This is a way to speed up discovery to help the earth
In an exclusive article, the actor and his co-author said that the science fund was broken and their own “quick grant” was initiated.
If there is a Nobel Prize for overcoming the adversity of bureaucracy, do you know who will win it? Catherine Katie. Her research on mRNA properties has had little support for decades, which led to the development of a COVID-19 vaccine, and her story has transcended science. It exposes the blind spots of our current scientific institutions in finding and training every enthusiastic scientist and research direction.
What can we learn from Katie’s story to ensure that we don’t quietly lose the next bright mind and breakthrough idea?
This is not a hypothetical question. This is an emergency. Early research on the impact of the pandemic on scientific output has shown that new projects have fallen sharply in the past year; especially among early-career researchers. This is a terrible timing. The challenges posed by climate change require us to encourage every scientist, rather than discourage or ignore them.
If we really want to make the planet net zero emissions, we need to change the way we produce and consume electricity. We need newer, more efficient means of transportation, and food supplies that are not dependent on deforestation. We need climate-friendly agriculture and better ways to protect the ecosystem. We must capture and remove existing greenhouse gases. We need to iterate continuously to improve efficiency. For all the above situations, we need the best minds to solve the right problems, and fast.
Unfortunately, if our existing scientific institutions have one major shortcoming, it is speed. In the early days of the pandemic, as researchers raced to learn about COVID-19 and test response ideas, a group of outside philanthropists stepped up to create rapid grants to provide rapid turnover of financial resources for new problems and ideas. The plan is not just about funding projects, it also shows that there is a more effective and less bureaucratic way to support scientists.
There is a new working paper-Funding Risk Research-in which leading scientific economists outline the challenges of the current funding system in supporting high-risk, high-return research. The author delves into Katie’s story and matches it with a literature review of problem-solving ideas and efforts. At the end of the paper, some alternative examples were given and called for more experiments. Unfortunately, the major scientific funding agencies seem to be constrained by catch-22.
Funding risky research first requires betting on new risky models. To help prevent the leakage of the scientific talent funnel, our team is launching a new project: FootPrint Coalition Science Engine.
We are in the business of supporting entrepreneurial scientists, and we agree that the main obstacle is the obvious limitation of the committee’s decision-making. We are trying different things. The Footprint Alliance is funding early research in a new environmental field, under the guidance of respected scientific leaders, who can act quickly and decide on funding. The FootPrint Coalition Science Engine builds on the recommendations made in the Funding Risky Research paper. It implemented “easy funding for early risk exploration,” but it did not tie it to universities.
We are doing this work “openly” on the “experimental funding” platform, which is a website for crowdfunding scientific research projects, so anyone can participate as a co-funder.
This is an experiment in an important research field. Here are our top five categories and the people at the helm of each category: Indigenous knowledge is the key to rebuilding the relationship between humans and the natural world, and Dr. Keolu Fox is funding Indigenous Future Projects to enhance the capabilities of Indigenous researchers and innovators who request Right questions and put this knowledge into action.
Air, water, and soil pollution have a disproportionate impact on the low-wealth Black, Aboriginal, and People of Color (BIPOC) population. Dr. Sam Wilson, associate professor at the University of Maryland, is funding community science and environmental justice projects to bring science and research to the communities most affected by pollution and climate change.
Emerging biotechnology is changing the way scientists understand, monitor, and intervene in ecosystems. The leaders of Revive & Restore, Dr. Bridgida Betty and Dr. Raymond Phillips, are funding conservation biotechnology projects that use these new tools.
Cell agriculture is the production of agricultural products, such as meat, milk and eggs, through cell culture instead of whole animals. Ida Dennis, executive director of New Harvest, is funding projects that advance the technology, as well as projects that explore the social, economic, and political aspects of cellular agriculture.
Artificial intelligence can help us find the next major breakthrough faster than ourselves. MIT PhD and entrepreneur Jeff Weis is funding neglected research, using machine learning algorithms to put this hypothesis into practice.
The rapid COVID-19 funding shows us a path and proves that leadership can come from anywhere. The Footy Coalition Science Engine is designed for radical participation. You are invited.
Science has made rapid progress in responding to this epidemic. Let us build funding models and support systems to help them do the same for the planet; we need it now.