When deciding which areas to support, funders have often asked, “How do we stay at the cutting edge of science that is being developed?” and “Where is funding needed most?” The Science Philanthropy Alliance diligently works not only to increase funding but also to educate philanthropists in making judicious, effective and satisfying investments in this space. In a recent report, Alliance external science advisors identify where there are opportunities and gaps in science philanthropy. Read more here.
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Palo Alto, California – The Science Philanthropy Alliance is pleased to announce that The Conrad Prebys Foundation has joined its growing network of philanthropic organizations committed to advancing scientific discovery for the benefit of society and the planet. The Alliance, founded in 2013 with six members, now includes 37 members.
“An important part of our work at the Conrad Prebys Foundation is to improve the lives of all San Diegans by advancing medical research and improving health care. This is why we are so pleased to join this important philanthropic effort to advance scientific discovery and to learn from and to collaborate with the Alliance and its members,” said Grant Oliphant, CEO of The Conrad Prebys Foundation.
Alliance President Dr. France A. Córdova emphasized that “The Conrad Prebys Foundation is investing in vital research. We are thrilled to welcome them as our newest member and look forward to helping them achieve their goals.” Dr. Córdova added, “The Alliance’s expanding national membership illustrates the diverse and visionary community of philanthropists who recognize the critical necessity of continued investment in scientific research.”
Based in San Diego, the Conrad Prebys Foundation is working to create an inclusive, equitable, and dynamic future for all San Diegans. The foundation advances excellence and shared opportunity through investments in groundbreaking institutions, ideas, and people, and is committed to ensuring that more people are financially secure, healthy, and empowered, communities are more uplifting and connected, and that institutions and systems that serve us offer equitable access to opportunity. The foundation invests in visual and performing arts, medical research, healthcare, and youth success, and considers the impact of its work on climate, the region’s character as a border region, and advancing a shared vision for the community. More details on the Conrad Prebys Foundation are available at https://www.prebysfdn.org/.
About the Science Philanthropy Alliance:
The Science Philanthropy Alliance works to advance scientific discovery through visionary philanthropy. By providing advising services for philanthropists, foundations, and platforms that catalyze connection, awareness, and learning, the Alliance strengthens philanthropic support for science that benefits society and the planet. Learn more at https://sciencephilanthropyalliance.org/.
For Immediate Release
Contact:, Rose-Marie Brandwein, 917-923-8105 (cell)
The Science Philanthropy Alliance congratulates two pioneers in medical research on their well-deserved Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, Drs. Katalin Karikó and Drew Weissman. The Nobel “for their discoveries concerning nucleoside base modifications that enabled the development of effective mRNA vaccines against COVID-19” brought to fruition the vast potential that pioneering research in DNA first proffered as it uncovered how mRNA molecules translate DNA into proteins. DNA research, which began in the 1940s, led to this seminal moment in science today. In the years ahead, we will see greater breakthroughs in mRNA applications in treating and/or eradicating an array of devastating diseases.
It is precisely groundbreaking research like this that society and science must continue to encourage and to fund. It is the mission of the Science Philanthropy Alliance to engender a deeper understanding of discovery science in a variety of fields that will enable our partners—foundations and philanthropists—to contribute in ways that are both beneficial to society and to the planet, as well as rewarding to themselves. Galileo Galilei reportedly said, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.”
We congratulate our colleagues on this momentous occasion and invite you to join us in our goal to advance basic scientific research through visionary philanthropy.
— Dr. France A. Córdova
President, The Science Philanthropy Alliance
In a newly published report, the Science Philanthropy Alliance shares its accomplishments from a successful 2022. In addition to welcoming two new members and two new supporters, the Alliance also opened 79 new projects, completed 74 advising projects, and took on 10 new advisees, with over $850 million advised or influenced toward discovery science. Access the 2022 Annual Report and learn more about the Alliance’s impact in the field.
Chronic pain affects approximately 20% of Americans – private philanthropic support can help scientists not only understanding its origins, but develop more effective interventions to treat it in the future
It’s often called a silent epidemic. Yet the call for greater understanding of what causes chronic pain – with the hope of inspiring new and improved treatments – grows louder by the day.
It’s not a surprise. According to the 2019 National Health Interview Survey, more than 50 million American adults report experiencing pain most or all days of their lives. A large number of these individuals are unemployed or underemployed because of their pain. Persistent pain can lead to negative feelings and isolation, interference with the ability to foster strong relationships, and a significant uptick in suicidal thoughts. When you put the consequences of chronic pain together, the associated costs are staggering. Each year, chronic pain costs society hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare expenses, disability payments, and lost productivity.
“All you have to do is look around you – someone you care about is likely affected by some type of chronic pain syndrome,” said David Julius, a physiologist at the University of California, San Francisco. Julius was awarded, with Ardem Patapoutian, the 2021 Nobel Prize in Medicine for their work on the molecular mechanisms of pain sensations. “It’s a quality-of-life issue for many people because it’s so disruptive. But it’s also a life and death issue. Chronic pain is something that clearly affects lifespan. Uncontrolled pain has physiological outcomes that make it harder to heal, harder to exercise, and just harder to take care of yourself. It’s become a unique driver of mortality – and one that needs to be addressed.”
Despite the prevalence of persistent pain, not only across the country but across the globe, there is no designated National Institute to drive research in chronic pain as you find with cancer, diabetes, or deafness. And while the National of Institutes of Health does provide funding for scientists studying different aspects of pain, the resulting dollar amounts are woefully inadequate.
“Upwards of 20% of the adult population in this country lives with chronic pain but less than 2-3% of the NIH budget goes toward its research. That’s a great mismatch, given the costs of this condition,” said Kathleen Foley, a neurologist emeritus at Memorial Sloan Kettering and a medical advisor or the Rita Allen Foundation. “Philanthropy can help to fill in that gap and shine a light on new areas in basic science that could help us make a real difference for these patients.”
Bishakha Mona, an associate advisor at the Science Philanthropy Alliance, wholeheartedly agrees. She says it is high time that funding agencies and private philanthropists understand that persistent pain is a disease, not just a symptom – and requires significantly more investment.
“The scientific community needs more funding so we can understand the core level of what’s changing in the nervous system that leads to chronic pain,” she said. “Philanthropies have a long history of funding promising researchers with interesting, and sometimes risky, ideas. In doing so, they often help to establish an new field of study. That’s what we need in chronic pain today.”
That’s why the Science Philanthropy Alliance has highlighted chronic pain as one of several underfunded research areas for philanthropists looking to make informed, effective, and satisfying investments in scientific research.
The State of the Field
Julius said there is great need for more basic science research in the pain field. It provides the “bedrock” for the novel therapies and interventions yet to be developed.
“There are still so many unknowns about what is happening in the brain and nervous system to translate acute pain into chronic pain,” he said. “We’re learning a lot about peripheral aspects of pain sensation – and one might argue that’s the simplest part of the problem. There’s still much left to be discovered, as we really don’t understand a lot about the molecular mechanisms that occur with injury or even what sort of biomarkers might give us a more objective assessment of pain. In terms of understanding pain in the context of what’s happening from a molecular standpoint in the central nervous system and spinal cord, it’s still the wild west.”
Carla Shatz, Neuroscientist at Stanford Neurobiology and Stanford Biology, and external scientific advisor for the Science Philanthropy Alliance, agreed – and added that there are exciting new opportunities to learn more about the fundamental changes in the brain that occur as acute pain transforms into persistent pain.
“There is uniform agreement that controlling pain from the outset is very important, but there is limited understanding of the mechanisms for how the brain’s inherent plasticity leads to long lasting changes in circuits and connections with chronic pain,” she said.
Diana Bautista, a pain researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, said basic science research has provided new clues into how the nervous system detects noxious thermal stimuli – yet how it detects noxious mechanical stimuli remains a mystery. She said it is imperative that we spend more time unveiling the “basic building blocks” of pain processing in order to find more effective options for treatment.
“It’s important to understand that pain is not just one thing,” she said. “There are many types of persistent pain disorders for which we don’t yet understand how the system goes awry. Understanding that at the peripheral level, the spinal cord level, and at the brain level is an area of vital importance for the future. By understanding the different molecular mechanisms by which you go from a normal pain state to a chronic pain state – and how that may happen in different disease contexts – is a challenge. And one that requires committed researchers and resources if we are to gain the insights we need to develop new targets for pain treatments.”
Foley, who is also a clinical researcher, said scientists like her rely on basic science findings to develop new treatments and interventions to help those living with chronic pain disorders.
“I think you only have to take a look at the work in migraine to see the power of basic science research to help patients,” she said. “Researchers in that area were able to understand the different receptors that play a role in triggering pain in headache. Without it, they would not have been able to develop the latest targeted therapies. My long-term view is that when we can look at chronic pain, and the diseases that lead to chronic pain, with a greater understanding of the molecular biology and genetics, we have an opportunity to be much more targeted in how we can block those pain signals. But that basic science work has to be done first.”
An Opportunity for Impact
So many big questions regarding pain are still unanswered. Elizabeth Christopherson, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Rita Allen Foundation, a philanthropic organization that supports early-career biomedical scholars, said there is a transformative opportunity for private philanthropists to have impact in pain research.
“People are astounded when they learn just how many people live with persistent pain,” she said. “Investing in discovery science and especially supporting early career investigators today can make an enormous long-term difference. Pain research scientists are ready to expand and accelerate their research inquiries to help chart the course for a deeper understanding of chronic pain, seeding hope for treatment and relief for millions of chronic pain patients.”
Bautista was named a Rita Allen Pain Scholar in 2010 and said the award provided a strong foundation to help her later establish her own laboratory.
“A lot of the approaches and questions we’ve pursued in my laboratory have been what many might call high-risk/high-payoff – we identified a big question that had not been answered in pain and then designed a series of experiments that may or may not work to discover new things,” Bautista said. “That type of research can have big payoffs, but it’s notoriously difficult to fund. Having private philanthropic funding sources has allowed me to take these kinds of risks – and it’s been incredibly fruitful in opening up new avenues of inquiry for us.”
Julius added that private philanthropy also plays a pivotal role in training the next generation of scientists – the scholars who will build off the work he and his colleagues have done to usher in new discoveries in the field of chronic pain.
“Every post-doctoral fellow who works in my lab has some kind of foundation fellowship,” he said. “It’s a great thing for their careers as it gives them a sense of independence and allows them to be more flexible in the kinds of things they want to study. It also brings people to pain research with new ideas, perspectives, and skill sets – giving our research new dimensions with new tools and approaches that can allow us to ask new and different questions.”
William R. Hearst III, and his wife Margaret, were inspired to provide funding for two Rita Allen Pain Scholars in 2021, with the hope that these enterprising young researchers will help provide new insights into chronic pain. Mrs. Hearst has lived with chronic pain for years – and the Hearsts are hopeful that today’s research findings can one day lead to tomorrow’s treatments.
Hearst said he understands that some private philanthropic organizations may be reticent to invest in basic science research because there’s no guarantee what researchers might find. But he believes it has the power to help scientists better understand pain’s underlying mechanisms and, ultimately, forge the paths to future therapies.
“It isn’t 100% clear what the application of these research studies should be – but that’s how science progresses,” he explained. “There should be some portion of philanthropy that goes to higher risk/higher reward projects. I like to think of it as the venture capital wing of philanthropy.”
Catalyzing the Field
With more funding from private philanthropic organizations, scientist across the globe can expand and accelerate their research inquiries to help chart the course for a deeper understanding of chronic pain.
More investments in a pipeline of researchers are needed to address a growing global problem, where need and opportunity far exceed current investments. One barrier for funders is knowledge of the field and access to experts who can identify, review, and select scholars for support. To help overcome these barriers, the Rita Allen Foundation launched a program for pain research in 2009 and has provided opportunities for other philanthropic organizations and individual philanthropists, including Open Philanthropy and the Hearsts, to support scholars and learn more about this priority area of research.
“In collaboration with the U.S. Association for the Study of pain, we serve as a resource for other funders looking to consider supporting this research, where partnership is critical,” Christopherson said. “We are building a strong community of not only pain scholars, but scholars in other areas of biomedical research who are interested in pain. When other funders join in supporting early career investigators in this field of study, they will find that even modest investments can make an enormous long-term difference in catalyzing discovery—and resolving persistent pain.”
The Science Philanthropy Alliance also continues to work with like-minded organizations to educate philanthropists about the potential of basic science research. In partnership with the Rita Allen Foundation and Wellcome, they organized a virtual workshop in March of 2021, The Science of Pain, to discuss the latest advances in persistent pain research as well as opportunities for private philanthropists to help scientists better understand pain from the molecular to the behavioral level. The group also continues to advise philanthropists interested in scientific projects to invest in the science of pain.
For philanthropists, funding research to understand the experience of suffering at its most basic molecular and genetic level can empower promising young scientists to explore the vast unknowns of pain—seeding hope for treatment and relief.
Science Philanthropy Alliance President Dr. France A. Córdova and Associate Advisor Dr. Daren Ginete recently co-authored a post for the STEMM Opportunity Alliance (SOA) Blog about the vital role science philanthropy plays in building a STEMM ecosystem rooted in equity. Dr. Córdova (who is also a SOA Advisory Council Member) and Dr. Ginete’s post outlines efforts by the Science Philanthropy Alliance and some of its member foundations’ efforts to support researchers from underrepresented groups and institutions. The post also shares how science philanthropy can help provide greater access and opportunity for those who have been historically left out of the research enterprise. Dr. Cordova and Dr. Ginete’s post is available on the SOA Blog here and is also shared below. You can learn more about the STEMM Opportunity Alliance’s important mission at https://stemmopportunity.org/.
Philanthropy’s Important Role in Promoting STEMM Equity
By Dr. France Córdova and Dr. Daren Ginete, Science Philanthropy Alliance
Philanthropy has long played a critical role in advancing scientific progress. Achieving a STEMM ecosystem that values diversity, equity, and inclusion, critical for U.S. economic growth and competitiveness and necessary for building a just society, is an important part of this effort.
In 2018, the Science Philanthropy Alliance, composed of 37 philanthropic foundations with a mission to advance science through visionary philanthropy, surveyed its members about which topics they wanted to learn more about. They agreed that diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) were priorities. In response, the Alliance initiated a shared interest group around DEI and included DEI as a central value of its strategic plan. As part of its efforts to increase the impact and effectiveness of science philanthropy, the Alliance committed to:
- Continuing to provide a platform for shared DEI learning among members;
- Facilitating the sharing of promising practices related to DEI among members and broader audiences;
- Offering DEI skill-building training, workshops, and other opportunities for philanthropists and foundations; and
- Leveraging member expertise to provide guidance on collecting demographic data and establishing metrics for DEI funding outcomes.
Many foundations have taken proactive, purposeful steps to achieve greater STEMM equity. The Burroughs Wellcome Fund has committed to substantial giving to support the work of researchers from populations and geographic regions underrepresented in science. The Heising-Simons Foundation has updated its grantmaking processes, including allowing candidates to apply directly to the foundation (rather than relying on university nominations), requesting DEI statements as part of applications, and collecting demographic data to use DEI as a significant metric in the evaluation process. The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is supporting both marginalized individuals and communities by driving institutional pathways for students from minority-serving institutions (MSIs) and prioritizing investments in MSIs and other institutions that uplift students of color. These are among many noteworthy and laudable steps.
Today, science philanthropy works in synergy with many other funding sources to invest in basic science and support scientific endeavors. Among the most important roles science philanthropy can and should play is providing greater access and opportunity for those who have been systemically and historically left out of the research enterprise.
We have seen the strength that comes from partnerships that have a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Together, we can support a STEMM ecosystem that enables new scientists and results in more impactful science.
Dr. France A. Córdova is the President of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and Dr. Daren Ginete is an Associate Advisor for the Alliance.
This week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) hosted the Climate Crossroads Summit, a dynamic meeting engaging experts, community stakeholders, and decision-makers on equitable pathways to meet the climate crisis. The summit was held in person at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C., and live streamed to a global audience July 11-12. Dr. Kate Lowry, Strategy Director for the Science Philanthropy Alliance, served as a panelist at the summit’s “Engaging Partners to Catalyze Action” session. The impactful summit had over 1,900 registrants.
Dr. Lowry and fellow panelists from industry and professional societies discussed different models and stakeholders for partnership towards shared climate goals in a wide-ranging conversation including building capacity, active industry engagement, catalytic philanthropy, bringing government to the table, and keeping discovery in the picture even as we look towards deployment. The panel was moderated by Dr. Susan Tierney, Senior Advisor for the Analysis Group, and featured Dr. Lowry, as well as Dr. Dan Walker, American Society of Civil Engineers and Senior Geologist at EA Engineering, Science, and Technology, Inc., and Dr. Lucas Joppa, Chief Sustainability Officer, and Senior Managing Director at Haveli Investments.
In her opening remarks, Dr. Lowry shared the way her own research background focused on marine phytoplankton in the Arctic Ocean and Antarctica gave her first-hand experience with the impacts of climate change in these rapidly changing regions. She shared that in her work with the Alliance, she’s seen how philanthropy, including in the climate space, can play a catalytic role by supporting high-risk, interdisciplinary projects, seeding new fields of research, supporting diverse sets of early career researchers, and nimbly funding activities that the government cannot easily fund. Dr. Lowry highlighted examples of critical climate research, networks, and tools supported by philanthropic foundations and their partners, including the Climate Leadership Initiative, many projects developed through The Audacious Project (an initiative of TED), and the globally oriented UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development.
Dr. Lowry noted that philanthropy in general is a key – yet often overlooked – sector of the scientific research enterprise, comprising along with higher education institutional funds nearly 40% of funding for basic research at America’s universities and non-profit research institutions (2021 estimate from NSF NCSES). She also shared findings from reports investigating the contribution of philanthropy specifically to climate research, including the Climate Works Foundation’s finding that philanthropic support for climate mitigation comprises only 2% of all philanthropic giving.
A key takeaway message was that there are significant needs for support in this area, including many underfunded areas of climate-related research particularly suited for philanthropy. Dr. Lowry referenced a recent discussion of the Alliance’s External Science Advisors regarding the biggest opportunities and gaps for science philanthropy, with several of the identified priorities relating to climate and ocean science. Dr. Lowry’s emphasis on the contributions of discovery science was shared and amplified by other panelists. Finally, Dr. Lowry highlighted the opportunity for philanthropy to partner nationally with AAAS and with many active and developing state programs (an example is here) to fund science and technology policy fellows who can contribute scientific and engineering expertise to policymaking related to addressing climate change.
Science Philanthropy Alliance members Dr. Cyndi Atherton, Director of Science for the Heising-Simons Foundation, and Dr. Evan Michelson, Program Director at the Arthur P. Sloan Foundation, also moderated panels at the summit. Dr. Atherton and Dr. Michelson were also authors on the Alliance’s first strategic plan, which emphasizes the importance of partnerships and collaboration for increased impact.
The Climate Crossroads Summit was sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. The summit website is available at this link: https://www.nationalacademies.org/event/39683_07-2023_climate-crossroads-summit-2023.
Science Philanthropy Alliance Strategy Director Dr. Kate Lowry was a featured panelist at the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities (HSRU) Conference on Supporting Hispanic Women in Physical Sciences and Engineering. Dr. Lowry took part in a fireside chat moderated by Sarah Carle, Executive Director of Foundation Relations, as part of the conference’s “Foundation Funding Opportunities” panel. The conference was hosted by UC Santa Cruz, on June 26-29, 2023. Dr. Lowry’s fellow panelist included Dr. Louis J. Muglia, President and CEO of the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, and member of the Science Philanthropy Alliance’s Advisory Board.
The HRSU conference brought together an inaugural cohort of faculty, postdocs, graduate students, and allies to collaboratively define and develop a framework to support the advancement of Hispanic women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) academic and professional careers.
Dr. Lowry shared the Science Philanthropy Alliance’s mission of advancing scientific discovery through visionary philanthropy and highlighted the Alliance’s work focused on advising new and established philanthropists and foundations and making science philanthropy more impactful and effective as a key sector of the research enterprise.
During her remarks, Dr. Lowry described how many philanthropic foundations have undergone a fundamental change in their interest and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in science. Dr. Lowry described a survey of Alliance members in 2018 that revealed DEI as the top topic of interest and a series of workshops, discussions, and training on DEI led by experts and foundation leaders. The Alliance created a DEI Shared Interest Group (SIG) in 2020 to provide a platform for continued DEI learning among foundations, with dozens of members meeting regularly to discuss ways to advance DEI through philanthropy. The group is currently chaired by Dr. Lorelle Espinosa, Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, and Craig Wesley, Director, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the Simons Foundation. Dr. Cyndi Atherton, Science Director at the Heising-Simons Foundation was a founding co-chair of this group.
Dr. Lowry also highlighted the adoption of DEI as a core value and a strategic goal of the Science Philanthropy Alliance and the recognition that “diversity in science is excellence in science” – and that greater diversity in perspectives leads to increased scientific innovation and impact. Dr. Lowry noted that DEI in STEM will remain a priority for philanthropic funders.
Additionally, Dr. Lowry discussed how philanthropic foundations can advance DEI in STEM, drawing on a recent NASEM report and examples of Alliance member foundations that have implemented effective strategies. Real-world illustrations cited by Dr. Lowry included the Heising-Simons Foundation improving DEI in their grantmaking processes for a postdoctoral fellowship program in planetary astronomy by allowing direct applications, asking for DEI statements from applicants, tracking demographics, and mitigating bias among reviewers.
Another example offered was the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation’s commissioning of two landscape scans to assess DEI efforts and investments in U.S. STEM graduate education, resulting in a call to science philanthropies to fund a broader set of institutions. Dr. Lowry described the Sloan Foundation’s decision to invest in Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and other entities with a strong track record for enrolling and graduating underrepresented students and their new Sloan Centers for Systemic Change.
When asked about compelling projects, Dr. Lowry described a $5.7 million award from the Simons Foundation to Spelman College, the oldest historically Black women’s liberal arts college in the U.S. and a leader in graduating Black women who go on to complete doctorates in STEM fields. The award supports Spelman faculty in science and mathematics by reducing their teaching loads, allowing more time for research and greater opportunities for student research.
Both Dr. Lowry and co-panelist Dr. Muglia encouraged audience members to apply for philanthropic funding for their research, emphasizing that science philanthropy is an important yet often underrecognized funder of scientific research and can play a catalytic role, especially for early career researchers. Dr. Muglia described many funding opportunities through the Burroughs Wellcome Fund and encouraged researchers to contact foundation program officers via email before applying. Dr. Lowry pointed to the recordings and resources from the Science Philanthropy Alliance’s virtual Research Institutions Meeting in March 2023 and described ongoing work to share information and open funding calls with the research community.
For the past few years, the Science Philanthropy Alliance has hosted a special interest group of philanthropies on the subject of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. It is a group that researches inclusive, equitable practices in grant-making, grant design strategy, and internal hiring practices. Studies have shown that diverse teams produce more original results and address complex problems more creatively. As stated by the presidents of the national academies of science, engineering and medicine, “Diversity is crucial to the success of our society and our economy.”
On June 29, 2023, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling to restrict affirmative action in higher education. The ruling, which directly affects higher education, may have far-reaching implications for institutions beyond universities. Many organizations can show that their affirmative action strategies have helped increase the representation and participation of women and minority populations in science, who have historically faced discrimination and barriers to access. In the wake of the ruling, many have recommitted to seek solutions that reduce inequalities and embrace diversity.
Considering the ruling, the Science Philanthropy Alliance reaffirms our commitment to advancing diversity, equity and inclusion as expressed in the strategic plan we adopted last year. The response to the ruling by philanthropists, as illustrated below, shows that they will find new and effective ways to realize the full potential of all aspiring and current scientists.
Statements of our members follow.
Dr. France A. Córdova, President of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, shared her insights and experiences as a woman in science at the Helen Gurley Brown Presidential Summit on Women and Science on June 20. The virtual summit, which attracted more than 500 attendees, celebrated and supported women in research and medicine.
Dr. Córdova joined two other eminent panelists: Marcia C. Haigis, PhD, a professor and co-director at Harvard Medical School, and Karen E. Knudsen, MBA, PhD, the CEO of the American Cancer Society and its advocacy affiliate. They discussed topics such as their scientific inspiration, career challenges, leadership opportunities, networking advice, and future hopes for women in science. The summit was moderated by Dr. Laurie H. Glimcher, President and CEO of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
The event was sponsored by the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation. You can watch a recording of the summit here.
Yale University’s recent 322nd graduation ceremony conferred honorary degrees on nine remarkable individuals who achieved distinction in their respective fields. Science Philanthropy Alliance President Dr. France A. Córdova was one of the distinguished awardees, receiving an honorary Doctor of Science Degree.
In its most recent newsletter, Alliance member organization Lasker Foundation speaks one-on-one with their 2022 Laureate James Rothman and shares insight from David Cushman in their Classic Lasker Podcast. Read more here.
NEW HAVEN, CT – Yale University awarded an honorary Doctor of Science degree to Dr. France A. Córdova, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, during its commencement ceremony held May 22, 2023. Dr. Córdova is a prominent astrophysicist and a former director of the National Science Foundation, NASA’s chief scientist, and president of Purdue University.
Yale University President Peter Salovey praised Dr. Córdova’s achievements and contributions to scientific progress and society in his citation: “Stellar scientist and administrator, the earth and heavens rejoice as we recognize you with this Doctor of Science degree.”
“I am grateful to Yale University for this honor. Advancing discovery science through visionary philanthropy is my passion and purpose. It is a privilege to lead and work with others who share this vision. Thank you to the Yale University Board of Trustees for this recognition,” Dr. Córdova said.
Yale University has been awarding honorary degrees since 1702 to recognize exemplary contributions to the common good. The recipients inspire the graduates to aspire to excellence and to value creativity, curiosity, discipline, integrity, and public service.
For more details on Dr. Córdova’s honorary degree, visit Yale University’s website: https://yale2023.yale.edu/honorary-degrees/france-cordova
“On behalf of the Science Philanthropy Alliance, I congratulate Dr. Edna Adan Ismail on winning the 2023 Templeton Prize. This prestigious honor is incredibly well-deserved and reflects her dedication to improving the lives of thousands of women and girls in East Africa and beyond. Edna is a nurse-midwife, healthcare advocate, and founder of the Edna Adan University and Edna Adan Hospital that have reduced maternal mortality across Somaliland.
Dr. Edna Adan Ismail is an excellent choice because she has a compelling life story of selfless service to others in the face of great challenges, successfully drawing upon her health care background as a nurse. Dr. Edna Adan Ismail’s life and work are tremendous examples of the power of science in affirming the dignity of all women and helping them to flourish physically and spiritually.”
— Dr. France Córdova, Science Philanthropy President and a 2023 Templeton Prize Judge
Established in 1972, the Templeton Prize is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards. It is given to honor individuals whose exemplary achievements advance Sir John Templeton’s philanthropic vision: harnessing the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it. Currently valued at £1.1 million GBP, the award is adjusted periodically so it always exceeds the value of the Nobel Prize. Winners have come from a wide range of faiths, fields, and geographies, and have included Nobel Prize winners, philosophers, theoretical physicists, and one canonized saint. The Templeton Prize is awarded by the three Templeton philanthropies: the John Templeton Foundation, based in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and by the Templeton World Charity Foundation and Templeton Religion Trust, based in Nassau, The Bahamas. To learn more, visit www.TempletonPrize.org.
Washington, D.C. – Science Philanthropy Alliance President Dr. France A. Córdova recently participated in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) Inaugural Mani L. Bhaumik Breakthrough of the Year Award Presentation and Fireside Chat held at the AAAS Washington, D.C. headquarters on May 3, 2023. The award honored three NASA luminaries: Major General Charles Frank Bolden Jr., USMC (Ret), John Mather, senior project scientist of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) since 1995, and Bill Ochs, JWST project manager from 2011 through the telescope’s launch.
Dr. Córdova co-moderated the Fireside Chat along with Dr. Holden Thorp, Editor in Chief of the Science family of journals, leading a discussion with award winners Bolden, Mather, and Ochs about their experiences with the JWST project.
As noted in the AAAS announcement, the award selection committee sought to acknowledge not only the winners’ contributions but also the teams they inspired whose collective work has provided a completely different view of the universe.
“The James Webb Space Telescope was a transformative project that opened a window to the universe’s origins and strengthened our connection to the cosmos. This groundbreaking effort was a triumph of discovery science, engineering, teamwork, and leadership. I was delighted to celebrate these three outstanding pioneers,” said Dr. Córdova.
Dr. Córdova previously served as NASA’s chief scientist, representing NASA to the larger scientific community. She was the youngest person and first woman to serve as NASA’s chief scientist and was awarded the agency’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Medal.
Founded in 2013, the Science Philanthropy Alliance works to advance scientific discovery through visionary philanthropy. By providing advising services for philanthropists, foundations, and platforms that catalyze connection, awareness, and learning, the Alliance strengthens philanthropic support for science to make it more impactful and effective in advancing scientific discovery that benefits society and the planet. Discover more at https://sciencephilanthropyalliance.org/.