sos_identity

Seed's inaugural edition of the State of Science explores the current scientific landscape and its emergent hotspots—along with the motivations and ambitions of the individuals charting its future.

Read more Seed State of Science 2008

Revolutionary Minds: Bob Twiggs + Jordi Puig-Suari

What does science cost?
Where does the money come from?

Money

Blue Ribbon Science

Even though the Nobel Committee, the Kavli Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and others disburse millions of dollars to eminent scientists every year as a reward for their work, researchers looking for rock-star levels of cash have started to turn elsewhere. "Inducement prizes," wherein a monetary award is promised for the achievement of an impressive scientific goal, have become increasingly popular. And unlike awards such as the Nobels, these prizes are geared to future discoveries, rather than those of the past. Here are a few of the biggest ongoing contests.

Prize/Sponsor Amount Conditions
Google Lunar X PRIZE
(X Prize Foundation and Google)
$30 million Awarded for the first privately financed team to put a rover on the Moon that traverses more than 500 meters and transmits video and images to Earth.
Archon X PRIZE for Genomics
(X Prize Foundation and Venter Institute)
$10 million Awarded to the first privately funded team to sequence 100 different genomes in 10 days for under $10,000 per genome.
Progressive Automotive X PRIZE
(X Prize Foundation and Progressive)
$10 million Awarded for the creation of a 100-mpg car with strict emissions standards. The finalists are set to race in September 2009.
Millennium Prize Problems
(Clay Mathematics)
$1 million per proof
($6 million left)
Awarded for solutions to seven mathematical problems. Only one, the Poincaré conjecture, has been solved.
Methuselah Mouse Prize
(Methuselah Foundation)
$4 million and growing Awarded for creating the longest-lived mouse. Prize payout is determined by the age difference between new and old record holders.
Netflix Prize
(Netflix)
$1 million Awarded for creating an algorithm that is 10 percent more accurate than Netflix's own for predicting user ratings.

The Cost of Science

Not all scientific questions are created equal. Some may require decades of mental effort but tools no more sophisticated than pencil and paper. Others may be answered in a moment, but only from a multi-billion-dollar piece of machinery. Below, a snapshot of notable achievements from across the sciences, circa 2008, along with a rudimentary estimate of the price tag on the tools that made them happen.

chart_cost-of-science

Seed 19

The Fundamentals: Money
Posted November 20, 2008
Originally appeared in Seed 19

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