, someone has to be willing to pay for interesting research.
Who wants to give it a whirl? If we post a project, I will be sure to let you know.