The co-founder of Microsoft (1975), Paul G. Allen, has just made a large donation to start a dramatic new research program in biomedical science, the Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group. My recent dispatch about this dynamic man briefly summarized his life interests, global activities, and accomplishments with supporting science and research (see: “A Dramatic Individualist, Paul G. Allen, is a Major Benefactor of Scientific Research!”). The present article presents how Allen’s newest philanthropy for science is organized, explains what he is aiming for, and applauds his insight into what is wrong in science at modern universities.
The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group [1-3]!
The new Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group has 2 mechanisms for sponsoring research. The Allen Discovery Centers provide $30 million to support productive research groups where ground-breaking investigations going into the future of science are underway. The first 2 awards will go to Tufts University (Boston) for fundamental investigations on the genesis of organ and tissue structures, and to Stanford University (Palo Alto) for systems-level computational modeling of immune cell interactions with bacteria. This portion of the Frontiers Group will fund up to 10 Discovery Centers.
The new Allen Distinguished Investigators are professional scientists working at various institutions around the world, and can be either junior or senior researchers showing the potential to dramatically reinvent entire areas of science. The awards of 1-1.5 million dollars for up to 25 selected scientists enable each to initiate unrestricted new directions for research in their respective fields. The Distinguished Investigators receive 10 years of support, thereby encouraging studies of very large previously unapproachable research questions. The freedom provided allows the Distinguished Investigators to study unusual subjects and use unconventional approaches. These possibilities are particularly needed for breakthrough studies into the complexities of biomedical science. Initial selection of 4 research scientists has just been announced; for details about their investigations, see “Video: Launch press conference: The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group” .
What will be the influence of the Allen Frontiers Group on science [1-3]?
The Allen Frontiers Group is revolutionary because it has several very distinctive features. (1) The new awardees all are located outside the several large research institutes founded by Paul Allen in Seattle; thus, the influence of his philosophy for high quality science now will spread more widely. (2) Awards in the Allen Frontiers Group all supersede the traditional approaches used to support science with research grants; the awardees can jump over the usual step-by-step progress made by individual scientists via using new and unconventional ideas for research that are too risky to be funded by research grants. (3) The large amount of time university faculty scientists now need to waste dealing with research grants (see “What is the New Main Job of Faculty Scientists Today?” ) will become available for actual experimental work in their laboratory; federal grants will not be needed by the Distinguished Investigators. (4) The awardees have a very unusual amount of unrestricted freedom for creativity and innovation; this encourages making advances in knowledge for topics and questions that are complex, difficult, and important.
The changed atmosphere provided by these factors should act to return university scientists toward finding important new knowledge through basic research, instead of chasing money from research grants. Thus, research by investigators in the Allen Frontiers Group will have a large impact by greatly advancing their fields in bioscience. Paul Allen is liberating faculty scientists to do better science, to investigate very difficult research questions, and, to once again have fun with their work (see: “Why are University Scientists Increasingly Upset with Their Job? Part II” )!
Paul Allen must perceive exactly what is wrong with today’s university research!
The classical belief that research scientists should be creative, inventive, fearless, and unhindered is increasingly not evident in modern universities. The current research grant system is destructive and hinders bringing new ideas into basic research. Freedom is missing to take chances on making research breakthroughs by using unconventional experiments. Novel ideas must be repressed due to worries about not getting a grant renewed. These widespread restrictions unfortunately limit research progress for all faculty scientists at universities, medical schools, and research institutes. The improved working atmosphere in Allen’s design for research includes the freedom to think new thoughts and go against the flow, collaborate with teamwork instead of unbridled competition, and, develop unforeseen new concepts .
Other philanthropists also act to free faculty scientists from bad problems with the research grant system!
I recently highlighted another remarkable philanthropic effort to rescue science from its present malaise by James E. Stowers, who established and generously endowed the Stowers Institute for Medical Research (see: “A Jackpot for Scientific Research, Part II” ). His large new research institute has some similar features to the Allen Institutes, including that most financial support is provided internally. At least 2 different billionaires thus perceive the important advantages for science of using philanthropy to substitute for the perverse research grant system (see: “Research Grants Cause Both Joy and Despair for University Scientists!” ). In fact, several other megaphilanthropists recently have initiated support programs which strikingly advance university science [e.g., 1].
Paul Allen clearly recognizes the negative effects the current research grant system has upon scientific research in universities. A key feature for investigators in the new Allen Frontiers Group is their liberation from the restrictions and distortions imposed by grant-supported research; they now have the freedom to make important research advances using creativity, innovation, and initiative while daring to take chances!
After reading my previous reports about the Stowers Medical Research Institute, many concluded that sponsorship of high quality scientific research by private philanthropy is NOT realistic because nobody else would donate the large sums of money needed. Several other big donors show that they all are very wrong!
It is easy to predict that the outcome of the new Frontiers Group generously sponsored by Paul G. Allen will be nothing short of wonderful! He should be praised by all research scientists for recharging and improving scientific research at universities! He truly is a hero in sience! Hooray for Paul Allen!
 Allen Institute, 2016. “Press Release: Paul G. Allen Announces $100 million to Launch The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group” . Available on the internet at: https://www.alleninstitute.org/what-we-do/frontiers-group/news-press/press-resources/press-releases/paul-g-allen-announces-100-million-launch-paul-g-allen-frontiers-group .
 Cha, A. E., 2016. Philanthropist Paul Allen announces $100 million gift to expand ‘frontiers of bioscience’. The Washington Post, March 24, Section A, page A2. Available on the internet at: http://pqasb.pqarchiver.com/washingtonpost/doc/1775298386.html?FMT=FT&FMTS=ABS:FT&date=Mar+24%2C+2016&author=Ariana+Eunjung+Cha&desc=%24100+million+to+fund+exploration+of+biosciences&free=1&pf=1 .
 The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, 2016. “Video: Introducing The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group” is available on the internet at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bkLKuJigpY .
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