Science funding as philanthropy

Each week, Symposium Magazine provides a blogging forum for the week’s featured article. Today, the subject of Euny Hong’s piece, Ethan Perlstein, writes about some of the responses to date.Yesterday I addressed some of the points that Jay Ulfelder made on his blog, Dart-Throwing Chimp, about the challenges of independent research. Today, I explain why I actually am hopeful that independent scientists and researchers of all stripes will tap into new funding streams. And once that happens, it will become easier to wean ourselves off of our day jobs.

We should be striving for equality of opportunity and find better ways to root out fraud and cultivate a reputation economy. What’s one way to do this? Look to charitable giving. According to the National Philanthropic Trust, a source that Ulfelder also cites, 64.3 million adults volunteered 15.2 billion hours of service in 2012, worth an estimated value of $296.2 billion

What happens when some of those billions of volunteer hours are devoted to citizen science projects? And by the way, these projects will need lots of collaboration and guidance from professionally trained researchers.

The study also shows that 88% of households give to charity. What happens when these households learn that they can support curiosity-driven research? From rare disease research to climate change research to gun policy research, there are countless challenges that require practitioners of the scientific method.

What about money? Well, there were 93,828 Charitable Remainder Unitrusts with total assets of $86.90 billion in 2011. What happens when some of those assets are donated to answering the big scientific challenges of our time? Venture philanthropy and the collaborative economy go hand in hand. More and more independent scientists will experiment with the way we experiment.

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