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In efforts to streamline its programs, FQXi now directs grants through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) at the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. FQXi continues to offer its Mini-Grant and Large Grant programs, soliciting and reviewing applications for these grants (in the case of the Large Grant, FQXi convenes expert review panels). On the basis of these reviews, FQXi advises the DAF on what grants to make. After grants have been made by the DAF, FQXi will work with the DAF to monitor the grantee’s performance via grant reports. In this way, researchers will continue to interact with FQXi, while the DAF interacts mostly with the researchers’ institutes’ administrative/grants management office. For this reason, our website refers to the Mini-Grants and Large Grants as FQXi grant programs administered by a DAF. With this setup, FQXi will be able to focus its work more on outreach and education, while the DAF administers the grantmaking program.
Who might receive FQXi grants?
Any researcher or outreach specialist working at a non-profit institution is eligible to participate in FQXi grant programs.
- Doesn't the non-profit requirement effectively rule out researchers doing work at corporations? What about at government labs? What about those completely outside of the usual funding systems for science?
- Does FQXi support scientists doing "philosophical" or "metaphysical" research? Isn't this a waste of time?
- Does FQXi support full-time research?
- The dearth of research into "foundational questions" is not for lack of money, but fear of degree or tenure denial. For example, many academics turn to philosophical and speculative topics after tenure.
Doesn't the non-profit requirement effectively rule out researchers doing work at corporations? What about at government labs? What about those completely outside of the usual funding systems for science?
The legal status of FQXi and the DAF requires that our grant programs be open only to non-profit organizations, such as universities and US government agencies. Thus, at this time, the programs are not open to researchers at corporations, nor individuals not affiliated with a non-profit organization. In most cases, we believe that this requirement is not overly onerous, because nearly all researchers in the fields FQXi supports have (or can create) an academic or non-profit affiliation. For example, the recent work of A. Garrett Lisi was facilitated by the non-profit organization Fractured Atlas. However, we are aware that this tax requirement may occasionally and unfortunately exclude exceptional individual(s) working outside the mainstream, and we are working to rectify this issue. Your input is welcomed here.
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Does FQXi support scientists doing "philosophical" or "metaphysical" research? Isn't this a waste of time?
Yes, we do, and no, it's not.
Many giants of modern science—Einstein, Bohr, Schroedinger, Pauli—were passionately concerned with, and inspired by, the philosophical implications of the novel notions of reality they were engaging. Moreover, their bold discoveries expanded rigorous science to encompass many previously "speculative" or "philosophical" matters.
With this history in mind, we at FQXi believe that deeply examining the metaphysical or philosophical foundations of certain scientific questions is better than pretending that they do not exist. Thus, we happily support research that some would pejoratively refer to as "philosophical" or "metaphysical," as long as it clearly and directly connects to scientific questions within the FQXi purview.
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Does FQXi support full-time research?
Because of the unconventional nature of the FQXi mission, and concerns that such work may negatively influence promotion and tenure decisions, we normally recommend that the DAF fund only part-time work (15% to 40%), in parallel with the scientist's usual research, rather than full-time appointments or studentships.
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The dearth of research into "foundational questions" is not for lack of money, but fear of degree or tenure denial. For example, many academics turn to philosophical and speculative topics after tenure.
At every stage of an academic career, challenges loom: earning a degree, landing a postdoctoral fellowship or a faculty position, receiving tenure, and even finding time to do some actual research. FQXi is sensitive to—and realistic regarding—the possible adverse effects that performing foundational research may have on some academic researchers, especially those early in their career.
On the other hand, requiring foundational thinkers to conceal their interests until tenure is desirable neither for the individual nor society: It results in an unsavory level of professional plotting, and disconnects the finest minds in science, at their prime, from compelling research. By supporting part-time foundational research, FQXi hopes to minimize negative occupational hazards, while maximizing the career validation bestowed by a highly competitive grant.
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