Technology & Innovation

Focused Research Organizations: A New Model for Scientific Research

06.15.23 | 4分钟阅读 | Text byAlice Wu

科学研发通常发生在开始和停止中:洞察力和创新迅速从新的研究领域中发展出来,但是随着时间的流逝,低悬挂的果实被捡起,瓶颈会出现,并且进步逐渐减少。克服这些瓶颈可能是非常有益的,因为有可能触发一系列后续研究。然而,大学实验室和商业组织并不总是激励应对这些挑战。Academic incentives disfavor medium- to large-scale teamwork across disciplinesand projects with a low possibility of publishable results, while commercial profit motive precludes the production of public goods, so projects that fall in between academic and commercial incentives often go untouched.

EnterFocused Research Organizations(FROS),一种新型的非营利性研究组织,专为这一中间立场而设计。Fros的结构像初创企业一样,具有紧密协调的中型团队,使他们可以以不适合大学实验室的方式来设计和扩展解决方案。FRO专注于解决定义明确的挑战,以生产既不有利可图也不可发布的公共物品:可以使用新的研究方法并加速科学研究的步伐的过程,工具和数据集。Successful large-scale research collaborations of the past like the Large Hadron Collider and the Human Genome Project could be considered similar such projects since they produced tools and datasets that enabled new particle physics and genomics research, though they’re of a far larger size and scope. While we may only fund one or two such large scale projects in each generation, there are plenty of mid-scale problems that could be economically solved with a FRO.

Launched in 2021,融合研究is a non-profit organization dedicated to incubating and funding new FROs, and their work is growing: in March of this year,《福布斯》报道说,融合研究获得了5000万美元的慈善承诺,以推出两起新的新赛车,使他们的小型投资组合的规模翻了一番。融合研究的赛季现在是:

While Convergent Research has so far only funded FROs working in the life sciences, this research model can be applied to bottleneck research problems in any field.

不过,融合也不是唯一一个试验该模型的组织:英国政府的新高级研究与发明机构(ARIA),灵感来自Advanced Research Projects Agencies (ARPAs)in the U.S., plans to fund FROs as part of its strategy. ARIA will be the first governmental program to fund FROs, and hopefully not the last. Philanthropic funding simply cannot compare with the scale of government funding for scientific research. As the largest science funder in the world, the U.S. federal government provides enormous potential to expand the number of FROs that get launched over the next decade to accelerate scientific progress.

To help agencies conceptualize the types of scientific and engineering problems that FROs can address, FAS and Convergent Research have come together to createa database of vetted FRO proposals研究人员在sciences. These proposals tackle a range of problems fromdeveloping neuromorphic AI hardware using superconducting optoelectronic networksbuilding open-source computational infrastructure for the monitoring, reporting, and verification of ocean-based carbon removal。好奇的机构可以向我们的数据库寻求有关Fros如何适应其特​​定研究优先级的灵感。如果任何机构发现一项提案特别引人注目,我们欢迎他们与FAS或提案作者联系以获取更多详细信息。

As federal agencies begin developing their FY25 budget proposals this month, those that fund scientific research—the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)—should follow in the UK’s footsteps and request pilot funding for FROs to complement their more traditional research programs. Because of their potential to unlock bottlenecks and improve overall research productivity, FROs can be a means of enabling more scientific progress with less funding under the new budget deal.

Beyond agency interest and funding, Congressional authorization can also help launch FROs within the U.S. government. All of the agencies mentioned above have the Other Transactions Authority (OTA) necessary to pilot FROs, except for the USDA and NOAA. (AgARDA within USDA does have OTA, but it currently lacks funding.) Thus, Congress should prioritize providing the USDA and NOAA with OTA for R&D such that the agencies can not only experiment with FROs, but alsoother novel research modelsthat are useful for their mission but are not traditional grants or contracts. For all science agencies, explicit Congressional authorization to fund FROs would motivate and assure agencies of their legal authority to fund FROs, since some agencies, like the DOE, have been historically more conservative in their use of OTA than others.