Basic Research, Big Impact: Yale Partners with Science Philanthropy Alliance

Yale’s faculty is widely recognized for its discovery-driven contributions in areas such as physics, chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, and ecology. Here, a novel protein discovered at Yale is examined in a research facility at West Campus.

From the discovery of penicillin to the invention of laser technology, basic scientific research has sown the seeds for improved health and wellbeing for people around the globe. To ensure that vital discoveries continue to occur at Yale, the university has partnered with the Science Philanthropy Alliance to establish the Science Frontiers Fund, an initiative that encourages private investment in basic research. “Such funds will ensure that ground-breaking contributions to the biological, physical, and engineering sciences continue to be made through Yale’s research endeavors,” says Steven Girvin, Deputy Provost for Science and Technology. “They will allow us to achieve and maintain the highest levels of excellence and innovation.”

In 1945, Vannevar Bush, science advisor to Franklin Roosevelt and a pioneer of the analog computer, famously described basic research as “the pacemaker of technological progress.” That tenet still holds true today: research motivated by curiosity and exploration of natural phenomena serves to reveal fundamental principles at work around us and provides the backbone for future medical and technological breakthroughs. In a global economy increasingly based on science, medicine, and technology, investment in this type of research is considered crucial to long-term national growth.

However, opportunities for scientists to think big and take risks have become fewer in recent years, especially with a significant decline of funding from the U.S. government.

Six major foundations have now come together to form the Science Philanthropy Alliance, with the goal of turning this tide—the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Simons Foundation. By promoting collaboration among those interested in basic research, the Alliance aims to increase funding across all scientific disciplines. Yale is one of fifteen research universities and institutions to enter into this strategic partnership.

Yale’s faculty is widely recognized for its discovery-driven contributions in areas such as physics, chemistry, biochemistry, cell biology, and ecology; it has included twenty-five Nobel Prize winners to date. The Science Frontiers Fund at Yale aims to fuel new findings by supporting research awards for faculty, start-up funding for early-career investigators, fellowships for graduate and postdoctoral researchers, and funds that broaden access to technology and instrumentation.

The Science Frontiers Fund at Yale will support faculty across the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and the School of Medicine as well as the institutes at Yale West Campus. “So many of the advances that we enjoy today—in clinical medicine, biotechnology, engineering, and more—all share a foundation in decades of basic research,” said Carolyn Slayman, Deputy Dean for Academic and Scientific Affairs at the School of Medicine. “This new partnership is a way to ensure that discovery-based science continues to flourish at Yale, paving the way for tomorrow’s innovations.”

(December 8, 2014)

December 8, 2014