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Philanthropy’s Important Role in Promoting STEMM Equity

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.