Genius Grants

I make it a point to read up on each year’s MacArthur Fellows. These MacArthur “Genius Grants” are unlike Nobel Prizes in that they are more often awarded on the strength of what the recipient will accomplish in the future than on the strength of what the recipient did years ago. More importantly, I’ve found at least one Fellow every year whose work has been so inspiring to me that I’ve continued to follow it over the years. The first of these was Dr. Angela Belcher, a professor of Materials Science at MIT. I’ve also been pleased when I see folks whose work I’ve admired recieve the award, such as Saul Griffith, the founder of Squid Labs and David Macauley, the incredible illustrator of “The Way Things Work.”

This year, one of the most inspiring recipients of the MacArthur Fellowship is an agriculturalist named Will Allen. His non-profit, Growing Power, maintains an urban farm in Milwaukee, providing fresh vegetables to the residents of the distressed inner city there. Regular readers here will note that I have a strong interest in urban agriculture and small-lot permaculture, so it is especially rewarding to see the MacArthur Foundation take interest in the kind of project that Will Allen is leading.

The New York Times published a great article about a month back on Will Allen and Growing Power and MAKE magazine has the video of an interview with him.

Scientific publishing and the winner’s curse

I recommend Ars Technica’s well-written summary of a recent paper in PLoS Medicine that studied the scientific publishing industry from a purely economic model. I believe that the for-profit model of most scientific journals is broken and ripe for disruption by open access journals, such as PLoS Medicine, so I’m inclined to look at the paper from a biased viewpoint. I will note, though, that since the paper is in a PLoS journal, I can choose to look at the results more critically without having to pay out the nose to do so.