Metascience

Science is the engine of human civilization, a crucial source of past progress and future hope. Any added efficiency or structural improvement to the scientific process promises a hugely positive impact across a wide range of endeavors.

Metascience

Astera is dedicated to the principles of metascience, the basic belief that science can do better. The current scientific system is generally successful, but it is surely also suboptimal. Since the “replication crisis,” we have grown much more aware of the widespread errors and bad practices across multiple fields. Studying, identifying, and rooting out these inherent biases and flaws is to the good of science and society. 

Multiple metrics indicate that overall progress is slowing and the cost of research is increasing. Efficiency, accuracy, and best practices are more vital and important than ever. Astera believes that the “science-of-science” and its systematic application may yield some of the greatest possible ROI of all scientific fields. Whether through essential tweaks and fixes or large-scale structural change, it is essential that we constantly examine, repair, and retrofit the apparatus of knowledge and progress. 

In particular, Astera is invested in big, bold organizational experiments that reimagine how research and development is accomplished. What is the best way to structure a research lab? What funding models provide the best ROI? How do existing orgs excel and where do they fall short? What are the gaps and how do we fill them? We look to past triumphs, such as the early decades of Bell Labs and ARPA, to find concrete lessons, and we also imagine creative new models that have not previously existed. As a civilization, we are only exploring a tiny bit of the possible design space. It behooves us to try new ways.

We hope to become a home for fresh thinking about research and development that provides a clear benefit across scientific disciplines.  Current metascience projects include the Focused Research Organization (FRO), which combines basic research with coordinated engineering and systems-building to solve a specific technological challenge, and the Private Advanced Research Projects Agency (PARPA), a privately funded riff on the most successful aspects of DARPA. 

We are seeking to collaborate with a wide range of individuals and groups to improve scientific methodologies and build new basic and applied science programs. We invite anyone with ideas about how to streamline the scientific process to contact us.

Help Us Improve Science

A Focused Research Organization (FRO) is a new model of special-purpose organization created solely to solve scientific or technological challenges that cannot be efficiently addressed by the existing organizational structures of academia, industry, or government. FROs enable major advances in areas that (1) require levels of coordinated engineering or system-building inaccessible to academia, and (2) benefit society broadly in ways that industry cannot rapidly monetize. 

Each FRO aims to produce a well-defined tool or technology, a key scientific dataset, or a refined process or resource that can dynamically accelerate progress within a technological or scientific field. 

FROs operate as tight-knit, fast-moving, mission-driven organizations, led by a CEO, and with a culture akin to the best startups. FRO teams take risks on “moonshot” projects but stay true to systematic, first-principles technology roadmapping. Mission goals are always paramount, and teams are shielded from both academic and for-profit incentives. At the conclusion of an FRO, transition plans are executed, and, when necessary, new startups created.

Reach Out About FROs

The Rejuvenome FRO

Private Advanced Research Project Agency (PARPA) is a new type of organization that uses an unconventional institutional structure to go after potentially impactful work that is too researchy for startups, too engineering-heavy for academia, and too irresponsible for the government. 

Following DARPA’s successful model, PARPA will focus on research programs run by program managers with broad power to make whatever decisions are necessary for program success. These programs will focus on goals like “build a DNA-based molecular 3D printer as a first step towards an artificial ribosome” or “build a general-purpose experimental platform for telerobotics” that require coordinating several separate research projects and potentially integrating them into a single system. The goal is to riff on the DARPA model to push more technological possibilities from “impossible” to “inevitable.”

PARPA programs will start with ~12 month “seedling projects” to test viability and proof of concept. Afterwards, high-potential programs will last 4+ years, potentially spinning off into new entities (FROs, startups, etc.) that raise their own funding.

The PARPA 2-Pager

The PARPA User Manual

Reach Out About PARPA