New York Times, January 4th 2003

I believe that if 1 percent of the money now being distributed for science went to research that was of real interest to taxpayers, science would become more popular.

At present, money generally goes to research sought by the scientific establishment, corporations and government bureaucracies. The administration of science is neither democratically accountable, nor carried out in a democratic spirit.

My proposal is that 99 percent of the research funds continue to be allocated in the usual way. But I suggest that 1 percent be spent in a way that reflects the curiosity of lay people, who pay for all publicly financed research through taxes. It would be necessary to create a separate body. One possible name would be the National Discovery Center.

The center would be governed by a board representing a wide range of interests, including nongovernmental organizations, schools and voluntary associations. Individuals could send suggestions in over the Internet. Local and national organizations could lobby for projects. Potential subjects for research could be discussed in the news media.

This new venture would make science more attractive to young people, stimulate interest in scientific thinking and hypothesis-testing, and help break down the depressing alienation many people feel from science.

Rupert Sheldrake, author of Dogs That Know When Their Owners Are Coming Home, and Other Unexplained Powers of Animals.

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