Apropos of The Power of No, an essay on the time and effort wasted on applying for scientific research grants:
In our current science funding vetocracy,1 only ideas that few or no established scientists object to will be funded and rewarded. Naive credentialism sees this as a good thing, but hindsight shows that many of the most transformative discoveries we take for granted today were objected to by the most prestigious scientists and experts of their time.
The initial outline for a proposed solution, in brief, gives the money the US already spends on scientific research to the full-time scientists who already get 90 percent of it. They can spend 60 percent on any project they want and 40 percent funding projects of their peers.
Something like that feels like a good start. It also made me think of a reform in the spirit of Mancer Olsen: institutions empowered to say yes that can break through the calcification that inevitably builds up in all durable institutions. Imagine a high-level role at the NIH whose only power is to single-handedly approve denied applications. Give them an annual budget for the value of rejections they have to overturn. Combat (or at least time-bound) corruption by making it a short, term-limited, politically appointed appointment. Publish short (a few pages) summaries of why a given application was overturned. Provide protection — both legal and political — from research they approve that doesn’t pan out, since the whole point is most avant garde research probably won’t.
This coinage is inspired. I’ve added it to my lexicon, effective immediately. ↩