Foundations have a reputation for going after the low-hanging fruit, in terms of impact, and for skipping from fad to fad.
And, sure, I see plenty of that in covering this world. But I'm equally struck by the number of funders who stick with issues for the long haul. For instance, when I interviewed Larry Kramer, the CEO of the Hewlett Foundation, about its new work on democracy, he said his time frame for having impact was "twenty or thirty years." And, in fact, I can think of any number of large foundations who've stayed on issues for that long.
What's really striking, though, is how patient the funders in the science research area are. Why? Because many of the research efforts they're backing are quite theoretical and they are fully aware that it could be decades before this research translates into tangible results. Or never, if researchers are going down the wrong path.
That point struck me in posting Tate Williams' most recent piece on the Simons Foundation, which is among the nation's largest funders of math and science research.