FUNDING AREAS: Basic scientific research, STEM higher education, public understanding of science and technology, economic performance, and improving the quality of life of Americans
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IP TAKE: As an economist, Joskow knows that strong STEM education can be a driver of innovation that fosters economic growth. Institutions and organizations with plans to improve the quality of education in science and technology fields, or improve the public understanding of science, may find valuable friends in Joskow and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
PROFILE: Paul Joskow is president of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. Prior to joining the foundation, he was the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics and Management at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (now professor emeritus) and director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research. Joskow was a Sloan grantee while on the MIT faculty, so he knows first-hand the value of the foundation's grantmaking activities.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation's grant work covers six categories, most of which relate to education and research in STEM-related fields. Those categories are: research in the natural sciences; research in economics; increasing the quality and diversity of scientific education; using information technology to leverage the effectiveness of scientific practice; improving the public understanding of economics, science, and technology; and benefiting New York City, where the foundation is based.
Joskow calls increasing the quality and diversity of higher education in STEM disciplines one of the foundation's core aims. On the educational quality front, Joskow and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation partner with universities to disseminate best practices in science instruction. A technology-dependent economy requires a growing number of workers who are proficient in science, engineering, and technology. Unfortunately, many students who major in STEM-related fields do not complete their degrees. Some undergraduates who abandon STEM-related disciplines for other fields of study have described scientific instruction as ineffective and un-engaging.
In addition to improving the quality of STEM instruction to make science and technology more engaging, Sloan and other philanthropic organizations wish to make the STEM professions more diverse, encouraging more enrollment and degree completion in these disciplines by women, African Americans, Latinos, and other underrepresented groups. To increase diversity in STEM education, Joskow and the foundation have joined with universities to establish mentoring centers. The organizations' goal is to ensure that students from groups that traditionally have been underrepresented in STEM fields receive an outstanding education in mathematics and the sciences.
Joskow recognizes an important role for media in heightening the public's knowledge and understanding of science and technology. The foundation has provided grants that fund science-themed books, films, television and radio programs, and digital media. In the past, the Sloan Foundation has even supported science-themed operas.
An economist by profession, Joskow earned a bachelor's degree from Cornell University and a PhD in economics from Yale in 1972. From 1972 to 2010, he was an active member of the economics faculty at MIT, including serving as department head from 1994 to 1998. His teaching and research interests concentrated on industrial organization, energy and environmental economics, competition, and government regulation of industry. He published six books and more than 125 papers.
Joskow has been an adviser and consultant to the National Science Foundation, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the World Bank.