Friday, February 15, 2008

Pick a Science Prize

Science can work by prizes rather than just grants.

Some currently existing prizes are
1. The carbon capture prize
2. The spaceship prize
3 Feynman Prize for nano devices
4 Clay Math Prizes - $1M each for solving each of seven famous math problems.

Prizes reward accomplishment rather than effort. The economics of this model is described here.

Even if you do not believe prizes provide a good incentive for all scientists they could provide an incentive to grant bodies to make their processes less onerous. If scientists are competing for prizes rather than spending their time filling out grant applications it is possible that grant applications will become simpler as a response.

One of the good features of prizes is they raise awareness of an issue that otherwise might be considered merely of academic interest. For example the theory of NP completeness is often introduced in a “solve this game and win a million dollars” way

So please answer in the comments

What prize would you introduce for science if a portion of your income went to the prize fund?


Luke said...

A truth machine. James Halperin wrote a book ("The Truth Machine", originally enough) with that exact premise - the government sets up a huge prize for a perfect truth machine, one is developed, and it ushers in a new age of all sorts of good stuff.

Maybe the payoff won't be quite so good, but a great gadget to have - after all, if you're setting the prize you're not concerned about feasibility, as the worst case scenario is you don't have to pay anything.

The problem with prize-based research is those efforts that require capital investment, experiment, or equipment to work on. You end up trying to convince banks/businesses to loan you the money on the hope of payoff, which ends up even more onerous than the grant applications.

David Curran said...

>A truth machine

There are claims you can use MRI scanners for this. But I think they check if you think you are lying which is different to actually are telling the truth.

>if you're setting the prize you're not concerned about feasibility

I think you are given the money has to be held somewhere you would probably rather it was used for something rather then just sitting there encouraging something impossible.

>The problem with prize-based research is those efforts that require capital investment,

Good point prizes seem great for maths where one lone genius and a pencil can figure stuff out but would it really work for spaceships? Oh wait.

happyjuggler0 said...

Off topic and pedantic warning:

Then is a word referring to time. Than, the word you should've used several times in your post (and response), is a comparison word.

Sorry, it is a pet peeve of mine.

I will take a shower, then go to work.

I would rather take a shower than take a bath.