An Approach to Research

Source: Recurse Center, date indeterminate

Fund people, not projects. Most research today is funded by writing proposals for specific projects. But what if you find a better problem to work on while doing your work? Worse, project funding is frequently tied to deliverables, which can encourage short-term thinking and discourage high-risk and potentially high-reward explorations.

Look to the edges. Much mainstream research work focuses on what is currently fashionable. Yet we believe that much of the most exciting work, what will ultimately be understood as the truly luminous ideas, are at the edges of our knowledge, currently barely visible, not yet in the mainstream. In the words of Stewart Brand, we need to “look to the edges to see where the center is going.”

The fashionable fields are often important and worth funding. But if you want to make a difference with limited funding, you need to be pushing the boundary, doing edgy things, things that are not yet part of the mainstream, but with luck and imagination and daring will help create the mainstream of the future.

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