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Cartoon R. Mankoff?

If our civilization is to survive, we must break with the habit of deference to great men.
- Karl Popper, The Open Society and Its Enemies is a not-for-profit initiative supported purely by volunteer efforts and donations. The site came about through a concern with the overly hierarchical student-professor relationship at graduate level, which drives many promising students away from academia following completion of their Master. The heart of the problem we believe are unimaginative PhD subjects proposed by established researchers, which brighter students recoil from dedicating +4 years of hard work to. However, it is not fair to criticize if one can't propose a valid alternative, and propose valid alternatives our members do: This site aims to show that the process of drawing up a PhD project idea is not a mystery, but within the reach of anyone imbued with creativity and graduate-level mastery of their subject, even in the hard sciences.

The site is meant to be neutral in the sense that we recognize that there are several parties to a research project, students, professors and (depending on discipline) industry. Different experience levels may justify different power distribution models, yet creativity and innovation cannot be rote-learned: Since a great idea can come from anywhere, an open society should be one where every research pitch is evaluated on its own merits, independent of the author's identity. Thus, we imagine a fairer system in which (say) 10 % of research funds are directly attributed to projects proposed by students, rather than the 0 % we get currently. As a first step, we have set up this website in order to increase transparency of student-professor interactions, and give public credit to researchers who are willing to engage with student ideas.

At this stage, focus is on growing user numbers, to demonstrate sufficient interest in the approach. If you want to get involved, you can:
  • Sign-up for membership (obvious)
  • Use the demo-site to familiarize yourself with site functions and report errors
  • Tell your friends and blog, tweet, post about us
  • Publish material here to attract more visitors to the site
  • Get your local student union to help advertise us, and contact us about arranging promotional events
  • Help us find someone to assume site management in the future
Also, if you have got specific skills such as computer security, databases, graphics/web design or legal advice, we would be happy to hear from you, and we will start hiring as soon as donation levels allow it, though in the meantime we rely on volunteers (check back for any job adverts!).

The site is based in Germany but dedicated to helping the global academic community. Feedback of course is very important, and will discussed by the editors, or put to the poll on the site. Please e-mail us if you have any questions or comments.