1st Edition

Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology

By Evan Michelson Copyright 2020
    428 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    428 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    An increasingly important and often overlooked issue in science and technology policy is recognizing the role that philanthropies play in setting the direction of research. In an era where public and private resources for science are strained, the practices that foundations adopt to advance basic and applied research needs to be better understood. This first-of-its-kind study provides a detailed assessment of the current state of science philanthropy. This examination is particularly timely, given that science philanthropies will have an increasingly important and outsized role to play in advancing responsible innovation and in shaping how research is conducted.

    Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology surveys the landscape of contemporary philanthropic involvement in science and technology by combining theoretical insights drawn from the responsible research and innovation (RRI) framework with empirical analysis investigating an array of detailed examples and case studies. Insights from interviews conducted with foundation representatives, scholars, and practitioners from a variety of sectors add real-world perspective. A wide range of philanthropic interventions are explored, focusing on support for individuals, institutions, and networks, with attention paid to the role that science philanthropies play in helping to establish and coordinate multi-sectoral funding partnerships. Novel approaches to science philanthropy are also considered, including the emergence of crowdfunding and the development of new institutional mechanisms to advance scientific research. The discussion concludes with an imaginative look into the future, outlining a series of lessons learned that can guide how new and established science philanthropies operate and envisioning alternative scenarios for the future that can inform how science philanthropy progresses over the coming decades.

    This book offers a major contribution to the advancement of philanthropic investment in science and technology. Thus, it will be of considerable interest to researchers and students in public policy, public administration, political science, science and technology studies, sociology of science, and related disciplines.


    1. Renewed Giving for Science: The Re-Emergence of Philanthropic Support for the Scientific Enterprise
    2. Tracing the Past: The Historical Role of Foundations in Science and Technology
    3. Typologies of Science Philanthropy: Linking Philanthropic Approaches with Responsible Research and Innovation
    4. Individuals, Institutions, and Networks: Contemporary Examples of Science Philanthropy
    5. Case Studies in Science Philanthropy Network-Building: The Rockefeller Foundation Searchlight Network and the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
    6. Reflections from the Field: Perspectives on the Societal Responsibility of Science Philanthropy
    7. Novel Modes of Responsibility: New Approaches to Science Philanthropy

    8. Opportunities and Challenges Ahead: Lessons Learned and Scenarios for the Future of Science Philanthropy


    Evan S. Michelson is a Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, New York, USA.

    "Evan Michelson has crafted an important and timely book on private philanthropy and the support of scientific research. We have not (yet?) returned to the age of the Medicis, but without question we are moving in the direction of much greater support for science coming from wealthy individuals through their foundations. Michelson walks us through the positives that private foundations can provide, while also clearly and thoroughly exploring the large potholes into which good philanthropic intentions can fall. This book helps to frame the debate about who sets the priorities for the public good, and how best to achieve desired philanthropic outcomes. The book will also be a valuable guide to new philanthropists, as it raises questions they should certainly ask and consider as they decide on the mission and mechanism for the distribution of their funds."Daniel Linzer, President, Research Corporation for Science Advancement, USA

    "This book could not be more timely. Over the 2020s, future-leaning philanthropists and foundations have a critical and unique role to play in ensuring emerging Science and Technology drives positive social change. Their support of research integrated into future-facing deliberative dialogues across sectors is critical to explore and assure the effective development, distribution, access and governance of technological innovation." Cat Tully, Managing Director, School of International Futures, UK

    "Foundation support for scientific research, long overshadowed by massive federal funding, has been playing a unique and increasingly important role in recent decades. Michelson applies his considerable experience in the foundation world to a masterful exploration of the ways in which these institutions are supporting the advancement of knowledge, while applying that knowledge to the promotion of social change."Albert H. Teich, Research Professor of Science, Technology & International Affairs, The George Washington University, USA

    "As the complex dynamic between research and social impact evolves, philanthropy will play an increasingly important role in ensuring that our science and technology-mediated future is a bright one. Yet the nature of this role remains poorly understood. Michelson authoritatively and persuasively fills this gap. But he achieves far more than this. By framing his analysis within the context of responsible research and innovation, Michelson provides a timely and compelling account of how this relationship needs to change if we are to create a vibrant and equitable future for all. Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology is a must-read for researchers, developers, scholars of innovation, philanthropists, and anyone who cares about building a better future through socially responsible and beneficial innovation."Andrew Maynard, Professor and Director of the Risk Innovation Lab, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University, USA

    "Every day we see more evidence of the increasing tension between public policy and scientific knowledge as problems like climate change, genetic research, pandemics like COVID-19, and artificial intelligence become more complex and have greater impacts on society. As Evan Michelson astutely argues, philanthropy can have a greater role in helping us navigate this tension and develop equitable and efficacious solutions based on rigorous science and best available data. Philanthropy can help establish and fund multi-lateral relationships between policymakers, scientists, and innovators to ensure that research is providing answers to questions that officials and entrepreneurs are actually asking. Michelson makes the compelling case for the urgent need to increase science funding, explores innovative funding tools at philanthropy’s disposal, and provides case studies of how science, philanthropy, and policy are coming together in novel ways to solve the global problems of the 21st century."Marilu Hastings, Vice President, Sustainability Programs, Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation, USA

    "Endless acres of analysis have been devoted to the role of government and business in science, technology and innovation systems. In this important book, Evan Michelson ploughs a distinctive yet fertile furrow, by focusing attention on the growing influence of charities and foundations in the funding, direction and evaluation of S&T. At its best, science philanthropy can be more agile, risky and responsive to societal and public concerns. This book offers us the most compelling analysis to date of how science philanthropy has evolved, what motivates its main players, and its future pathways and possibilities. Required reading for policymakers, funders and research leaders worldwide."James Wilsdon, Director, Research on Research Institute (RoRI) and Digital Science Professor of Research Policy, University of Sheffield, UK

    "In the book’s most compelling section, Michelson discusses the evolution of foundation giving over the twentieth century. He offers keen observations of how philanthropic giving evolved from ad hoc gifts driven by the personal interests and connections of the benefactors to the more formalized, institutional practices that continue today. These include knowledgeable program officers who recommend grantees, grants earmarked for specific projects, and mission statements that guide giving. And Michelson provides examples demonstrating that foundations played a significant role in shaping the course of scientific progress … Philanthropy and the Future of Science and Technology is a valuable contribution to the philanthropy and grantmaking literature: Michelson’s brief history of science and technology philanthropy, the reflections from people within the philanthropic ecosystem, and his analysis of the novel modes of philanthropic giving are especially insightful and have given us new ideas to consider in our own work."Adam A. Millsap, Senior Fellow, Charles Koch Institute and Neil Chilson, Senior Fellow, Charles Koch Institute