Science Philanthropy and Science Policy: A Case of Donor Funded Research Centers
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
A unique database of philanthropic investments in science from 1995 to 2017 was developed using machine learning methods to capture multi-million dollar gifts to scientific disciplines at US universities. Research centers are identified as scientific investments with mission based impact goals. An analysis of interviews with university representatives—supplemented with quantitative data on publications, patents, and follow-on funding— help to reveal the broader impacts of research centers founded by philanthropic dollars. The greater flexibility gained from a large philanthropic investment supports the impact of centers but does not eliminate the struggles for survival experienced by these research centers. This finding varies in light of donors’ philanthropic investment styles and benchmarks for success for their philanthropic projects.
This paper raises important considerations for public organizations seeking to better leverage large philanthropic gifts from high net-worth donors and better integrate philanthropic support with the governmental support of science. This analysis dually points to the lack of the peer review process as a policy mechanism to standardize the selection of science for the public good. This study concludes with policy recommendations to promote a modified peer review process to enhance the success of philanthropic investments in science.