If I had a billion dollars…

Guest post from Michael Kellen on incentives and competitions

Science, Reengineered

In an apparently recurring theme, my thoughts again are running to the incentives that drive human behavior, this time inspired by the recent news that the Russian billionaire Yuri Milner has established a new $3 Million Fundamental Physics Prize.  He’s actually awarded 9 of these prizes for a cool $27M promoting the efforts of theoretical physics.  Certainly that kind of money and publicity could drive a lot of attention to the field, and I love the fact that we now almost have a basketball team’s worth of physicists who almost make a basketball player’s salary.

However, is this the best way to spend $27M to shake up and rally support for science?  Of course Mr. Milner is free to spend his money any way he wishes but I see some potential problems with his approach.  Quoting from the NY times article referenced above “Mr. Milner personally selected the inaugural…

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