Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Grants for Science Research

OVERVIEW:  The STEM fields comprise the majority of Sloan's higher education grantmaking, but fellowships, research into STEM, and support for people of color are also important priorities.

IP TAKE: Sloan is devoted to science at multiple levels and prioritizes basic research, network-building, science education research, and sharing knowledge as widely as possible. Its flagship program is the selective Sloan Research Fellowships, but the foundation is also open to uninvited letters of interest in a number of its various subprograms.

PROFILE: Founded in 1934 by General Motors executive Alfred Sloan, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has grown into one of the largest private foundations in the United States. This funder seeks “to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics.” It funds both concrete research and projects that seek to further our basic understanding of the world around us.

Sloan has several major program areas that support science research. The first is the Science Research program, which “seeks proposals for original projects led by outstanding individuals or teams, which exhibit a high degree of methodological rigor” and “which have a high expected return to society.” The foundation prioritizes projects that have been overlooked or underfunded by “the private sector, government, or other foundations.” The Science Research initiative’s subprograms include: Chemistry of Indoor Environments, Deep Carbon Observatory, Microbiology of the Built Environment, and the Sloan Digital Sky Survery.

Additional initiatives related to Science research can be found in other funding areas: STEM Higher Education, Public Understanding of Science, Technology and Economics; Digital Information Technology; Economics; and Energy and the Environment.

Finally, there are the Sloan Research Fellowships, two-year awards to 126 researchers every year for distinguished work in their fields. Several notable Sloan Fellows, such as Richard Feynman, have gone on to win Nobel Prizes. Most of the prizes award physics and chemistry, but also mathematics, biology, computer science, economics, ocean science and neuroscience. Nominations open in mid-July and the deadline is mid-September. Information on past fellows can be found here.

Interested organizations can apply for grants directly through the foundation. It is important to note that several officer-directed grants are awarded each year and that some program areas fall exclusively under one program officer’s purview, so grantseekers should reach out to the appropriate program staff via a letter of inquiry (phone calls are discouraged) before applying. The foundation’s searchable grants database can be found here.

Sloan is more open than some other large funders. The process for applying varies depending on the purpose and dollar amount of your request. There is additionally a separate page if you are applying for a research fellowship. Sloan won’t fund for-profit institutions, medical research, humanities, anything aimed at pre-college students, or building and equipment endowments.

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