Backing the Brightest Minds from Developing Countries

There are many programs attempting to increase diversity in science, but the Schlumberger Foundation has a couple of unique twists, not only directly diversifying faculty at the research stage, but also only backing the PhD and post-doc work of women from developing countries. This approach has a few intended benefits.

Schlumberger Limited’s company-sponsored foundation has one flagship program, Faculty for the Future, which is devoted to funding Ph.D. and post-doctoral research conducted by women originally from developing or emerging nations. Eligibility guidelines are quite specific, requiring applicants to be citizens of developing countries as determined by the foundation, not having dual citizenship, and in almost all cases doing their research abroad at top schools. 

While most foundations fostering diversity in STEM deal with younger students or earlier stages of higher education, Schlumberger is in the smaller camp of those supporting only the later stages of STEM education and earliest stages of research careers.

It's a research funder whose priority is diversity. And it's a science education funder focusing only on academics about to enter their fields. Add the restrictions to home country, and you've got a pretty unique program. This strategy can create a few benefits:

First, it’s about role models. The idea is that getting kids into science early will only be so effective if they eventually visit a grad school and see staff who all look and sound alike. Young people pursuing science need to see that people like them have a place in research. While the research itself is obviously weighed, so are the applicants’ teaching skills and ability to inspire young people.

Second, it’s about diversity in research. Researchers from different underrepresented nations will have unique problems they want to solve, and unique solutions to offer. New perspectives shake up the box of ideas. Unlike most research funders that commit to diversity as part of their overall goal, this program seeks diversity as the primary goal. 

Finally, it has a social justice benefit. Faculty who conduct research abroad return to their home countries with a new level of expertise that can move socio-economic development forward. 

While there are other minority PhD programs, this sole focus of supporting women in research, and by extension furthering global development, is not the kind of goal you often see in research or STEM education philanthropy. To learn more about this program, hit up the links. And if you want to dig deep on the numbers and outcomes of Faculty for the Future, you can also read a report in pdf form here.

Schlumberger Foundation: Grants for Science Research