Using Mega-Cash Prizes to Incentivize Revolutionary Science
Date: Monday, March 10, 2008 @ 23:20:49 GMT
Topic: General

Balancing risk and reward

A new paper in Medical Hypotheses suggests that very big cash prizes could specifically be targeted to stimulate ‘revolutionary’ science. Usually, prizes tend to stimulate ‘applied’ science — as in the most famous example of Harrison’s improved clock solving the ‘longitude’ problem. But for prizes successfully to stimulate revolutionary science the prizes need to be three key elements.

1.) Very large (and we are talking seven figure ‘pop star’ earnings, here) to compensate for the high risk of failure when tackling major scientific problems

2.) Awarded to scientists at a young enough age that it influences their behavior in (about) their mid-late twenties — when they are deciding on their career path

3.) Include objective and transparent scientometric criteria, to prevent the prize award process being corrupted by ‘political’ incentives.

Such mega-cash prizes, in sufficient numbers, might incentivize some of the very best young scientists to make more ambitious, long-term — but high-risk — career choices. The real winner of this would be society as a whole; since ordinary science can successfully be done by second-raters — but only first-rate scientists can tackle the toughest scientific problems.

Original article: Medical Hypotheses

Jerry Decker writes: ...and if you would like to invest in a far-reaching enterprise, check out my Vanguard Sciences Lab Project.

[I'm glad to see that in the latest version (4.2) of the Vanguard Science Lab Project, Jerry has adopted the financing concept I proposed for the Xtreme Science Foundation more than a year ago (named Fuel-less Energy Public Award - FEPA - at that time) such as: limited time escrow/trust fund with %interest to finance operation and return of the principal in case the XS-NRG prize not paid (please see the last 2 surveys and XSF for more). Otherwise, the two projects are different; I still think the XSF is the way to go....Vlad]

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