The Young Centenary Foundation is a good idea

There’s a group of young people who have just recently formed a group whose mission is something I think deserves a lot more support than it currently gets. The organisation is The Young Centenary Foundation. Science, as we all know, is a fairly important part of our society. Science informs many of the behaviors and actions we take as a people. It helps us discover what it means to be human. It helps us to stay healthy. It helps us to stay sane.

Unfortunately, whilst the endeavors of the scientific fraternity are technologically progressive and experimental, the structures around that research and progression is not. Science is still, largely, carried out today the same ways it was carried out decades ago. A core part of this is the presence of university students who decide to do a PhD on a very specific topic of research, in the hope of discovering something and being published.

Our initial ideas of people who are doing a PhD is one of grandeur and prestige. This is true, in many respects, but also untrue in many others. One key problem facing many PhD students is that of funding. They are ‘paid’ a measly stipend of somewhere in the range of $20-30k a year to toil for much more than full time in a lab running their experiments. This doesn’t sound too bad, until you consider that fairly standard scientific PhD can take up to 4 years.

For most talented scientists, the opportunity cost suffered from turning down plum corporate jobs for 4 years of hard work on less than minimum wage is too hard to refuse. Only the truly dedicated take it on. And then, as if that wasn’t already hard enough, a student can work for 4 years and get close to achieving a break through before their funding is cut and they’re forced to move on from their work. I dare not think of all the great work that is left 90% completed in labs all over the country (indeed, the world) because a student couldn’t secure funding to fully complete their study.

That’s where the Young Centenary Foundation comes in. It’s been formed by a core group of young scientists, philanthropists and media professionals under the age of 35. They plan to raise money to contribute towards PhD students working at the Centenary Institue, so they can finish the work they started. They’re not planning on making them rich…just making the process of completing a PhD a little easier. From their Facebook page.

Most young scientists are unfortunately unable to continue the work they start at Centenary Institute during a PhD because government and university supported post-doctorate funding is hard to come by. For this reason, one of our mid-term goals is to fund a post-doctoral research position (approx. $80,000 per year) for a young scientist working with a disease that affects young people.

$80,000 a year is a lot of money, but a drop in the ocean that is scientific funding. I look forward to supporting the Young Centenary Foundation in the ways that I can this year and encourage you to take a look, too. Congratulations to the crew behind founding it, and to the Centenary Institue itself for driving such a positive change in the way science is conducted here in Australia.