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The Best Ideas Awards

In some fields, the best ideas tend to come from experimentalists. In biology and chemistry, for example, scientists conducting experiments in the lab are usually in the best position to come up with the next Big Idea. These same scientists are in the best position to write this Idea into a grant proposal that gets funded. These scientists then conduct the experiments and publish the results. They get their recognition from these publications, and to a lesser extent from their grants.

In other field like physics and SETI, there is more of a disconnect between theory and practice. In some ways this disconnect arises because of the tremendous expense and manpower required to test hypotheses proposed by theoreticians. The cycle of idea > proposal > experiment > publication > idea is not as tightly integrated as it is in other disciplines. Publications describing completed studies cannot get funded, because the work has already been done. It can be difficult to get proposals published, because reviewers and editors say there is insufficient data. Science can suffer because good hypotheses are not heard by those in a position to test them. In addition, those with the good ideas have a hard time earning recognition.

Contact in Context publishes peer-reviewed Focus on the Future papers that are essentially proposals to stimulate experiments. The fact that these papers are peer-reviewed means they are worth considering when the time comes for scientists to select the next experiments. But Contact in Context can do more to promote the study of life in the universe.

Contact in Context is sponsoring the Best Ideas Awards in an effort to promote good hypotheses by making sure they are heard by those in a position to test them, and to provide some recognition to those with good ideas.


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