John Templeton Foundation: Grants for Science Education

OVERVIEW: Templeton’s grantmaking prioritizes research, but it also makes many grants to science education. It seeks interdisciplinary work that touches on philosophy and spirituality. The foundation also supports early-career scholars, and it is known for its Templeton Prize for spiritual leaders.

IP TAKE: This foundation supports basic science research and STEM education, but only if the work 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. Grantseekers should keep in mind that the foundation is looking for something creative to explore some of the underlying mysteries of the world. Unsolicited inquiries are accepted on a project-by-project basis.

PROFILE: Established in 1987 and headquartered in Pennsylvania, the Templeton Foundation’s grantmaking activities reflect its founder’s interests. The foundation seeks to serve “as a philanthropic catalyst for discoveries relating to the deepest and most perplexing questions facing humankind” and supports “research on subjects ranging from complexity, evolution, and emergence to creativity, forgiveness, and free will.” Because of this, several scientists will not engage with Templeton believing that it blurs the line between science and faith; however, others have assured that they have not experienced ideological pressure.

Science and the Big Questions is the most important program for science educators. It is the foundation’s largest program and 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, Life Sciences, Human Sciences, Philosophy and Theology, and Science in Dialogue. University researchers have historically received the majority of grants from the Big Questions program. The Science in Dialogue subprogram for example, funds projects such as “Empowering Science Teachers to Address Perceived Conflicts between Science and Religion.”

While its title might not suggest it, Templeton also supports STEM education through the Exceptional Cognitive Talent and Genius program. Though it produces a relatively small number of grants (an average of less than one per year over the past decade), about half of them supported university studies and university-affiliated events related to "identifying and nurturing young people who demonstrate exceptional talent in mathematics and science" both in the U.S. and internationally. This funding area also supports contests for high school students, online learning resources for gifted young people, and even academic studies about education.

Templeton's final grantmaking area related to STEM education is Genetics. It concerns "how major advances in genetics might serve to empower individuals, leading to spiritually beneficial social and cultural changes." Several universities and research institutions received support for genetics research on the preventative and curative sides, as well as investigations into how health is passed down from one generation to the next.

The foundation’s grant process is fairly accessible. Each year, Templeton offers open grant inquiry periods, which are conducted online. Additional information is available here regarding funding competitions and details about the foundation’s past grantees are in 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.