[Help please/Updated] Best use of $250,000AUD/$190,000 USD for metascience?

[Cross-posted on the SSC subreddit] [Cross-posted on the Effective Altruism Forum]

SUMMARY: Need to donate $250,000AUD/190,000USD to “improve science” in about six months, would appreciate advice on where to put the money.

An elderly relative of mine has sold a property and wants to donate a substantial amount of money ($250,000 AUD = $190,000 USD) to “improve science”, by which they mean metascientific efforts that industry or academia probably would be reticent to fund otherwise. Examples would be things like Registered Reports, efforts to ameliorate the replicability crisis, altering publishing incentives, etc. The money is available in 3 months and ideally would be donated within six months.

They are aware of my interests in Effective Altruism and my training as a scientist and thus want me to take care of it entirely. However, I am very junior and have little experience applying for grants let alone allocating money. Any recommendations for how I should go about most efficiently getting this money to improve science? Bonus points for doing it in a manner that would be tax-deductible in Australia (edit: international also ok).

Particularly good recommendations are likely to have a substantial impact on how this money gets allocated, so if you think you have a good idea I’d very much appreciate it. I can’t just give the money to AMF or the EA Funds, it has to be at least indirectly allocated to basic science or meta-science. I’m not sure who to ask – I’d speak to my PI, but it seems extremely awkward to go “hey, so I have this big potential source of funding that I can influence but it’s not for us, any advice on how to give it away to others?” I’d be happy to direct the money to be thrown into a bigger pile if there’s another group I haven’t heard of that either solely funds improving science or will let me allocate the money to that end.

Thanks to everyone who provided some suggestions last time I posted, including on basic science opportunities back when I was considering a slightly larger remit. Some suggestions I’ve already gathered:

  • Supporting Prof. Chris Chamber’s efforts to encourage journals to take up ‘Registered Reports’ as an allowable publication submission method. * I am very supportive of this effort, but it seems that more and more journals are actually doing this and thus I’m not sure this is the best use of the money as it may just happen anyway. Prestigious journals like Nature Human Behaviour are allowing Registered Reports, there’s a list of journals that now accept the format, and Chris himself wrote in 2019 about increased uptake.
  • Donating to ALLTrials, a group that tries to ensure that the data from all clinical trials is made publicly available so as to reduce publication bias/file-drawer problem.
    • Their website asks for donations, but they are not clear on what they would actually use the money for. I tried contacting them and received no replies.
    • They already have a large number of fancy organisations that support their efforts, so the marginal benefit of an extra $190,000 USD is unclear.
  • The Center for Open Science attempts to encourage open science and meta-science improvements, such as the OSF registries for making datasets publicly available or initiatives to encourage preregistration and registered reports.
    • They’re doing great work, but they seem to already be quite well funded so I’m again unsure if they’d make the best use of marginal increased donations.
    • That being said, they seem closest to what I’m looking for so far, so they’re a good candidate at the moment.
    • UPDATE: this may not be true, see this commentary
  • Retraction Watch is a website/blog that tracks papers that have been or should be retracted so as to provide a record of sloppy or dodgy scientific behaviour. They are themselves funded by the Center for Scientific Integrity which includes some related efforts
    • They claim to now be only reader supported (after having got an initial grant from a few larger foundations), so they’re another potential good candidate.
    • They don’t seem to have a lot of money according to their tax returns, so perhaps it would be quite useful to them. Then again, if they’ve already been surviving, perhaps again it’s not the best use of the money at the margins…
  • Sci-Hub makes paywalled papers publicly available to anyone on demand. It’s incredibly useful to the general public, and it’s often even easier to use than my own institution’s login credentials when I have legitimate access to the journal.
    • I have no idea what their funding levels are currently like and whether they need any support
    • I’m certainly not getting a tax deduction for a Bitcoin donation to support a technically illegal operation.
  • Free Our Knowledge are trying to get academics to pledge to only publish in open access no-fee journals by amassing a critical mass of them.
    • Seems like a good cause, but it’s not at all clear they need any more financial support than they already have. That being said, I’m informed that they are underfunded, so they’re a candidate.
  • Open Science MOOC
    • Run online modules that are supposed to encourage and teach open science practices
    • The links on their website are currently broken, hard to assess quality and uptake
  • Institute for Globally Distributed Open Research and Education (IGDORE)
    • A virtual institute committed to supporting open and replicable research as well as supporting scientists
    • Immediate goals are to develop a package of open science support services and an educational platform to develop their own (new and improved) MOOCs
    • Again seems like a good cause, but unclear if this will contribute much to affecting the culture at pre-existing mainstream universities/institutes where most of the science is still expected to be happening.

Thanks in advance! [Sorry for the lack of links, as a new user I’m limited to 5 links]


Hi @MetasciencePhil !

Thanks for reaching out this forum!

As a member of a new steering committee of Open Science MOOC (worldwide) will give you more information about the project and our new perspectives. Here you have a presentation we gave to UNESCO’s Open Science officer a few months ago which highlights what we want to achieve during next years: 2020-09-28-OS-MOOC-New-Perspectives (1).pdf (885.3 KB)

Another project which could be interesting to fund is a media platform Open Science TV which aims to promote principles of Open Science in academia and society. For the moment, we have created Youtube channel where we post interviews with Open Science activists. In the future, we plan to make an independent news platform and TV stream with open science/science popularisation/science communication content. If you want to know more about the project, please check out this video and this document: OpenScienceTV.pdf (2.4 MB)

Thank you!


Welcome to the forum @MetasciencePhil :wave: I upgraded your trust level so you should be able to post more links now.

I’m glad you found my ideas in my comments on the EA forum useful and hope that you’ll receive some further suggestions/advice for your donation from the community here.

I have also messaged this on to representatives from COS, OS MOOC and FOK who use the forum. Representatives from the other organisations indicated in the original post, or indeed any other metascience or OS orgs are welcome to post their comments here as well.


Thanks @Gavin for tagging me. @MetasciencePhil you and your relative are pursuing an inspired direction for providing some financial support to the metascience community. There are many excellent groups that could make very good use of such funds to improve science. And, there are a lot of projects that are difficult to get funded through typical grant mechanisms.

Your list is excellent. All of them are doing important work (even my own org I hope!). Another one that you might consider is AIMOS (https://aimos.community/). AIMOS is based in Australia perhaps providing the tax advantage that you seek, and it is a new organization that has aspirations to be a society for metascience work globally.

And, of course, if you’d like to chat about COS’s work I am happy to do so and you can reach me by email (nosek@cos.io).


Hi @MetasciencePhil,

I recently became president of AIMOS (Association for Interdisciplinary Meta-research and Open Science), which is Australia-based but has global ambitions. I also do meta-research myself. I’ll send you a DM now.

I’m really glad to hear you and your relative are doing this!




Hi @MetasciencePhil,

Thanks for posting and taking on the responsibility of distributing your relative’s kind donation. I’m sure it can’t be an easy decision! All of the projects you’ve mentioned are doing great work, so I guess it just comes down to where you think the money will have the greatest impact.

Thanks to @gavin for tagging Project Free Our Knowledge. I can confirm we still don’t have any funding, and are in desperate need of support. I spent much of last year applying for funding, but after many failed attempts (listed here) reached the conclusion that the project is probably too ‘radical’ for mainstream academia to fund – given that funders don’t seem willing to invest in OS communities – and have since spent much of my time developing the project itself and my skills to run it effectively, now that I’m free of my PhD :slight_smile: I just completed the Open Life Science leaders program, which was amazing (highly recommend to any open science project leaders out there – applications are now open hint hint @Stefania_Lombardi ;)) and helped me open the project up to community collaboration (see the new campaigns we’re now developing on Github). I’ve also completed some startup courses (PhD and Postgrad Unlimited, Social Enterprise Academy) and read startup books (particularly Zero to One and The Lean Startup, both amazing), with the view to treating the project like a social enterprise/NFP startup that can run independently of traditional funding.

Having said that, without seed funding my main limitation is time, as I’m currently forced to split my hours between the project and seeking/generating an income elsewhere. The closest we came to getting funded was being shortlisted (down to 18 from 100+ applications) and invited to submit a full application to the £50k Wellcome Open Research fund. We were also shortlised for a smaller £25k Digital Science grant. Obviously things have changed a fair bit since these applications, but they may be useful to get an idea about how money could be spent and also the project vision/aims (note that the project scope is much larger than just open access journals, as you mentioned in your post – more of a general-purpose collective action platform for academics, akin to Collaction.org).

As Gavin mentioned, our Wellcome proposal listed COS as the fiscal sponsor (i.e. administering organisation), primarily to simplify overheads but also because we were planning to leverage the COS community should we win funding. With regards to your desire for an Australian tax-break, I wonder if it would be worth considering doing something similar here, e.g. using an Australian NFP organisation as an umbrella organisation to administer funds to various projects (I believe this is called an ‘Auspice agreement’ in Australia)? I’ve previously contacted the Australian Academy of Science about doing this for project Free Our Knowledge, since I’m based here (Brisbane), but they didn’t seem set up for this at the time. Perhaps if AIMOS were open to it, they might be able to set up their organisation to administer funds to one/multiple projects over a few years? That way, you could make a single donation to an Australia org now, and know that the funds would be delivered when/where needed in the coming years. I’ve attended every AIMOS conference since it began and can testify it’s a fantastic, forward-thinking community that deserves support, but I don’t have any idea how difficult it would be to set up in this way. Alternatively, I’ve looked into setting up FOK as a NFP in Australia, which involves some work but is certainly another option if required.

Thanks again for your efforts and happy to chat more here, via email or Zoom as convenient.

~~ EDIT: I’ve since done some digging into tax law in Australia and it seems the donation needs to go to a deductible gift recipient (DGR) to offer a tax break. From what I can gather there are two ways to achieve this, either (1) donate to an organisation with DGR status (e.g. a research institute or public university), which can then confer DGR status to any projects/funds they administer; or (2) donate to a non-DGR institution that operates a ‘gift fund’ endorsed for DGR status. In this case, I’m guessing that the first option might be simplest – as many Australian organisations already have DGR status (e.g., Australian Academy of Sciences) – but might then constrain how the funds are spent, whereas the second option might offer more flexibility in which organisation to donate to and how the funds are used.

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any updates? :slight_smile:

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