Templeton Foundation: Grants for Science Research

OVERVIEW: The Templeton Foundation is a giant in science philanthropy, but it employs an unorthodox approach that does not shy from philosophical questions. This Pennsylvania-based foundation addresses discoveries related to the "Big Questions of human purpose and reality." The foundation supports research and science education. The foundation is also known for its Templeton Prize for spiritual leaders.

IP TAKE: This foundation gives to basic science research but only if it aligns with its goal of pursuing what Templeton considers “the big questions.” The foundation seeks creative solutions to some of the underlying mysteries of the world. It prioritizes interdisciplinary work that touches on philosophy and spirituality.

PROFILE: The Templeton Foundation, established in 1987 and headquartered in Pennsylvania, reflects the interests of its founder in its grantmaking activities. Rather than seeking to support specific disciplines per se, the litmus test for support is the philosophical weight of the work. That means Templeton wants to support work that unlocks the deepest mysteries of humanity and the universe, including but not limited to questions of spirituality and theology. For that reason, several scientists will not involve themselves with Templeton believing that it blurs the line between science and faith; however, others have assured that they have not experienced ideological pressure. Templeton supports the following funding areas: Science & the Big Questions, Character Virtue Development, individual freedom & free markets, Exceptional Cognitive Talent & Genius, Genetics, and Voluntary Family Planning.

One important program for researchers is called Science and the Big Questions. It provides major support for research “about the basic forces, concepts, and realities governing the universe and humankind's place in the universe.” Grants from the program are divided into five areas: Mathematical and Physical Sciences (funding projects on subjects like quantum optics and information), Life Sciences (related to the evolution of life, funding work in biology, neuroscience, archaeology and paleontology), Human Sciences (moving into anthropology, political-science, and psychology), Philosophy and Theology, and Science in Dialogue. University researchers have historically received the majority of grants from the Big Questions program.

Each year, Templeton offers open grant inquiry periods, which are conducted online. Additional information is also available here regarding funding competitions, and details about the foundation’s past giving through its grants database.

The foundation accepts initial inquiries only in some project areas, and states that full proposals are by invitation only after the review of an initial proposal. Templeton grants are very competitive, but the foundation desires “to get involved early enough in people’s careers that [it] can make a big difference in their work and allow them to realize their fullest potential.”

This funder does not entertain conventional approaches to science research. While Templeton's unique approach may be off-putting to some grantseekers, it's funding is generous. OFI grant deadlines generally occur in August, while the deadline for FP proposals occurs in January of each year.

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