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The Age of the Independent Researcher

Science used to be the pursuit of rich gentleman with nothing better to do and no hunger pains to get in the way of questioning the why’s and how’s of the universe. Great breakthroughs could be and were made by singular individuals acting alone. With the advent of Universities, anyone with the desire and a certain level of intelligence could become a scientist, not just rich greek gentleman.  Today there are more scientists researching than at any other point in human history and tomorrow I will be able to make the same claim. Just by sheer numbers it’s a pretty safe bet that science, as in the cumulative knowledge of humanity, will continue to advance at an increasing pace. Yet this pace is not as fast as it should be.

There is a flaw in the traditional route to research. Traditional scientific institutes are not optimized for scientists willing to question the status quo. Risk and failure while essential to developing cutting edge science do not lead to tenure or a raise.  As a result, an increasing and needless amount of focus within the scientific community is being placed on IP, publications, degrees and award.

A place where anyone can come to research and do so full time. Each CoResearch facility will accomplish this by providing access to equipment, funding, education, and most important of all collaboration.

The first CoResearch Space is called Brightwork and I hope you will join us in making it a reality.

-Cheers,

Jacob Shiach

3 comments

  1. Dustin says:

    Where will Brightwork get funding to do independent research? Who controls what the potential researchers choose to work on?

    I agree that the current University research system is flawed. You have to jump through many hoops to hopefully get a paper published, and getting funding is a nightmare. Research funding from the NSF and others, is almost like twitter in some sense. If your project isn’t in a ‘trending area’ then it most likely won’t get funding.

    Some questions for you:
    Has funding already been secured?
    How many researchers can Brightwork support?
    Does Brightwork have any facilities, or is this still on the drawing board?
    How will Brightwork provide education?

    Thank you,
    Dustin

    • JacobShiach says:

      Dustin, this is all still in the formation/gather support stage so no funding or facilities yet.

      No one will limit what the potential researchers can research (provided it’s relatively safe/legal) they’re independents.

      Brightwork initially wont fund researchers, we’ll help them fund themselves through Grants, Investors, CrowdSourced, Events, Donations, Consulting, Workshops,Derivative Sales. Funding oneself might sound scary and crazy but it’s actually no different than a traditional institute where you are expected to fund yourself through teaching, grants, IP,etc.

      Education will be provided by the members, staff and internet. It’s not a problem if you don’t have an advanced degree or any degree, as long as you’re motivated.

  2. Jacob,

    This is an excellent idea and approach. Best of luck in realizing Brightwork, as independent research can be rewarding and occasionally lucrative. I have been a consultant / independent contractor in the electronics industry since 1996, and it is somewhat the same; essentially selling your skills to those in need of such services for a limited term, and on a nonexclusive basis. The difference in a contractor or an independent researcher versus a full time employed technical staff member, whether that is a scientist, engineer, or technician, is that the contractor knows he/she will be “going back out the door” the day they start a new position. Changing positions is frightening to those with the “direct employee” mindset that look for security through a stable job, but there is really no (or very limited) security in the workplace these days. The independent contractor has to get over that insecurity and realize they are making their own job security via their track record (good references and work history) and a good skill set (broad/strong resume). The same, it seems to me, would be largely true of an independent researcher.

    You are absolutely correct that funding is key to the ability to engage in independent research or any continued independent endeavor. There are always ups and downs, and the independent must learn to deal with those. Finances can be the biggest challenge, especially for those with a family. The same is true for most start-up ventures. If the principal is married, then support from their family is essential. If their main support system is not behind them, then it is far more difficult. Your energy, both physical and intellectual, needs to be focused on the endeavor at hand and not expended dealing with an antagonistic spouse.

    Education is often an issue, but I have found an advanced degree is not necessary in many cases, depending on what you are doing. The knowledge associated with a basic and sometimes an advanced degree, however, often IS essential. I have found many companies, and especially academic institutions, are not accepting of individuals without “the proper” credentials, at least not initially. But there are exceptions to every rule. It seems that independent contractors are judged more by their skill set and less by academic degrees. In other words, they are judged more by proven ability and results, and I would expect it to be so for independent researchers as well.

    My point is just that, while not impossible, working in research and development is a steeper hill to climb for self-taught individuals, which some independent researchers seem to be. And by “self-taught” I am referring not only to “non-degreed individuals”, but also to those with a lower level degree that have advanced their knowledge and skill set without securing more advanced degrees, as well as “cross-field individuals” who may have a degree in one area but have advanced their knowledge and skill set in a different field. I know this situation well. I often, as many performance reviews pointed out, “worked beyond my educational level” during my early years in the electronics industry; non-degreed engineer, engineering associate, and other titles were loosely used to indicate that I had the ability but not the formal engineering degree. Also, crossing or combining multiple disciplines today seems often to be seen as diluting, rather than enhancing, an individuals knowledge base. The classic view of a Renascence man does not seem to be highly valued in current industry or academia… unless that individual is notably successful. Hopefully the increasing trend toward independent studies and research will bring this back into fashion.

    Once again, best of luck bringing Brightwork CoResearch to fruition!
    Michael

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