A modest proposal to fund research in a different way
When asked to describe the process academics go through to find funding for their research, Johan Bollen has two words: labour intensive.
I've seen some estimates, that in Australia at least, about five centuries worth of research time is spent writing and submitting [funding] proposals...there's been other estimates of scientists or professors spending 40% of their time writing proposals. -Johan Bollen
Every year hundreds of millions of dollars is handed out by industry, government, research councils, and individual philanthropists.
Bollen, an associate professor at Indiana University, argues it's a labour that could be better directed elsewhere.
And he's come up with what he feels is a viable solution: a model that lets scientists fund each other.
It goes like this:
- take the available funding for science each year and distribute it equally to academic researchers
- require each researcher to donate to others a given fraction of all they receive
As a result, Bollen hypothesizes the money will circulate through the scientific community in a way that is favoured by the entire scientific community.
The idea is that if everybody thinks you're a good scientist, then the funding that you need should be made available to you, and you should be able to make the serendipitous innovations that research is supposed to generate - Johan Bollen
While he acknowledges that his proposal is unlikely to up-end the current funding model, Bollen is buoyed by the fact that his idea has gained some traction in the Netherlands.