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Topic: Open letter to researchers: (Read 1 time) previous topic - next topic



Since access to research funding is difficult, particularly for young
researchers, we consider a change in approach: "We are the funding
opportunity!" I'll develop this idea further in the comments that
follow.  This is an "open letter" to circulate to research mailing
lists which I hope will bring in new interest in the Free Technology

Keywords: research funding, postgraduate training

A critique of the way research is funded:

Considering the historical technologies for doing science, it makes
sense that public funding for research is administered via a
competitive, hierarchical model. Science is too big for everyone to
get together in one room and discuss.  However, contemporary
communication technologies and open practices seem to promise
something different: a sustained public conversation about research.
The new way of doing things would "redeem" the intellectual capital
currently lost in rejected research proposals, and would provide
postgraduate and postdoctoral researchers with additional learning
opportunities through a system of peer support.

JISC recently ran an experiment moving in this direction (the "JISC
Elevator"), but the actual incentive structure ended up being similar
to other grant funding schemes, with 6 of 26 proposals funded
(http://www.jisc.ac.uk/blog/crowd/). It strikes me that if we saw the
same numbers in a classroom setting (6 pass, 20 fail), we would find
that pretty appalling. Of course, people have the opportunity to
re-apply with changes in response to another call, but the overheads
in that approach are quite high. What if instead of a winners-take-all
competitive model, we took a more collaborative and learning-oriented
approach to funding research, with "applicants" working together, in
consultation with funders -- until their ideas were ready? In the end,
it's not so much about increasing the acceptance rate, but increasing
the throughput of good ideas! Open peer review couldn't "save" the
most flawed proposals; nevertheless, it could help expose and
understand the flaws -- allowing contributors to learn from their
mistakes and move on.

With such an approach, funding for "research and postgraduate
training" would be fruitfully combined. This modest proposal hinges on
one simple point: transparency. Much as the taxpayer "should" have
access to research results they pay for (cf. the recent of appointment
of Jimmy Wales as a UK government advisor) and scientists "should"
have access to the journals that they publish in (cf. Winston Hide's
recent resignation as editor of Genomics), so to do we as
citizen-scientists have a moral imperative to be transparent about how
research funding is allocated, and how research is done. Not just
transparent: positively pastoral.

The Free Technology Guild: a candidate solution

Suppose someone needs to put together a team of four persons: a
programmer, a statistician, an anthropologist, and a small-scale
capitalist. This team would have the project to create a new social
media tool over the course of 3 months; the plan is to make money
through a subscription model. As an open online community for work on
technology projects, the Free Technology Guild
could help:

* by helping the project designer specify the input/output
requirements for the project;

* by helping the right people for the job find and join the project;

* by providing peer support and mentoring to participants throughout
the duration of the project.

Because everything is developed in the open (code, models, ethnography),
everyone wins, including downstream users, who can replicate the same
approach with any suitable changes "on demand". (And, in case things go
badly, those results can be shared too -- the broader community can help
everyone involved learn from these experiences in a constructive fashion.)

What is needed now:

We are currently building the FTG on a volunteer basis, but within the
year we hope to set up a service marketplace where we and others can
contribute and charge for services related to free/open technology,
science, and software. Although we have criticised the current mode of
research funding as inefficient, we would be enthusiastic about
contributing to grant proposals that would support our work to build a
different kind of system.  But without waiting for funding to arrive,
we are actively recruiting volunteers to form the foundation of the
Free Technology Guild. We seek technologists, researchers,
organizational strategists, business-persons -- and
students/interns/apprentices in these fields and others. Together, we
can bootstrap a new way to do research.


One of the reasons for the difference between "pass/fail" for project funding and classwork is that a different goal is in play. In the funding "game" the goal is to put the idea before a critical audience to see what those outside the academic environment think has some possibilities for commercial development. Those that succeed have the best possibility of succeeding in the real world. Ideas are critiqued not on how whiz-bang it is, but on whether it has commercial potential. If all the ideas were funded, non of them would be able to succeed because the good ideas would also be underfunded.

In academics the goal is for everyone to be measured against some standard (TESTS) and those that succeed in meeting or exceeding the standard are rewarded with a grade that shows how well they compared to that standard.

Some of those ideas that don't get funding may be good ideas, but those presenting the idea do a poor job, are outside their field of expertise and didn't do a good jopb of presenting it, or there isn't yet a market for the idea. (think Babbage's calculating machine...) If the idea can't stand up to competition on the academic level, how will it ever stand up to competition in a commercial environment.

In an academic environment it might feel good if everyone succeeds, but at some point we all have to get into the real world where not everyone is going to be successful. Where one has to adapt and modify ones expectations to succeed. I have gone from being a laborer to being an engineering technician, engineer, teacher and back to being an engineering tech. Why? because that is how I had to adapt to conditions. You have to be able to sell your skills (from college) and the project idea has to be able to sells its benefits. Sorry, your idea is good and shows some merit, but these others were better and we think they can fly. We can fund some ideas, and most of those should succeed, but if we fund all the ideas they will all fail. Which is better? Some succeed, or none succeed?


Hi kf2qd, thanks for reply this open letter.

You're right, goal is in play.... and  often a good idea needs to combine several pieces to be well performed .
The "Academic system is generally evaluate ideas in terms of "forecast of economic return of investment" after standard evaluation analysis of the  "intangible"  ,Value Driver,  recognize Enabler indicator...  etc..etc.

The FTG working group in collaboration with FKI (Free Knowledge Institute) and FTA (Free Technology Academy) is offer several opportunities in the areas of learning, activism, and economic
sustainability and start-up alternative solution .
There are three main barriers which need to be overcome for this process to be successful:

• The artificial scarcity of immaterial goods (including software and other digital resources, ideas and knowledge), that have been privatised by intellectual monopolies using patents and copyright.
• The false conception that there is an abundance of material goods (environmental resources).
• Belief in continual growth as a requirement for a functioning economy.

Knowledge and Technology for a Free Knowledge Society is what the FKI works for. We aim to facilitate and enable the study, sharing and collaborative development of free knowledge. Our offering is a shared vision and common platform for education, collaboration and advocacy in free knowledge and free technology. The platform is completely based on free software and free knowledge and is organised in a bottom-up manner.

we are having some interesting new approaches discussion about  at FTA Free technology academy.

You're also very welcome to join the discussion at:



Advisory Board member FTG


• The artificial scarcity of immaterial goods (including software and other digital resources, ideas and knowledge), that have been privatised by intellectual monopolies using patents and copyright.

Those immaterial goods are not artificially scarce. Your own wiki even describes the need to barter tutoring and consulting. Why would you accept the development of "software and other digital resources" as not being scarce?


@chagrin (have not read the open letter yet, but just in response to your question.)

teaching: I sell hours of my time. I only have so many hours to live. My time is scarce.
code: can be copied an infinite amount of time. It is not scarce.

the work you put into code is your time, so creating it is concerned with scarce goods, but once it exists its non-scarce.



siar. I have no clue what you are talking about.

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