Tonight I am attending the Annual Kerkut Trust dinner. This charity was set up by Gerald Kerkut to fund physiology graduate students at my university. The value of these cannot be understated. There is no place else consistently offering such no strings attached money for exciting new projects and students. The foundation is extremely generous and almost always responds positively to request for extra funds and especially travel money. They don’t ask you to lie about potential future economic impact, only that the science be solid and new. The application is short and to the point. The result is an invaluable resource for genuinely novel and new biomedical research projects that would never get off the ground otherwise. This has to be the most underappreciated charity at my university given the magnitude of the effect I have seen it have on the faculties that it helps.
Coincident with my dinner is an announcement in Science Magazine that the NSF is proposing a new initiative, Creative Research Awards for Transformative Interdisciplinary Ventures (CREATIV).It is a program to promote what Science calls out-of-the-box research. What is new and exciting is that it is all about taking risks and working between disciplinary boundaries and actually exploring the unknown rather than just being the next step sort of science. The key requirement is that it must be transformative. Such a program would never even get a hearing today in Britain with the conservative government hell bent on only funding practical and safe translational research. It is nice to see that the US still has its revolutionary spirit.