Zac Townsend

183 karmaJoined Mar 2022


I think this is all correct! By the way, I was mostly thinking of RCTs in the social sciences -- like randomized school vouchers or the Perry Preschool Experiment -- but it's equally true in the FDA/medical context. 

Would be happy to help, but they might be farther along than my thinking either way. I just know a ton of people who have tried to get fiscal sponsors and it's a pain (and expensive!). 

(For context, I was the Chief Data Officer of the California State Government and CTO of Newark, NJ when Cory Booker was Mayor). 

I actually think the way to do this is to partner with one city and build everything they need to run the city. The problem is that people can't use piecemeal systems very well. It would just take a huge initial set of capital -- like exactly the type of capital that could be provided here. 

Apologies. I tried. The forum definitely thinks I'm spamming it with fourteen comments, but we'll see how it goes. 

(Per Nick's post, reposting)

Large-scale randomized controlled trials

Values and Reflective Processes; Epistemic institutions; Economic Growth

RCTs are the gold standard in social science research but are frequently too expensive for most researchers to run, particularly in the United States. We are interested in large-scale funding of RCTs that are usually impossible due to a lack of funding.

(Per Nick's post, reposting)

Private-sector ARPA models


Many of the technological innovations of the last fifty years have their genesis in experiments run by DARPA. ARPA models are characterized by individual decision-makers taking on risky bets within defined themes, setting ambitious goals, and mobilizing top researchers and entrepreneurs to meet them. We are interested in funding work to study these funding models and to create similar models in our areas of interest. 

(Per Nick's post, reposting)

Practitioner research


Universities are primarily filled with professors trained in similar ways. Although universities sometimes have “professors of the practice,” these positions are often reserved for folks nearing retirement. We are interested in funding ways for practitioners to spend time conducting and publishing “research” informed by their lived real-world experiences.

(Per Nick's note, reposting)

 Cross-university research

Values and Reflective Processes, Research That Will Help Us Improve, Epistemic Institutions, Empowering Exceptional People  

Since 1978, more than 30 scientists supported by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute have won the Nobel prize in medicine. We are interested in funding other cross-institutional collections of researchers and financial support beyond the biosciences, focusing on economic growth, public policy, and general social sciences.

(Per Nick's note, reposting)

Political fellowships

Values and Reflective Processes, Empowering Exceptional People

We’re like to fund ways to pull people who don’t run for political office to run for political office. It's like a MacArthur. You get a call one day. You've been selected. You'd make a great public servant, even if you don't know it. You'd get some training, like DCCC and NRCC, and when you run, you get two million spent by the super-PAC run by the best. They've done the analysis. They'll provide funding. They've lined up endorsers. You've never thought about politics, but they've got your back. Say what you want to say, make a difference in the world: run the campaign you don't mind losing. And if you win, make it real.

(Per Nick's note, reposting)

Development of cross-disciplinary talent

Economic Growth, Values and Reflective Processes, Empowering Exceptional People,

The NIH successfully funded the creation of interdisciplinary graduate programs in, for example, computational biology and Ph.D./MD programs. Increasingly, the returns to studying in one discipline, artificially constructed, cannot solve our most pressing problems. We are interested in funding the development of fluent individuals in two or more fields — particularly people with expertise in technology and social or economic issues. Universities have computer science + math or computer science + biology degrees, but we are interested in cultivating talents at the intersection of any disciplines that can affect our long-term future, and with a particular emphasis on non-university contexts. 

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