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Steve Esser: on 3/25/09 at 17:25pm UTC, wrote Dr. Aguirre: I'm an investor and I think your analogy is basically sound. ...

Anthony Aguirre: on 3/18/09 at 16:45pm UTC, wrote A few comments: First, Zeeya, thanks for these very nice blog entries that...

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TOPIC: Universe of Possibilities: A Paradigm Shift in Funding Physics? * [refresh]
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FQXi Administrator Zeeya Merali wrote on Mar. 7, 2009 @ 05:13 GMT
Much of Friday was spent discussing the direction in which FQXi should move in the future. FQXi directors Max Tegmark and Anthony Aguirre described some of the successes of FQXi and set up brainstorming sessions between physicists and philanthropists to try and think of new ways to fund foundational research.

On the success front, Aguirre highlighted the Nature of Time essay contest, which...

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FQXi Administrator Anthony Aguirre wrote on Mar. 18, 2009 @ 16:45 GMT
A few comments:

First, Zeeya, thanks for these very nice blog entries that give some flavor of the proceedings at the meeting. And thanks Andrei for many of the beautiful pictures!

Second, true to my word (I can't believe there was every any doubt...) we really did announce the essay contest winners; see the page here: http://fqxi.org/community/essay/winners.

Third, a comment on what FQXi funds. As Max suggested, FQXi instructs the panels to consider the *product* of the (chance of success)x(impact if successful). In fact, FQXi goes further and divides this by (cost of project). Thus we want to maximize the (in phyisics lingo) 'expectation value of impact per dollar'.

I would say that this is not, in general, how other science funding agencies do things in reality, though of course some of the same considerations come in to any grantmaking agency. While I concur with Fred that a 'business model' has corrupted some/much of the academic research and funding model, at the same time a 'investment model' is not really used in funding.

That is, investors have a portfolio with high-risk high-return as well as low-risk, low-return investments. Whether by intention or not, large funding agencies often tend to allocate rather strongly in low-risk. (In fact I've read somewhere that academics in their actual investments tend to be strongly risk-averse on the whole.) We see FQXI's mission, in part, to represent a high-risk, high-return portion of the research funding portfolio. That is, we're experimenting with being venture capitalists in big questions. It would be great to get some input from actual investors (or venture capitalists) to see how we could do it better!

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Steve Esser wrote on Mar. 25, 2009 @ 17:25 GMT
Dr. Aguirre: I'm an investor and I think your analogy is basically sound. I don't have any direct experience with the world of science funding, but from everything I have heard it makes sense that fqxi can help fulfill the higher risk/higher reward role.

Best regards, - Steve Esser

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