Who's Keeping the Clock Ticking at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists?

In the world of global security, few have provided news and commentary on nuclear non-proliferation and threats to humanity for as long as the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Founded following the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by two former Manhattan Project physicists, the Bulletin has been in publication since 1945.

Which is to say that the Bulletin started up a good sixty years before niche nonprofit news sites became a hot thing in the worlds of journalism and philanthropy. And while you'd think that a publication with a name like this one would have gone under long ago, you'd be wrong. The Bulletin is going strong in digital form, utilizing all the latest social media tools. 

The most recognizable feature of the Bulletin is its “doomsday clock,” which fluctuates annually to reflect the danger of nuclear holocaust in terms of minutes to midnight.

So which funders are responsible for keeping the Bulletin’s clock ticking?

One of the most recent major grants came from the Hewlett Foundation, in the sum of $55,000 over one year for the purpose of creating an “updated digital publishing strategy.” This wasn’t Hewlett’s first grant to the Bulletin, though. Back in 2006 Hewlett granted $200,000 over two years. 

There are a number of other major foundations and donors to the publication. One of the notables is the Carnegie Corporation. They’ve doled out previous amounts of $50,000 in 2006, and $200,000 in 2009 (for two years). A 36-month, $500,000 grant in September 2011 is still supporting plans for "deepening its coverage of nuclear weapons and disarmament, nuclear power and proliferation; expanding its network of expert authors to include those from developing countries, as well as from nuclear weapons states; extending its reach by upgrading its web site; and building on past success with the Doomsday Clock Symposium to reach and sustain contact with broader audiences more consistently.”

Another big-name foundation backing the Bulletin is the MacArthur Foundation, which has provided over $2.7 million between 2003 and 2014. Currently active is a two-year grant awarded in 2013 for $250,000.

That MacArthur would have a continued relationship with the Bulletin makes sense, given that current executive director and publisher Kennette Benedict is also the former Director of International Peace and Security at MacArthur. In 2003, two years before leaving MacArthur for the Bulletin, Benedict started a $50 million MacArthur initiative to train scientists and technologists about security problems.

Other recognizable names include, among others, Ploughshares Fund, which most recently granted $10,000 in 2012 and had given $100,000 annually between 2006 and 2010, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. There are also a number of individual large donors, including, at the $25,000 and up level, William and Eleanor Revelle—William was The Bulletin’s Board chair from 2009-2012—and Kennette Benedict herself, at $10,000 and up. 

Despite the mouthful of a name, the Bulletin’s been publishing for decades. And with the help of Hewlett, MacArthur, Carnegie, et. al., the funding clock won’t be running out on them anytime soon. As for the doomsday clock, which currently stands at 5 minutes to midnight, that’s a more dangerous bet.

Editor’s Note: The MacArthur Foundation is currently winding down several of its grantmaking programs. Although the foundation has not officially announced a plan to close its Peace and International Security program, it is “exploring the elements and feasibility of a big bet based on a new approach to reducing the threat posed by nuclear weapons. We also think that a big bet could be a place, rather than an issue.” MacArthur is currently exploring Nigeria as a region of focus for its future nuclear security related grantmaking. We’ll keep you posted as new information comes in.