November 13, 2011

Doing science right

I recently complained about the non-arrival of the Tyrolean Iceman's genome this October, despite the fact that at least parts of it have been available for almost a year.

More recently, I plugged the Roman DNA Project that has already exceeded its funding goal, and seems to be going strong. Kristina Killgrove promises:
Donors will also be able to follow my progress through Twitter and blog feeds not available to the general public, getting real-time updates and learning the DNA results along with me.
Personally, I would prefer if project progress would be visible to the world at large, rather than only to project donors, in accordance with my default stance in favor of completely open science. Nonetheless, I appreciate that this limitation may serve as an incentive for donations. I hope that there will not be formal limitations barring donors from communicating news about the Project's progress to the community at large.

And, it seems that we won't have to wait too long for results. Kristina tweeted back to me that:
@dienekesp Funding will be released in mid-Dec. Samples shipped mid-Jan. First results expected 2-3 months after that.

@dienekesp Depends on # of samples, but before summer will probably have all results.
The success of this and other projects from the SciFund challenge would be a very positive sign that regular people with a passion for science are willing to fund experts to do the kind of research they want. The funding and success of such endeavors may be the best answer to those who think that digging deeper into the public purse is the only way to advance science and education.

1 comment:

Pascvaks said...

Main Entry: benefactor  [ben-uh-fak-ter, ben-uh-fak-]
Part of Speech: noun
Definition: donor
Synonyms: Santa Claus, aid, altruist, angel, assistant, backer, contributor, fairy godparent, fan, good Samaritan, grubstaker, helper, humanitarian, mark*, patron, philanthropist, promoter, protector, sponsor, subscriber, subsidizer, supporter, well-wisher
Notes: a benefactoris someone who provides a gift; a beneficiaryis someone who receives benefits or favors
Antonyms: antagonist, opponent, opposer
* = informal/non-formal usage

Truly, civilization advances on the ‘kindness’ and 'good graces' of hard working people willing to forego a bit of their lowly food or meager treasure so that others may have time to watch, wonder, think, tinker, doodle, and --maybe-- discover or invent something useful. It's very hard to invent a bow and arrow when you're busy throwing rocks and sticks at a deer. Stargazers, ‘artists‘, and skinny kids who want to think the day away are expensive but, unfortunately, necessary too, and --unless mother nature has temporarily suspended favorable conditions to keep them alive-- we ought to support them (well maybe a few) if we can. Investing goes back a long, long way in human history. There may even be a little something genetic to it, what? ;-)

PS: If you need an atom bomb to end a bloody war or want to go to the moon for some strange reason, giving some hard earned whatever-you-have to an ‘intermediary’ is a good way to get a lot of precious, meager treasure together fast and dole it out to the ‘right‘ people, or so we hope; but on a continuous basis, when there is no pressing, national need, it can be a might dangerous too. Intermediaries can’t be trusted very long before they start to think that the treasure is all theirs and the givers are too stupid to know what’s best. Beware of ’intermediaries’! Indeed, beware of anyone who wants to take or ‘manage’ what you have, mother nature is still in charge and she‘s a fickle old bat. You just never know what she's going to do next. Right Oetzi?