The Gotham Prize

The Gotham Prize for cancer research tests the use of prizes to encourage more openness for cancer research. According to their web site:

The annual prizes will be open to a group of pre-qualified individuals who participate by sharing their ideas and concepts by posting a short thesis and/or proposal and answering questions on the Gotham Prize website. Applicants for membership will be pre-qualified by a distinguished panel of pioneering experts in the field of cancer research. Member postings will be anonymous and identities will only be made known to the Gotham Prize’s Advisory Board (or through voluntary disclosure).

Each year, the member who submits the best idea in the area of cancer research as judged by our expert panel will receive $1 million for personal use. The annual $250,000 Ira Sohn Foundation Prize will be awarded for the best idea in pediatric oncology. The 2007 Gotham Prize winners will be announced in February 2008.

Quite interesting is this rationale for the prize.

Though cancer research has long been funded through governments, universities and foundations (non-profits) and by for-profit entities, there remains a large gap in the current system where promising research and ideas may not receive support.
Clearly, non-profit funding is always in limited supply. Academic research itself is also limited by its very nature. Research that is not in the mainstream or that flies in the face of currently accepted theories may not be funded or accepted for publication. For competitive reasons, preliminary research and ideas are often not widely shared. (Though a handful of foundations insist on sharing of preliminary research, this is not the norm). Also, scientists and researchers who do not fit a specialized profile or carry traditional credentials are unlikely to be funded to pursue new theories or follow controversial avenues. So, too, research funded by for-profit entities has obvious limits. Research that leads to non-patentable treatments or cures is not usually funded by the for-profit world. Most areas of prevention are ignored. Research that involves long lead times and/or basic science also does not receive enough support. Sharing of preliminary research and new ideas is limited. In recognition of these issues, it is hoped that the Gotham Prize for Cancer Research will help to fill in some of these gaps and lead to accelerated progress in the prevention, diagnosis, etiology and treatment of cancer.

This prize seeks to use economic incentives to bring about less enclosure, more collaboration, and a richer public domain, in an important area of scientific research.