Statistically, either your life or that of your friend or relative has been improved by propranolol. This is a beta-blocker which reduces the effects of stress hormones. It is usually used to treat conditions like high blood pressure, an uneven heartbeat, migraines and even chest pain. It is considered to be one of the most crucial pharmaceutical breakthroughs of the previous century.
So it is good that the US in 1940 did not have the same attitude to funding science that the UK has today. If it had, you would expect to see a few experts sitting around a table, trying to score an unorthodox proposal for a grant to study adrenaline’s function in the body.
However, science is expensive, so the country cannot afford possible fund every scientist. So we have to find a way to help the research proposals that deserve a chance. So, you must be wondering how could we pick? At this moment, there are expert reviewers who spend quite a lot of time trying to identify the best research proposal. However, in reality, they are not good at it at all, and the entire process is a huge waste of time. So why don’t we fund science by lottery?
A lottery might sound like a baby-and-bathwater type of solution and even extreme. Sometimes there is a genuine agreement that a specific strand of research is crucial and timely. However, perhaps we can keep a small proportion of the money for ideas where there is a consensus among the experts. Then we remove the bad ones and throw everything else into a pot. However, the issue still will not be resolved since the money by the government still aren’t enough. We often write segments about the HLF and how they help preserve the nature, arts and culture, but since when are arts more important than science. There are many lottery winners that donate money to charity, which I agree is important, but have you ever heard of any regular person who is not a scientist or a science enthusiast to donate to a research proposal? Neither have I. Things have to change.