Partnership with the Institute for Progress
What is means for New Things Under the Sun, and what it doesn't mean
To readers of New Things Under the Sun,
Back in August, I wrote:
This project began as something I did in my spare time, until November 2021, when Emergent Ventures generously took a chance and gave me a grant that let me spend 25% of my work time on this project. Going forward, I am working with an organization that will provide funding for me to work on it closer to 50% of my time, while keeping the site free. I’ll have more to say on that when everything is finalized.
That day is here!
I’m pleased to announce that the Institute for Progress has named me a senior fellow and is partnering with New Things Under the Sun. Institute for Progress (IFP) is a new nonpartisan think tank, founded by Caleb Watney and Alec Stapp, with a mission to accelerate scientific, technological, and industrial progress. You can read their (great, in my view) launch document here.
Obviously I’m biased, but I think New Things Under the Sun is an important public good. That said, it’s a weird thing and doesn’t neatly fall into a traditional academic role. It’s not the kind of academic research you publish in peer-reviewed journals and get tenure for; neither is it teaching to tuition-paying students. Iowa State University has been quite willing to let me work on this weird project, for which I’m grateful, but I’ve always thought the project would probably best be served, in the long-run, with external support. That’s what the partnership with IFP provides.
To be clear; I’m still an assistant teaching professor at Iowa State University. But now a larger part of my time will be carved out for building and maintaining New Things Under the Sun. And even though I’m partnering with IFP, I remain the sole writer of New Things Under the Sun and I retain complete editorial control.
The main differences will be more frequent updates to New Things Under the Sun, as well as an updated design to the newsletter and website. Thanks to IFP support, for 2022, I’m targeting about three posts per month, at least on average. My rough goal is that two of those will be new articles, and the third will be a bundle of updates to existing articles (look for just such a bundle in your inbox today).
At the same time, I’m very much aligned with the goals of IFP. As a senior fellow, I plan to do additional work specifically for them, helping them ground science policy proposals in rigorous evidence. That will influence the kinds of topics I prioritize writing about in New Things Under the Sun, since it will influence the kinds of things I read and think about.
I view this as a feature, not a bug though. One of the goals of New Things Under the Sun has always been to try and highlight academic work that is relevant for understanding how the world works. That’s why posts are written around advancing a specific claim, rather than as a tour of thematically connected papers. It’s my hope that being in dialogue with people trying to find concrete ways to accelerate scientific and technological progress will keep me focused on the ways research can shed light on the world we actually live in.