Science’s Billionaire Backers: Philanthropy’s Role in Research

Science’s Billionaire Backers: Philanthropy’s Role in Research

D1) Science’s Billionaire Backers: Philanthropy’s Role in Research

Moderator: Tate Williams
Organizer: Ruby Barcklay

Philanthropists around the world are giving huge sums to science research. To name just a handful:

  • Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s commitment of $3 billion to biomedical research initiatives
  • Paul Allen’s support of bioscience with a $100 million gift
  • Russian entrepreneur Yuri Milner’s plan to send a fleet of probes to Alpha Centauri with initial funding of $100 million
  • Jim and Marilyn Simons’ gift of $100 million to the New York Genome Center
  • Sean Parker’s Foundation gift of $250 million for cancer research
  • The Wellcome Trust’s plans to invest £5 billion over the next five years to improve health

What does this infusion of private wealth mean for science research, and what are the advantages and perils of science philanthropy? What is the right role for philanthropy in research, relative to government and corporate funding? This panel of philanthropy insiders and experts will discuss how wealthy individuals and foundations affect research: their models and mechanisms for giving, how they make decisions, and how it shapes science.

Journalists will have a chance to ask some of the questions that arise whenever a new megagift is announced: Why one program and not another? Who made the decision and how do we know it’s the right use of funds? Did the scientific community have any input? The panel will also tackle some of the broader questions in science funding, such as how private dollars interact and contrast with government funding.

Private philanthropists will continue to play an important role in funding science research around the world. Coverage of their actions in coming years will be crucial for scientists, public agencies, industry, and the community at large.