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U.S. Research Institutions Received Over $2.3 Billion in Private Funding for Basic Science in 2017 [Alliance News]

U.S. Research Institutions Received Over $2.3 Billion in Private Funding for Basic Science in 2017

Institutions participating in the survey the past three years show 40% increase in funding

PALO ALTO, CA (June 7, 2017) – Research institutions in the U.S. received more than $2.3 billion for basic science research in 2017 from foundations, philanthropists, corporations, and charities, according to the Private Funding of Basic Science Survey conducted by the Science Philanthropy Alliance. The top ten institutions received 65% of this amount.

Basic science research seeks fundamental knowledge about nature and our universe that progress and innovation rely upon.

The Science Philanthropy Alliance has conducted the survey, which tracks new private giving to basic science at research institutions, for the last three years; 46 institutions participated in 2017. The level of giving in 2017 was unchanged from the total in 2016 of $2.3 billion, however when viewing data from just the 25 institutions that participated in the survey in all three years, the level of giving increased by 40%, from $1.20 billion in 2015 to $1.68 billion in 2017. 

In contrast, according to the National Science Foundation; federal funding of basic science research expenditures at higher education institutions as a percentage of GDP declined 30% from 2003 (0.3% of GDP) to 2015 (0.21% of GDP).

“While private funding cannot replace government funding for basic science, it clearly plays a critical role,” said Marc Kastner, president of the Science Philanthropy Alliance. “We are grateful to the philanthropists, foundations, and corporations who have demonstrated their commitment to basic science. We hope that the new tax policies do not dampen their enthusiasm.”

The survey also indicated that life sciences continued to attract the most private funding. 87% of the $2.3 billion, or $2 billion, went to life sciences basic research, while 11%, or $252 million, went to the physical sciences and 2%, or $45 million, went to mathematics.

About the survey

This annual survey was created with the goal of establishing a benchmark in private giving to the basic sciences at major research institutions. The survey was developed by the Science Philanthropy Alliance and hosted by the Council for Aid to Education adjacent to its annual VSE Survey.

Forty-six universities and research institutions responded to the 2017 survey, out of a total of 62 members of the Association of American Universities (AAU) and 18 Association of Independent Research Institutes (AIRI) members that were invited to participate. With just over half of invited research institutions participating in the survey, it is likely the actual funding level for basic science across all major research institutions is substantially higher. The sources of giving measured in the survey were individuals, foundations, corporations, and “other” sources such as civic organizations and other charities.

Link to 2016 survey

Link to 2015 survey

About the Science Philanthropy Alliance

 The Science Philanthropy Alliance, founded in 2012, is a group of organizations working together to increase philanthropic support for basic scientific research on a global basis. To help philanthropists and foundations support basic research most effectively, the Alliance provides advice and provides information to philanthropists and foundations on basic science philanthropy, connects them to scientists and experienced philanthropists, and convenes events to facilitate sharing of best practices.


Contact: Ruby Barcklay, 510 612 5180, rbarcklay@sciphil.org