I wholeheartedly approve of the approach taken by the organizers of the Impetus Grants project. If one has the funds to influence the course of science, then this is a smart way to go about it. Pick a field and a goal that interests you, and place funds in the hands of researchers with as little red tape and infrastructure as possible. Arrange for publication of data in advance, to ensure that all that is learned will be propagated to the rest of the field. The only real challenge in setting up such a venture is to learn enough about the field in order to be able to pick a good supporting team of scientific advisors and reviewers, people who are willing to be something other than conservative. The overhead to direct as much as tens of millions of dollars into constructive fundamental research can be quite minimal in this model.
Impetus Grants provides funding for scientists to start working on what they consider the most important problems in aging biology, without delay. Such work should not be held up by red tape: we offer grants of up to $500,000, with decisions made within 3 weeks. Our review process asks "what's the potential for impact" rather than "could this go wrong".
Our goal is to have a broad impact on the field, by supporting projects that challenge assumptions, develop new tools and methodologies, discover new ways to reverse aging processes, and/or synthesize isolated manifestations of aging into a systemic perspective. To ensure that we learn from every project, we're organizing a special issue of GeroScience to provide an opportunity to publish both positive and negative results from funded studies. We would rather fund the work you are most excited about doing, even if it might fail, than work that is certain to produce results but with limited impact on the field. But we realize that proposed projects will be done in the context of existing publication incentives.
We provide anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000. We do consider the amount requested during review; all else equal, projects that require less funding will be favored. We will pay a maximum of 10% institutional overhead, in line with the Gates Foundation precedent. Your application will be reviewed by at least two reviewers with more than a decade of experience in aging research, and at least one reviewer who is a topic expert for your proposal. All of our reviewers are under NDA to preserve confidentiality of your proposal. All projects will be evaluated on the clarity and quality of their experimental plans, and on the scope and immediacy of their potential impact on the longevity field. We ask 'could this work' rather than 'could this fail', and are not looking for complete consensus among reviewers; if at least one reviewer is strongly supportive of the project, we will tend to fund it.