An evolving typology of science philanthropy for the 21st Century

Numerous typologies and categorization schemes drawn from economics, sociology, political science, and other disciplines have characterized the relationshipbetween different actors within innovation systems (Nelson, 1993; Godin, 2017; Etzkowitz, 2008; Gorman, 2010; Gibbons, et al., 1994; Barben, Fisher, Selin, & Guston, 2008; Funtowicz & Ravetz, 1993). While exploring each of these frameworks in depth remains outside the scope of this book, it should be noted that, in most instances, the role played by philanthropies is often ignored or not explicitly called out in these various conceptual frameworks. Many of these categorization schemes focus their attention on government and industrial funders of research, in addition to the role played by universities and other actors within the research enterprise. I contend that not only is it imperative to shine a light on the role played by science philanthropies, but that the RRI framework—with its existing emphasis on understanding how funders might help advance considerations of responsibility— offers an occasion to do so quite substantially. In particular, it is useful to categorize philanthropic approaches to funding scientific research along three main dimensions based upon the mode of intervention within the research enterprise, even as these modes of support often are combined with one another. Dividing them along these lines helps to surface many of the key types of support that foundations currently provide for science and technology research. There are at least two benefits to adopting this approach. The first is that this categorization scheme can be helpful to both scholars and practitioners interested in understanding how different types of giving for science philanthropy relate to one another. Second, it provides a heuristic that can be used going forward to understand how new interventions fit with others already in place.

The first dimension of this framework is support for individuals. This funding typically comes in the form of fellowships, scholarships, or prizes that are awarded through a competitive selection process. These fellowships are awarded at a range of career stages, but they typically focus on those earlier in their career, from undergraduates, doctoral students, or post-doctoral fellows to early- or mid-career professors. Awards and prizes for senior scholars also fall under this category, yet a fair amount of attention is increasingly paid by science philanthropies in boosting early-career researchers to examine previously understudied questions. Many times, such fellowships also have an explicit focus on improving the diversity and inclusion of researchers and faculty involved in science and technology'.

The second dimension is support for institutions. This kind of giving is now typically in the form of establishing new entities or funding research centers, institutes, or even entire schools or departments within universities. Funding to establish entirely new, stand-alone universities or research institutions is less prevalent now than it was in the science philanthropy of the 20th Century, although it still occurs when a foundation or high-net-worth individual is able to amass and dispense the significant resources necessary to make this kind of investment. Moreover, newer versions of this kind of institutional support have emerged in recent years in the form of establishing in-house research centers within a philanthropy, not as a separate grant-receiving organization.

The third dimension is support for networks. Building on the first two intervention kinds, establishing and sustaining networks are critical elements of science philanthropy funding that help ensure that the sum of philanthropic investments can be more impactful and longstanding than the constituent parts. Networks supported by science philanthropy can vary in scale, from linking together a small number of faculty or research institutions increasing in size to encompass many organizations and hundreds or thousands of researchers. Network building involves the development and sustainment of multi-institutional collaborations, often with the aim of connecting institutions across multiple sectors or regions. Given the number of institutions and the complexities involved, science philanthropy provided for the purpose of network building is among the most intriguing and impactful kinds of intervention that can help connect research with societal considerations.

While this grouping along the lines of individuals, institutions, and networks is a helpful heuristic to understand the actions of science philanthropies and how they fit within the RRI framework, there are new developments in the field that are forging new avenues and are challenging to categorize. Chapter 2 showed that the history of science philanthropy throughout the 20th Century in the United States is that foundations tend to be structured as non-profit grantmaking institutions, giving money to grantees that are separate organizations. However, as noted above, some foundations are now eschewing a focus on giving grants altogether, establishing research centers in-house, within the philanthropy itself, in order to have more of a direct say in how to advance particular areas of research. In other instances, some foundations funding science are being institutionalized in corporate forms other than as not-for-profit organizations, offering these organizations potentially even more flexibility as to what kind of work is undertaken. For example, in the United States, philanthropies generally are not allowed to provide funds for lobbying efforts, but other institutional arrangements, such as limited liability corporations (LLCs), are permitted to fund such activities. In still other organizational forms, the traditional model of a philanthropic institution funded by a wealthy individual or family is being entirely upended by new funding instruments. Entities are being created that allow funders to pool their resources and turn over grantmaking responsibilities to donor advisory organizations. The rise of crowdfunding and other resource-pooling channels via Internet platforms is allowing anybody with an interest in supporting science and technology to sponsor and underwrite innovative new research, projects, regardless of how much money they have available to give. These alternative modes of giving will be addressed in more detail in Chapter 7. These developments serve as another reminder that the practice of science philanthropy is not static and that novel approaches are regularly being tested and adapted to new situations.

As Table 3.1 shows, the three primary “modalities” (Kramer, 2018, p. 26) or levels of intervention of science philanthropy—support for individuals, institutions, and networks—can be crossed with the different dimensions of the RRI framework to provide a useful categorization scheme that helps understand the ways in which philanthropies intervene in and support science and technology. The horizontal rows of the chart present three groupings of the RRI framework dimensions: anticipation, deliberation and inclusion, and reflexivity and responsiveness. Considering these dimensions in light of the three philanthropy-oriented dimensions discussed above creates nine categories of interventions that can structure how to think about the relationship between philanthropy and science and technology. It should be noted that given the plethora of programs that science philanthropies are supporting in this day and age, it is not possible to cover every instance in the following pages. Instead, the plan is to highlight not only a wide variety of examples that demonstrate the breadth of activity being undertaken in these domains, to be discussed in this and the following chapters, but to also dive deeper into a handful of specific case studies to unpack the different dimensions of interest.

Following down the first column, the first category relates to philanthropic support for individuals, with an emphasis on anticipating future developments in science and technology. This kind of funding often emerges in the form of support for path-breaking research, often with a focus on funding early career researchers and scholars. This is an extensive area of interest for foundations, so it is not surprising that there are many philanthropic efforts of this kind that span a variety of funding levels and disciplines. These kinds of programs represent a key way in which philanthropies attempt to shape the future

Table 3.1 Typolog)' of philanthropic interventions and RRI dimensions







Support for early career researchers pursuing new avenues of science and technology

Creation of research centers focused on advancing new areas of science and technology

Programs that create a cohort of scholars or bring together institutions to undertake collaborative research


Support to improve

Support to improve

Efforts to extend

and Inclusion

diversity, equity, and inclusion representation in science and technology, or fellowships to consider broader societal impacts

institutional culture change, policies, and practices related to diversity, equity, and inclusion

deliberation and inclusion practices among multiple stakeholders


Application of RRI

Establishment of

Support for, and

and Respon-

principles to grantee


creation of,


and investigator selection

in-house, forward-looking research efforts within science philanthropies

multi-institutional collaborative partnerships that reflect a foundation’s values and interests

Typologies of science philanthropy 55 directions of science and technology: by providing funding that simultaneously advances the careers of top investigators and that breaks new ground in terms of discover)'.

The second category down this column are philanthropic programs focused on supporting scholarships and fellowships that aim to either improve diversity, equity, and inclusion within science and technology, or that promote consideration of the broader societal implications of science and technology. Many of these programs, focused on funding individuals, inevitably have cross-over elements with other categories, as foundations often look to strengthen institutions as well as integrate elements of network building. Many institutional science philanthropies place a distinctive focus in these areas, yet the next chapter will show that some of the most prominent of these diversity and inclusion programs were seeded by funds from an individual donor.

The final category in this column is where the reflexive and collectively responsive elements of the RRI framework intersect with philanthropic programs that fund individuals. This grouping is characterized by foundations applying RRI principles to their own practices and reflect what is expected from grantees. Ensuring that these principles are reflected in a foundation’s own behaviors is key. As program director Barbara Chow writes in a report on the critical role that foundations play in advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion, “perhaps the most important foundation practice to support DEI is ensuring that the individuals who comprise the foundation staff are themselves knowledgeable about the nuances and history of DEI, from academic, societal, and foundation perspectives” (Chow, 2018, p. 9). A number of science philanthropies have made explicit that they work to ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion when it comes to funding of individual fellowships and in awarding grants to institutions. As the next chapter will highlight, many foundations have come to require that prospective grantees submitting full proposals address how they will ensure diversity, equity, and inclusion in research team composition and as a decision-making criterion when selecting a cohort of fellows.

The first category of the second column addresses a highly prominent type of science philanthropy: support for and creation of institutions to advance cutting-edge research. Chapter 2 showcased that this mode of giving was highly prominent in the 20th Century, and it remains a core component of philanthropic support for science today. Science philanthropies provide support for myriads of research projects and research centers across a range of funding scales. Additionally, science philanthropies continue to have an impact in this mode by providing core funding for large science research instruments, harkening back to funding provided decades ago by other leading philanthropies to support earlier generations of scientific equipment.

The second category in the second column reflects efforts by philanthropies to provide funding to institutions to not only advance diversity and inclusion activities, but also to promote deliberation of broader societalimpacts of research. Once again, these programs can take many forms, and they are often related to efforts that provide financial support to individuals for similar purposes. By focusing on advancing institutional change, foundations can help foster more systemic change in terms of who is supported to do science and how institutions respond to the needs of a more diverse cohort of researchers.

The final category of this dimension reflects ways in which science philanthropies have pursued new ways of funding institutions that are reflective of the foundation’s priorities and, in some instances, represent the adoption of responsiveness to societal considerations as a core component of the institution’s purpose upon urging by the foundation. In addition to funding institutions externally, science philanthropies have begun to once again create institutions as stand-alone research centers or, in a new twist, embedding research centers within the organizational structure of the philanthropy itself. The establishment of these kinds of research centers embedded in a foundation is a novel form of support for science philanthropy that has the potential to greatly expand as more donors become interested in supporting science.

The last column of this typology involves philanthropic support for networks and network-building activities. Strengthening networks within a research ecosystem has become one of the more widespread forms of science philanthropy in recent years. In many respects, philanthropic support for the establishment, advancement, and maintenance of research networks are among the most intriguing to study and most relevant when it comes to understanding philanthropy’s role in supporting science that has an eye toward societal responsibility. Philanthropic grantmaking initiatives that fall in the first category aim to link together individuals and institutions undertaking forward-looking, cutting edge research for the purpose of filling research gaps and stimulating new investigation. A workshop report from 2019 found that foundations are appropriately situated to “provide proof of principle and push forward ideas that contribute to convergence” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019, p. 38). Moreover, since foundations often aim to catalyze new areas of discovery and work in areas where researchers can leverage additional funding from other sources, the report notes the combination of public and philanthropic dollars is critical “when tackling complex challenges and addressing societal issues, the types of projects often associated with convergent collaborations” (National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2019, p. 38).

Next in the figure are philanthropic-funded interventions that look to further extend deliberation and inclusion practices by connecting scientists and engineers with other stakeholders to establish a more inclusive and socially responsible framing for research. Many of these network-building activities focused on deliberation and inclusion across sectors are in their nascent stages, having emerged in recent years to address the growing disconnect between those experts involved in the research enterprise and other constituencies that may be able to bring to bear different perspectives. Many of these networking

Typologies of science philanthropy 57 activities are driven by the research community, yet foundations have proven to be critical actors in terms of providing the resources necessary to bring these projects to fruition.

The final category in the table represents undertakings in which a philanthropy reflexively applies the principles of RRI on networks that it establishes and looks to ensconce these values and interests more fully onto the networks it supports externally. Whether established within or outside of the philanthropy, examples of this kind of philanthropic intervention tend to be closely associated with the funding organizations themselves. These network-building activities tend to be multi-year projects that evolve over time, with a centralized management function that coordinates the networks’ activities and works to ensure that the impact of the whole is greater than the sum of the network components. Two such foundation-funded research networks will be discussed in greater detail as case studies in Chapter 5.

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