An interesting study published by The National Bureau Standards could show us why the scientific community is so reluctant to embrace new ideas like Low Energy Nuclear Reaction (LENR).

In Does Science Advance One Funeral at a Time? Researchers discovered that when a big name scientist or researcher dies, his or her field suddenly sees an eight percent increase in new papers and research, Vox reported. Researchers Pierre Azoulay, Christian Fons-Rosen and Joshua S. Graff Zivin also found that the rock star scientists’ colleagues and protégées see a decline in influence as scientific journals publish fewer of their papers after the icon’s death.

So how does this affect outlier fields such as LENR? That’s hard to say because Big Science has generally ignored LENR or at least down played it. One effect might be that there could be a little more interest in LENR as some of the big time scientists who scoff at it die off.

More likely it will have little effect because most of the work on LENR is being outside the scientific mainstream. Andrea Rossi, for example, is not necessarily a scientist he is more of an engineer and an inventor.

Still this study points to a problem we are not necessarily dealing with as a civilization. Scientific research is increasingly stymied by large institutions. This partially occurs because research funding has declined. There’s less money in the field, so scientists that want a paycheck have a bigger incentive to toe the party line. Rock stars have greater power because they decide what gets funded, research that might them look bad or wrong, often ends up on the back burner.

Does this mean we will have to wait for the current crop of physicists to die off for Big Science to accept LENR? No, as I have pointed elsewhere, science has a long history of learning to accept new phenomenon that rounds counter to its prejudices and adjusting theory and in some cases rewriting history to justify it when physical evidence such as a working technology appears.

What this proves is that science is far more personality driven and irrational than we like to admit. It also means that the only thing that will convince the academy to take cold fusion seriously would be a working LENR device.

Therefore the antidote to science’s drawbacks could be wealthy patrons like Bill Gates and Tom Darden who are independent of the scientific establishment. Since they are willing to listen to innovators and bankroll new ideas such entrepreneurs could be the key to the next energy breakthrough not science’s rock stars.