Will the Revolution Be Subsidized?

The BBC calls it Rise of the anoraks (“anoraks” being English slang for people who wear uncool windbreakers and study science or math). Demos, probably the UK's most interesting think tank, calls it The Pro-Am Revolution: How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society.

Demos says that the people it calls “Pro-Ams”—meaning “amateurs who pursue a hobby to a professional standard” including serious amateur astronomers and open source coders—should receive government funding to “promote community cohesion”.

It's nice to see the bottom-up revolution being noticed. Whether it needs subsidizing, though, and how one would do so without distorting it (and without enormous waste), seem like fairly hard questions. But I haven't yet read the full report.

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2 Responses to Will the Revolution Be Subsidized?

  1. Chris says:

    It might be okay (i.e., little manipulation of the findings, minimal waste–relative to a government run operation) if the government disbursed the money to an independent and nonpartisan agency, who would then review rfp’s for scientific merit–the same standards that professional scientists would be expected to follow–and award the money as it sees fit. The National Science Foundation here in the States is an example of what I mean. In other words, the agency making the awards should not have a vested interest in the results, and neither should funding decisions depend on the amateur researcher pursuing the government’s agenda.

    As a conservative, I’m wary of government directly distributing the funds to amateur researchers for reasons that are obvious to the professional scientific community. In my field, there’s the sorry example of the National Institute of Justice to serve as the cautionary tale.

  2. Sean S. says:

    Personally I feel that any government sponsorship would be essentially an attempt to co-opt the efforts of those enthusiasts. While I don’t particuarly believe in ‘”the market” (as I’m sure the poster above does), I do believe it should be left alone. On the other hand, I DO believe that all the unfair prop up’s and hand me out’s that the government gives out to large corporations should be stopped, lest they themselves kill small time people not by virtue of being better, but by virtue of largesse.

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