Лёня Посицельский (posic) wrote,
Лёня Посицельский

"The Mark Gable Foundation", by Leo Szilard, 1948


"I have earned a very large sum of money" - said Mr. Gable, turning to me, "with very little work. And now I am thinking of setting up a Trust Fund. I want to do something that will really contribute to the happiness of the mankind; but it is very difficult to know what to do with money. When Mr. Rosenblatt told me that you would be here tonight I asked the Mayor to invite me. I certainly would value your advice." "Would you intend to do anything for the advancement of science?" I asked. "No," Mark Gable said, "I believe scientific progress is too fast as it is." "I share your feeling about this point," I said with the fervor of conviction, "but then, why not do something about the retardation of scientific progress?" "That I would very much like to do," Mark Gable said, "but how do I go about it?"

"Well," I said, "I think that should not be very difficult. As a matter of fact, I think it should be quite easy. You could set up a Foundation, with an annual endowment of thirty million dollars. Research workers in need of funds could apply for grants, if they could make out a convincing case. Have ten committees, each composed of twelve scientists, appointed to pass on these applications. Take the most active scientists out of the laboratory and make them members of these committees. And the very best men in the field should be appointed as Chairmen at salaries of $50,000 each. Also have about twenty prizes of $100,000 each for the best scientific papers of the year. This is just about all you would have to do. Your lawyers could easily prepare a Charter for the Foundation. As a matter of fact, any of the National Science Foundation Bills which had been introduced in the 79th and 80th Congress could perfectly well serve as a model."

"I think you had better explain to Mr. Gable why this Foundation would in fact retard the progress of science," said a bespectacled young man sitting at the far end of the table, whose name I didn't get at the time of introduction. "It should be obvious" - I said - "First of all, the best scientists would be removed from their laboratories and kept busy on committees passing on applications for funds. Secondly, the scientific workers in need of funds will concentrate on problems which are considered promising and are pretty certain to lead to publishable results. For a few years there may be a great increase in scientific output; but by going after the obvious, pretty soon Science will dry out. Science will become something like a parlor game. Some things will be considered interesting, others will not. There will be fashions. Those who follow the fashion will get grants. Those who won't, will not, and pretty soon they will learn to follow the fashion too."

https://library.ucsd.edu/dc/object/bb33804055/_1.pdf , pages 7-8.

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