Philanthropies Seek Better Assessment of Their Investments in Basic Science

Jun 01, 2017

Chip that contains optofluidcmicroscopeA group of philanthropic organizations are working together to ensure their investments in basic science research enable transformative developments for society. Through their programs, these organizations support both early-career and established researchers, endow research centers, foster collaborations, or award prizes for achievement. They have a common interest in improving their assessment of the success of these activities.

In fall 2016, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation convened this group to discuss common challenges and current practices related to assessing the success of funding basic science research and making causal claims. Challenges stem from the fact that basic science research lacks clearly defined outcomes, plays out over long time horizons, and is an incremental process that involves many scientists, institutions, and funding organizations.

Mathematica Policy Research facilitated a workshop to help the group explore these challenges and consider how existing monitoring and evaluation methods could be used to assess philanthropic investments. Insights from this workshop—as well as the next steps this group will take to advance better practices in monitoring, evaluation, and learning—are summarized in the new brief, “Evaluating Basic Science Investments: Toward a More Robust Practice.”

Photo courtesy of Bob Paz, chip that contains optofluidicmicroscope