Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Ever think you had the idea to cure cancer, if only you could just do the experiments you wanted to, the way you wanted, in the lab you designed, the resources you picked out, and the collaborators you wanted to work with? Your time has come. A bunch of US hedge-fund money has been dedicated to an annual $ 1,000,000 Gotham Award for Cancer Research. Basically it's an open-source grant competition. You write up your idea for a high-risk, high-innovation cancer research project, and submit it to the website. The advisory board, made up of a who's who of US cancer researchers, including ISI's most cited scientist Bert Vogelstein, makes sure it's a serious proposal, then posts it on their websites. Others can read, discuss and post commentaries blog-style, and you can then revise your proposal as you see fit. After 8 months or so, based on proposals and authors responses to questions on the website, the $1,000,000 is awarded. The ideas will also be made available to groups interesting in funding cancer research, and if they like your proposal they have the option of contacting you to contribute funds. I think this is great - part reality TV in that pretty much anyone can enter (will Joe Blow from Idaho submit the cure to cancer from a computer in his parent's basement in his tightie-whities?) and part open science. It's interesting that we were just discussing on the bayblab how open publishing a la PLOS One will probably not become mainstream under the current funding structure because it tends to reward prestige, and now here are the inklings of what I think might be a superior, open-source research funding structure for the future. Web-enabled microgranting, direct from the donor to the researcher?