Science Philanthropy Alliance: Advancing Basic Science

Issue

To seek answers to fundamental questions about nature, our universe, and ourselves: this is the role of basic scientific research.

Basic research is at risk as government funding for basic science has declined since the early 2000s.

Federal Funding of Basic
Research as Percentage of GDP
1953–2016
1953 2003 2016

Approach

To combat this decline, we founded the Science Philanthropy Alliance. At the Alliance, we substantially increase philanthropic support for basic science research by providing advice and learning opportunities for individual philanthropists and foundations on how to support basic research most effectively.

History

2013–14

Six science foundations (Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, The Kavli Foundation, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, Simons Foundation) connect to look for ways to increase private funding to basic science. Together they establish the Science Philanthropy Alliance to encourage and accelerate philanthropy for basic science, which can lead to momentous discoveries that have profound, far-reaching impact on humanity.

2015–16

The Alliance finds that the best way to influence new private funding to basic science is to advise philanthropists and foundations, to help make their giving to basic science effective and rewarding. With support from its member foundations, the Alliance staffs up and offers its advising services at no cost.

One of the Alliance’s first advisees, the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, launches its science philanthropy program. Its goal: to support the science and technology that will make it possible to cure, prevent, or manage all diseases by the end of this century.

U.K.-based Wellcome is the first non-U.S. foundation to join the Alliance.

2017–18

The number of philanthropists the Alliance advises grows and the Alliance adds a staff member solely dedicated to advising. Philanthropists are interested in many fields, including ocean science, neuroscience, biochemistry, geoscience, physics, and artificial intelligence. Some want to fund basic science research related to Alzheimer’s, cancer, and influenza. Some are curious about the origin of life, exploring the universe, or the mysteries of the ocean.

2019

The Alliance continues to provide advice to philanthropists to support their giving to basic science. Alliance staff hold additional ocean science funders’ convenings to encourage collaboration and learning about the latest in the field, and begin to engage a community of neuroscience funders.

Accomplishments

New funders

New funders

Number of new funders we have helped support basic science:

New money

New money

Amount of new basic science research funding we have influenced:

More advising

More advising

Number of our advisees who have begun or expanded their funding to basic scientific research:

More members

More members

Our membership has multiplied:
2014 2019

High ROI

High ROI

Each dollar of support from the our members exponentially influences funding to basic science:
$ in member
support
$ in funding
to basic science

Our work has resulted in more basic science research

Impact

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative Priscilla Chan

“The Science Philanthropy Alliance was incredibly helpful in our early education in science and helping us think about how we engage in this space. We are very grateful for our ongoing partnership with the Alliance.”

Simons Foundation Jim Simons

“The Alliance has become an important voice for discovery-driven research and an invaluable resource for philanthropists seeking guidance on how best to support this critical area—the wellspring of scientific and medical progress.”

Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation Claire Pomeroy

“The Alliance is a dynamic community of philanthropists who collaborate to learn about opportunities in basic science, share best practices, and celebrate the power of fundamental discovery.”

Schmidt Futures Stu Feldman

“The Alliance is a wonderful resource for us. I have found my consultations with them to be very valuable, with great advice both on potential projects and relevant partners. We of course wholeheartedly support increasing the total support for basic scientific research. I also appreciate meeting other players in science philanthropy and sharing experiences and plans about how to deal with challenges we face.”

National Academy of Sciences Marcia McNutt

“One of the biggest headlines in basic research in the past few decades has been the growth in the contribution of private philanthropists to American competitiveness in science. The Alliance has been a major factor in building capacity within the foundation community to support research in a complementary manner to public sources of funding.”

The Giving Pledge Sofia Michelakis

“Since the Giving Pledge was launched in 2010, a top priority has been to build a community for learning. We are excited to see the growth of additional learning networks like The Science Philanthropy Alliance which provides access to experienced science philanthropists and to distinguished scientists; it is a valuable resource for both new and established science funders.”