Prior to the era of the modern government research grant, art and scientific research were largely funded by subsidies from wealthy patrons. Many of the Great Scientists and Artists of the Renaissance were supported by Patrons. However, Patrons were few and many budding (but poor and hungry) scientists abandoned their interests for lack of support. As a result, many of the problems of science and industry went unsolved. For the past two centuries, the government of the United States has promoted scientific discovery and applied science through the establishment of institutions such as Land Grant Colleges and Agricultural Experiment Stations. In recent years, western governments have been sidetracked by focus on deficits and have allowed funding for scientific discoveries to decline.
In an age of declining support from government, where can scientists turn? Patrons still exist and can be cultivated. Researchers and their institution are turning more of their creative talents to fund raising. Businesses have made money from “Star Registry” that sells certificates to people who wish to name a star, often for a loved one. Why not allow people to pay to have an insect named after them? This is the approach being tried by the Bohart Museum. Through their “Biolegacy” program, Patrons can donate a minimum of $2500. The donation supports the work of the Museum with the potential to have a species named for the Patron. Groups might gather donations to honor a friend or mentor such as a retired science teacher. Could there be money in the darker side? Would an jilted lover get pay to name a cockroach after the Ex to exact revenge? Would political groups pay to have a pest insect named for an opposition politician?
The potential to raise money is enticing. What could be lost? Naming species based on obvious characters can be helpful to students learning a group for the first time. Fewer species might be named in honor of entomologists who devoted their careers to the taxonomy of a group. Will public support for science erode if the public perceives that science is a playground for the wealthy? In the short run, scientists need to replace funds lost to sequesters and cuts. The longer run funding questions will remain.