Seeds of Science (SoS), an open access scientific journal specializing in speculative and non-traditional articles with a community-based peer review process, would like funding to found a virtual research institute. The initial plan would be to appoint 3-5 individuals to lead lab groups pursuing original research (mentoring projects/facilitating collaboration between junior researchers in addition to conducting their own research activities). We would provide a stipend ($1000-$3000), recruitment of research associates, an in-house publishing platform, and general administrative support for organizing lab activities. Ideal candidates would have a PhD and/or have a demonstrated record of conducting independent research of high scientific value. Candidates should be in a position that allows them to make an extended part-time commitment (1-2 years) to run their research group. Potential research activities may include: theoretical development, data analysis, (living) literature reviews, surveys of fields/open questions, metascientific investigation (e.g. “How Life Sciences Actually Work”, NewScience’s NIH report), observational data collection, and fraud detection/data sleuthing. There is also potential for collaboration with academic researchers as a source of projects.
Identify talented independent researchers and empower them to conduct their best work
We solve the problems that commonly deter "amateur" scientists from conducting sustained self-directed research activities: lack of official title and institutional support, challenges with disseminating ideas and publishing research in traditional journals, and lack of collaborators/community.
Create a new organizational model that frees researchers from the incentives and constraints of academia and industry (a virtual Institute of Advanced Study)
SoS researchers will be able to conduct their scientific activities without having to play the academic game or bow to commercial interests. Furthermore, public opinion of universities is at an all time low in many countries. The SoS institute will provide a new model for organizing research outside of academia and industry and in doing so contribute to a healthier scientific ecosystem over the long run.
Promote neglected scientific activities
One of the causes of the recent replication crises is that academics are incentivized to do splashy, “prestigious” research (expensive, high-tech) instead of rigorous exploratory work, theoretical development, or basic observational research. There is also little incentive to share early-stage ideas or conduct activities that will not produce high-impact publications (literature review, replication, fraud detection, adversarial collaboration), two factors that have been identified as contributing to scientific stagnation (see "Stagnation and Scientific Incentives"; Bhattacharya, 2020). We are creating a new context in which researchers will be free to counteract the limitations of our current scientific ecosystem.
$9000 - $3000 stipends for 3 lab leaders
$5000 - hire part-time communications assistant to help with recruitment and outreach
$2000 - operating costs (CrossRef membership, website, email client, paying authors - see below)
We were founded in August 2021 by Dr. Dario Krpan (assistant professor of psychology at the London School of Economics), Dr. Sergey Samsonau (AI technical lead at NYU), and Roger's Bacon (independent researcher/writer). In 22 months, we have reviewed 29 manuscripts and published 20 papers (6 rejected, 3 currently in revision) from a wide variety of scientific disciplines. To date, we have recruited a diverse community of 275 gardeners (our volunteer reviewers who vote/comment on articles) including individuals from all levels of academia and non-academics. In December 2021, we were awarded a $6,000 grant through Scott Alexander’s ACX grants program. The money has been used to cover our operating costs (we were self-funded before this grant), hire an assistant to do part-time social media and outreach work, redesign our website and branding (in process), and to pay authors (we pay $25 per article and are the only open access scientific journal to do so as far as we can tell).
This project could be actively harmful if the output of our researchers produces knowledge/ideas that become harmful (e.g. leads to detrimental technology, used as scientific misinformation). Given the areas and forms of research in which we aim to specialize (non-experimental basic research in metascience, life sciences, or mind sciences) and the overall context of the journal/research institute (explicitly open to speculative or exploratory work, articles are reviewed by a community with diverse scientific expertise before publication), we find it highly unlikely that we would produce research which will be actively harmful.
We have limited funds remaining from our previous grant and are now actively seeking funds for the research institute here and elsewhere.