Research Corporation for Science Advancement: Grants for Science Research

OVERVIEW: Much of the Research Corporation for Science Advancement’s (RCSA) grantmaking focuses on the intersection between teaching and research. The foundation supports chemistry, physics, astronomy, or work that “interfaces” with those areas. Several grants are only open to prior awardees who are now at more advanced stages in their careers.

IP TAKE: This private foundation seeks transformative breakthroughs. Unlike some larger foundations, RCSA offers many small- and medium-sized grants across a wide geographic range; this is a great funder for early academics.

PROFILE: The RCSA was founded in 1912 by inventor Frederick Cottrell and boasts more than a dozen Nobel laureates among its past awardees. It seeks innovative forms of physical science research - more specifically, “chemistry, physics, astronomy, and science that interfaces with these disciplines, for example biochemistry and biophysics.” The foundation targets young scientists with high-risk/high-reward projects. It also supports the union of education and research. Its substantial annual giving goes to three competitive awards that support undergraduate research, researchers with enthusiasm for teaching, and partnerships between high school educators and academics.

One of its main programs is the Cottrell Scholar program, which focuses on both research and teaching. Grantees must demonstrate excellence in both research and instruction and are expected to continue collaborating and sharing ideas with fellow scholars. Areas of focus here include chemistry, physics, and astronomy. Eligibility for this $100,000 grant is limited to “tenure-track faculty members.” Grantseekers should keep monitor RCSAs website, as eligibility requirements are subject to change.

Additional funding comes from the Career Advancement Awards (CAA) program. The TREE (Transformational Research and Excellence in Education) Award, the LEAD (Leadership Enrichment And Development) Award, and the SEED (Singular Exceptional Endeavors of Discovery) Awards are limited to “Cottrell Scholars who are at least six years beyond receiving a CSA.” Depending on the grant, funding can support additional research, travel to promote one’s scholarly work, and leadership development opportunities. TREE awards are $20,000; LEAD awards are up to $25,000; while the SEED Award is $$50,000 for research projects and $25,000 for education activities.

For CSA Scholars who have earned tenure within 5-10 years after receiving their grant, there is the highly prized FRED Award (named for Fred Cottrell himself). FRED Awardees in the “early stages” of a major research project are given $250,000 in support for conducting potentially transformative, “exceptional high risk/high reward research.”

For scholars who want to take on transformation at the teaching level, the Cottrell Scholars Collaborative, which is “a cross-disciplinary network of Cottrell Scholars who work in teams [...] to improve undergraduate and graduate science education at colleges and universities across the country.” Grant size is $25,000 but eligibility is limited to Cottrell Scholar conference attendees only.

After several decades of supporting successful research activities at primarily undergraduate institutions through the Cottrell College Science Award (CCSA) program, CCSA has been consolidated with Cottrell Scholars.

Separately, RCSA’s Scialog program invites teams of researchers to take on a specific research challenge, then gathers grantees together to discuss progress and exchange ideas at an annual conference.

Lastly, through its partnerships, the foundation has teamed up with three organizations to offer additional grants. Working with the German-American Fulbright Commission (GAFC), RCSA has created the Cottrell-Fulbright Scholars Program. This grant is “modeled after the RCSA Cottrell Scholar Award Program” that will award grants to two or three scholars whose “innovative research and teaching plans [show] high potential for transformative impact.” For the Science Philanthropy Alliance, RCSA partnered with organizations such as the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Kavli Foundation, Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and the Simons Foundation to found the SPA with the goal of supporting young scientists to “take the risks appropriate to discovering nature’s deepest secrets.”

Finally, the foundation has also teamed up with three national organizations who “share [their] commitment to supporting science.” With the National Academy of Sciences, RSCA offers a biennial Award for Scientific Discovery “to recognize an accomplishment or discovery in basic research within the past five years.” This grant totals $100,000 - half in the form of a cash prize, while the other half supports the recipient’s research.

On a smaller scale, RCSA and the American Chemical Society award a $10,000 grant split evenly between the grantee and his/her institution to recognize a chemistry professor whose research has received wide acclaim and directly benefited undergraduate students in their own work. A similar grant is offered in conjunction with the American Physical Society.

The foundation’s awards database provides information about past grantees. Unlike some of the more exclusive science funders, this foundation gives out many small- and medium-sized grants to several different researchers. The awarded institutions are diverse and there is plenty of opportunity for less-established or lower-profile academics looking to progress in their careers. RSCA accepts unsolicited grant applications but encourages grantseekers to review the foundation’s Summary of Awards, which details application deadlines and award amounts. The foundation suggests that grantseekers with questions contact a program officer for more information.