Some of the nation’s leading philanthropic individuals, initiatives, and organizations have joined together in an unprecedented alliance to help launch Science for America. The philanthropic partners, who have together committed $30 million over two years to launch Science for America, are: Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation, Emerson Collective, Ford Foundation, Gates Ventures, Hobson/Lucas Family Foundation, Reid Hoffman Foundation, Seth Klarman and Schmidt Futures.
Science for America will be driven by scientists and technologists, focusing on the kind of game-changing solutions that science and technology can create to help address major societal challenges.
Science for America will be a ‘solutions incubator.’ Going beyond making recommendations, it will create clear vision, strategy, and execution plans for urgent challenges, and work with organizations across sectors to launch them and ensure their success.
Science for America will focus initially on five urgent challenges: the climate and energy crisis; medicine and public health; STEM equity and education; leadership and responsibility in critical technologies; and new models to support research and innovation, bring together brilliant and diverse experts, with a wide range of expertise, experiences and perspectives, develop a clear vision for game-changing solutions, based on successful exemplars and new ideas, incubate solutions, including developing strategy and execution plans for efforts that might take the form of specific projects, larger initiatives, shared facilities, coalitions across sectors, new companies, advocacy groups, and more. Also nucleate collaborations with philanthropic partners and other organizations to ensure the success of the solutions.
Science for America’s work is intended to complement vibrant efforts across all sectors—learning from them and sharing its own learnings. It will serve as a bridge across the philanthropic organizations in identifying bold solutions that they—and others—may pursue individually or collaboratively. It will aim to connect and partner with creative efforts in industry, academia, and elsewhere, and to be a supporter and support critical efforts in government. It will aim to catalyze new efforts, enhance current efforts, and promote synergy across the ecosystem.
Science for America will be a non-profit organization and will be able to accept donations that are tax-deductible under Section 501(c)(3). It will draw extensively on external strategic advisors and domain experts, as well as its own staff.
Science for America will have bi-coastal headquarters in two of America’s science and technology hubs: the Boston Area and the Bay Area. It will also make extensive use of remote work and meetings, to engage staff, advisors, experts, and collaborators across the country and the world.
“I have long believed diverse perspectives and imagination are critical to solving the toughest problems,” Mellody Hobson, Co-CEO and President, Ariel Investments. “The most urgent threats to our planet demand that we cultivate the next generation of STEM leaders. I am proud to support Science for America’s mission to address underrepresentation and foster breakthrough innovations in science and technology.”
Science for America will initially focus on five areas of national and global urgency and great opportunity.
Climate and energy crisis. Bold and relentless innovation will be critical to solving the climate and energy crisis. We need to accelerate development, for all our needs, of net-zero-carbon technologies that are much cheaper than greenhouse-gas (GHG) emitting alternative—so that net-zero solutions are always the logical choice and so that underserved nations and peoples have access to more energy, not less. Currently, the world is dramatically underinvesting in potentially game-changing energy technologies, such as fusion, electro fuels, thin-film solar, inexpensive carbon capture, and more. We also need ways to directly, objectively, and rigorously measure and monitor GHG emissions around the globe—so we can assess progress and hold everyone accountable; this will require new science, new instruments, and new computation. And, we need far more systematic and replicable approaches to adaptation, especially for communities facing the greatest inequities.
“Fighting the twin crises of climate change and inequality is a battle that we cannot afford to lose, which is why supporting the advancement of science and fact-based policy remains more important than ever,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “We are proud to partner with Science for America to catalyze new efforts across sectors in pursuit of long-lasting, sustainable solutions for the benefit of all people.”
Health. Medicine and public health are ripe for transformation in the coming years. There are so many learnings from the pandemic (both successes, such as rapid vaccine development and failures, such as ineffectiveness and inequities in our public health systems), as well as stunning advances in molecular biology over the past decades that point the way toward ‘programmable therapeutics’ (e.g., delivering instructions to specific cell types to alter their behavior). One urgent need is to prevent future outbreaks from turning into devastating pandemics by continuing to drive bold innovation (e.g., in how we create, test and manufacture vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics; and how we build early warning and monitoring systems). This is not only a historic responsibility; it will help transform prevention and treatment of existing infectious diseases. Another urgent opportunity is to halve the death rate from cancer over the next 25 years (e.g., through developing vaccines that can prevent many cancers; annual blood tests for early detection; eliminating stark inequities in diagnosis, treatment and outcomes based on race, resources; and geography; learning from patients’ experiences; and more). A third urgent need is to rethink our public health system (e.g., through ‘community-connected health’ that meets people where they are, has the tools it needs to serve them, and is trusted.)
“We’re in a time of enormous global challenges but also of unprecedented opportunities to help people around the world live longer, better lives,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We can only seize those opportunities by supporting science, following the data, and working together. That approach has helped guide our philanthropic work on many issues, including those at the center of this critical new initiative: public health, climate change, and STEM diversity. We’re glad to support its work advancing scientific innovation and collaborative partnerships that will help drive progress on some of the most important challenges facing the world today – and tomorrow.”
STEM equity and education. To succeed, America will need to draw on all Americans. Historically, STEM has failed to engage and often actively excluded many people—especially based on gender, race, region, and resources. With only 4% of the world’s population, the U.S. can’t afford to leave people on the sidelines. And, with scientific progress depending on fresh insights and perspectives, the U.S. needs to take full advantage of its unparalleled diversity. We need to build on and expand effective solutions, to ensure that everyone can explore, belong, and thrive in STEM education, careers and leadership positions. Solutions include creating on-ramps to let people join at many stages; bridges to enable people to stay on track as they transition across institutions and life events; ways to expand access to launching start-ups; data collection to drive progress; and policies that reward success in ways that drive individual and institutional action. We also need to unleash the creativity of STEM teachers, explore new models for STEM in schools, and reimagine the role of education schools to maximize their effectiveness.
“Science is integral to every aspect of our lives, and aptitude for STEM exists in every corner of our community,” said Gerun Riley, President of The Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation. “But to realize the enormous potential for science to improve lives, we must be more intentional about creating pathways for BIPOC students to participate in STEM studies and careers so the emerging technologies, treatments, innovations and analyses are representative—and inclusive—of different lived experiences.”
Critical technologies: leadership and responsibility. America’s leadership and responsibility in critical technologies—such as semiconductors, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, fusion reactors, autonomous machines, quantum computing, and much more—will be crucial to our own prosperity and security, as well as to the world’s. With near-peer competitors who have learned from us and are executing vigorously, we need to update our playbook. We need a clearer understanding of the mechanisms that can promote the creation of leading-edge and new technologies, new companies, and new jobs. We need to ensure that America remains the magnet for the world’s scientific talent from America and abroad—the most attractive and welcoming place for students to train, researchers to work, and entrepreneurs to build businesses. And, in all this, we need to work closely with allies who share our values and address global needs, including in countries that lack advanced capabilities in science and technology.
“American leadership in the race for advanced technologies is precarious. We still have the opportunity to stay ahead for our collective prosperity, but it will require a national effort involving government, industry, academia and philanthropy working together if we want free and open societies to lead the next wave of innovation for the benefit of all,” said Eric Schmidt, co-Founder, Schmidt Futures. We also need to bet early on exceptional people, and back high-skilled immigration to power the high-risk, high-reward research that can deliver results for society. If we can win this race, we can positively employ these foundational technologies in a manner consistent with democratic values.”
We need to rethink and reshape America’s innovation ecosystem across all sectors—by unleashing creativity and speed in scientific research and development and by urgently developing new mechanisms, institutions, and programs designed to support bold goals, tolerate greater risk, move faster, span sectors, and operate at large scale when needed. We must draw on the complementary strengths of academia, venture capital, new start-ups, existing companies, and government. There is tremendous creative energy around this need in philanthropy, industry, and some parts of academia. We also need to support the government to be maximally ambitious. It is time to think systematically about which approaches work best for which challenges. Getting this right will have a huge impact.
“Science and technology are critical to solving the world’s most intractable problems. We need to accelerate our scientific research and development, in breadth, in depth, and in boldness,” said Reid Hoffman, Partner, Greylock. “Creating a network that connects our key institutions and facilitates collaboration among them, while also enabling great and diverse talent will be key.”