The Overedge Catalog: New Types of Research Organizations

Research organizations and institutions often are shoehorned into a set of well-established categories: universities, public companies, tech startups, and certain types of non-profits, such as think tanks. But there is the need for innovation here, particularly when it comes to encouraging the development of new ideas and the ability to operate on long timescales. We need new types of research organizations.

In cartography, most maps are bound by the straight lines at their borders. But occasionally, there are parts of the map that don’t quite fit. They bleed over the edge and yet still cry out for being included in a map. These are the overedges. The Overedge Catalog is devoted to collecting the intriguing new types of organizations and institutions that lie at the intersection of the worlds of research and academia, non-profits, and tech startups. This is a small but growing number of organizations, but hopefully by collecting and highlighting all of these here, it can spur further institutional innovation.

The Catalog (as of October 5, 2021):

Further Resources

Patrick Collison has compiled a great deal of reading material about applied research labs.

Ben Reinhardt has compiled a running list of interesting organizational structures, which overlaps somewhat with the Overedge Catalog. In addition, Reinhardt has written an in-depth examination of why DARPA has worked so well, as well as what a private ARPA could look like.

Adam Marblestone has been exploring a new category of organization known as the focused research organization. Matt Webb has examined an orthogonal technology lab and also compiled a list of some relevant organizations, including some featured in the Overedge Catalog. Tom Critchlow has reimagined the independent research lab and Patrick Tanguay has explored the idea of a DIY research studio.

A white paper by Alan Kay that includes insights about how to best structure and fund research organizations. And some email excerpts from Alan Kay on funding scientific research.

A white paper by me (Samuel Arbesman) and Jon F. Wilkins on the nature of "fractional scholarship."

And finally, The Half-Life of Facts by me (Samuel Arbesman), explores, among other topics, the nature of science and scientific change.

The Overedge Catalog was partly inspired by Steve Krouse's Whole Code Catalog, especially the tagging and layout mechanism, used with permission.


The Overedge Catalog is a continuing, and somewhat subjective and personal, effort. If you would like something to be included, please contact Samuel Arbesman.

Furthermore, if you are interested in starting a new research organization or are currently building one, please contact me. I would love to chat.

To stay posted on this project or other matters, please subscribe to my newsletter.

© 2021 by Samuel Arbesman