OVERVIEW: The STEM fields comprise the majority of Sloan's higher education grantmaking, but fellowships, research into making STEM education effective (including what draws and retains students), and support for people of color are also important priorities.
IP TAKE: Sloan is devoted to science at multiple levels and prioritizes 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 letters of interest in a number of its various subprograms.
PROFILE: Founded in 1934 by General Motors executive Alfred Sloan, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation has grown into one of the largest private foundations in the United States. This funder seeks “to support original research and education related to science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics.” It does most of its science education grantmaking through its STEM Higher Education program.
Sloan’s STEM Higher Education program seeks to “promote access to the scientific enterprise, provide information about scientific and technical careers, and encourage innovation to the structure of scientific training.” STEM Higher Education is broken down into two programs Education and Professional Advancement for Underrepresented Groups and The Science of Learning STEM.
Education and Professional Advancement for Underrepresented Groups funds two fellowships, both of which are administered by National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering. The first is the Sloan Minority Ph.D. Program, which partners with colleges and universities to provide fellowships to underrepresented populations. The second is the Sloan Indigenous Graduate Partnership, which supports Native American and Native Alaskan graduate education.
The second science education program, The Science of Learning STEM, strives to improve educational methods, both in quality of instruction and in attracting students to science and tech fields. Sloan also uses the Science of Learning STEM program to expand interest in science and math among underrepresented groups.
Sloan also funds higher education through a number of sub-programs and initiatives housed in other funding areas: Science Research, Public Understanding of Science, Technology and Economics; Data & Computational Research; Economics; and Energy and the Environment.
An additional way Sloan supports higher education is through its Research Fellowships. This program seeks “to stimulate fundamental research by early-career scientists and scholars of outstanding promise.” These two-year $65,000 fellowships support over 125 promising young scholars in the areas of physics, chemistry, mathematics, neuroscience, computer science, economics, computational and evolutionary molecular biology, and ocean sciences. As per the foundation, the fellowships “identify those who show the most outstanding promise of making fundamental contributions to new knowledge” and fellows “are free to pursue whatever lines of inquiry are of the most compelling interest to them.”
Aside from Sloan’s formal science education work, it also prioritizes educating the public about science and economics and backs quite a bit of media, such as books, radio, TV, and new media. To that end, Sloan supports a number of public radio shows, such as Radiolab, Planet Money, and Science Friday.
Interested grantseekers can apply for grants directly through the foundation. It is 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. The foundation’s searchable grants database can be found here.
Sloan is more open than some other large funders. The process for applying varies depending on the purpose and dollar amount of your request. Additionally, there is a separate page to apply for a research fellowship. Sloan will not fund for-profit institutions, medical research, humanities, anything aimed at pre-college students, or building and equipment endowments.
- Adam F. Falk, President
- Daniel L. Goroff, Vice President and Program Director
- Elizabeth S. Boylan, Program Director