Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: Grants for Science Research

OVERVIEW: Founded in 1934 by General Motors exec Alfred Sloan, the Sloan Foundation has grown into one of the largest private foundations in the United States. The STEM fields drive 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 promotes areas including 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 LOIs in a number of its various subprograms.

PROFILE: The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is another monster funder, but it has a unique focus that supports a mix of science, technology and economic institutions, all with the ultimate goal of making the quality of life better for Americans. They fund quite a bit of more concrete research, but also a good deal of 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 STEM Research program, which funds projects that “promise to substantively benefit society or significantly add to the body of scientific knowledge.” In the foundation’s words, “a carefully reasoned and systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society, when applied inventively and wisely, can lead to a better world for all.”

The STEM Research initiative’s subprograms include: STEM Higher Education, Public Understanding of Science, Technology and Economics; Digital Information Technology; Economics; and Energy and the Environment.

For projects that don’t fit neatly into any of these categories, there are also “Select Issues” funded by Sloan. Within science research, Sloan’s International Science Engagement initiative is “an early stage effort...that seeks to bring scientists and engineers in conflict regions together to collaborate on joint research and projects of mutual interest.” The initiative’s current regional focus is on China and South Asia.   

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 go toward 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.

While the foundation does not host a searchable grants database, grantseekers can learn more about areas it is funding on its Grantees in the News page. You can also more about the latest fellows here.

Interested organizations can apply for grants directly through the foundation. It's 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.

Sloan is more open than some other heavyweight 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.

PEOPLE

  • Joshua Greenberg, Director, Digital Information Technology
  • Daniel L. Goroff, Vice President and Program Director
  • Elizabeth Boylan, Director, Science of Learning STEM
  • Evan S. Michelson, Program Officer, Energy & Environment

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