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Robert Downey Jr. Launches Coalition To Get 'Fast Grants' To Climate Scientists

Should we listen to scientists and give them the resources they need to do their jobs?

Common wisdom, as seen in every disaster movie ever, would say that the answer is an emphatic, "Yes!"

But often, scientific research is negatively affected by a lack of funding or government interference.

Actor Robert Downer Jr. is looking to change that.

The actor outlined his vision in an essay.

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In the essay, published exclusively in Fast Company, Downey kicks things off by detailing some of the bureaucratic BS that scientists often have to deal with.

These obstacles entail receiving little support or funding, which Downey describes as a "blind spot of our current scientific institutions."

"New projects are down significantly over the past year."

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One previously unforeseen obstacle, the global pandemic, has become a hindrance to new scientific research, writes Downey.

"It's awful timing," he warns. "The challenges posed by climate change require us to embolden every scientist, not dissuade or overlook them."

How do we fight climate change?

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Downey sums up, in a nutshell, what'll be necessary: changes to the production and consumption of electricity, more efficient transportation, a sustainable food supply, better-preserved ecosystems, removal of greenhouse gases, and more.

It's a daunting challenge.

"If there's one major shortcoming of our existing scientific institutions, it's speed."

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Downey explains that it's critical to take on our biggest problems quickly and efficiently, but the pace of research often lags behind.

For a case study in fast science, Downey points to Fast Grants, a philantropist-funded initiative to understand COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic.

Fast Grants set a good example.

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"The program did more than just fund projects," Downey explains. "It showed that there was a more effective, less bureaucratic way to support scientists."

In short, government funding can be slow or insufficient, so scientific research should be bolstered by outside funding.

How do you fund high-risk, high-reward research?

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It's tricky, because if the research doesn't pan out, it represents sunk cost. But, Downey argues, sometimes it's necessary to place a risky bet on research that could yield big dividends down the road.

He's starting an initiative of his own.

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Known as the FootPrint Coalition Science Engine, Downey's group aims to support scientists and get rid of the barriers that often stand in the way of scientists conducting their research. It's a bold move.

How is it funded?

FootPrint will fund scientists, but what will fund FootPrint? Aside from large philanthropic donations, Downey says the group will also take donations through crowdfunding. This allows everyone to be a cofunder in potentially important climate research.

Downey has unveiled his team.

Downey introduced his five Science Leads, which include a diverse range of experts to lead the way in tackling some of humanity's biggest problems.

"COVID-19 fast grants showed us a path, and proved that leadership can come from anywhere," he writes. "The FootPrint Coalition Science Engine is designed for radical participation. You're invited."

It's a unique idea.

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"Science made rapid progress in response to the pandemic. Let's build funding models and support systems to help them do the same for the planet; the moment demands it," concludes Downey.

Make sure to check out his essay, along with the FootPrint Coalition, and then let us know your thoughts in the comments.