Grants Database

The Foundation awards approximately 200 grants per year (excluding the Sloan Research Fellowships), totaling roughly $80 million dollars in annual commitments in support of research and education in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and economics. This database contains grants for currently operating programs going back to 2008. For grants from prior years and for now-completed programs, see the annual reports section of this website.

Grants Database

Grantee
Amount
City
Year
  • grantee: Columbia University
    amount: $357,127
    city: New York, NY
    year: 2021

    To develop an analytical framework that incorporates distributional concerns in policy evaluation

    • Program Research
    • Initiative Economic Analysis of Science and Technology (EAST)
    • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance
    • Investigator Matthew Backus

    “Consumer surplus” is defined as the total monetary gain to consumers when they can buy an item at a price lower than the maximum price they'd willingly pay for it. If a book costs $20 and three people would be willing to pay $40 for it, the consumer surplus of that book’s price is 3 x ($40-$20), or $60. This metric is frequently used by economists to measure the effectiveness of different policies, particularly those involving antitrust cases. Traditional calculations of social welfare that use consumer surplus, however, ignore the fact that the value of an extra dollar, known as the “marginal utility” of income, can have very different value for different people. Because adding another dollar to their paycheck means less to the affluent than it does to those who are less well off, the latter receive systematically less weight in consumer surplus calculations. This grant supports Matthew Backus at Columbia Business School, who will call attention to those weights by calculating what they actually are for different subpopulations. His goal is to develop an alternative framework to consumer-surplus analysis that makes distributional considerations more explicit. Backus’s new framework will weave distributional concerns into policy analysis, bring transparency to the ways consumer surplus measures weigh the welfare of different demographic groups, and use those weights in policy evaluation to account for distributional issues. One particularly interesting application Backus will explore is examining how public welfare measurements vary when completely different weights are assigned to various demographic groups, starting with equal weights for all.

    To develop an analytical framework that incorporates distributional concerns in policy evaluation

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  • grantee: National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    amount: $428,310
    city: Cambridge, MA
    year: 2021

    To expand the pool of researchers studying the economics of racial and ethnic disparities

    • Program Research
    • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance
    • Investigator Juan Carlos Suбrez Serrato

    This grant supports Juan Carlos Suбrez Serrato, a professor of economics at Duke University and faculty associate at the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), who is seeking to improve our understanding of DEI issues in economics by expanding the pool of researchers studying the economics of racial and ethnic disparities. Grant funds will provide one-year fellowships to three postdoctoral researchers whose work addresses labor market disparities, the institutions that reduce or reinforce them, and the ways in which economic choices can affect such outcomes. To reach perspectives beyond those of predominant groups in the profession, the plan is for Suбrez Serrato and the rest of a highly distinguished, diverse, and experienced selection committee to recruit assiduously for postdoctoral candidates from underrepresented groups. Fellows will spend a year working at NBER’s Cambridge headquarters, where they will each both work with a mentor and also network with the Bureau’s wider scholarly community.

    To expand the pool of researchers studying the economics of racial and ethnic disparities

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  • grantee: University of California, Berkeley
    amount: $398,970
    city: Berkeley, CA
    year: 2021

    To study the value of administrative data access for economics research and policy

    • Program Research
    • Initiative Economic Analysis of Science and Technology (EAST)
    • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance
    • Investigator Abhishek Nagaraj

    “Administrative data” refers to information gathered for purposes other than research. Examples include educational, legal, hospital, commercial, and other transaction records compiled either by the public or private institutions. Such data could be extremely valuable in economics research but the process of compiling it can be complicated, expensive, and frustrating—with data quality, privacy, and documentation issues representing only some of the common problems facing researchers. As a result, we still have a limited understanding of how valuable administrative data is for economics research. This grant supports Abishek Nagaraj, head of the Data Innovation Lab at the UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, who seeks to derive fundamental economic estimates of the value of administrative data. Nagaraj will analyze the role administrative data plays in determining the quality, rate, and direction of science, with a particular focus on economics research and policy. Though his initial focus is on evaluating the value of public sector data—with a focus on the Federal Statistical Research Data Centers—Nagaraj foresees a second phase of his work that would study the value to researchers of administrative data compiled by the private sector. The project will explore topics such as: which types of research benefit from administrative data access; how data access impacts faculty and students differently; the heterogeneous impact of data access across researchers’ demographics and the status of their institutions; the impact of data access on the diversity of research topics studied and demographics in academia; how data access shapes the balance between theoretical and empirical approaches in economics; and the mechanisms through which data access translates into career outcomes.

    To study the value of administrative data access for economics research and policy

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  • grantee: National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    amount: $289,788
    city: Cambridge, MA
    year: 2021

    To facilitate, promote, and diversify scholarly research about the economics of artificial intelligence

    • Program Research
    • Initiative Economic Analysis of Science and Technology (EAST)
    • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance
    • Investigator Avi Goldfarb

    This grant supports Ajay Agrawal, Avi Goldfarb, Joshua Gans, and Catherine Tucker, who are coordinating a conference on the economics of artificial intelligence at the Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto. Five years since its successful launch in 2017, the fall 2022 instalment of the conference will focus on specific applications of AI—particularly in the realms of national security, infrastructure, and health. The conference will, therefore, seek to connect the community of economics of AI scholars with scholars from these disciplines. AI applications like those in health economics, for example, precipitate questions about privacy, ethics, venture capital, and regulatory issues. In addition to activities relating to the conference, the organizers are also planning to join efforts with the Sloan-supported Working Group on the Economics of Digitization at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

    To facilitate, promote, and diversify scholarly research about the economics of artificial intelligence

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  • grantee: Boston University
    amount: $405,180
    city: Boston, MA
    year: 2021

    To study the conduct and consequences of labor markets where established platforms compete with start-up firms for STEM workers

    • Program Research
    • Initiative Economic Analysis of Science and Technology (EAST)
    • Sub-program Economic Institutions, Behavior, & Performance
    • Investigator James Bessen

    Economists justify government intervention in a market when, left to their own devices, economic agents produce an inefficient outcome—a “market failure”. Perhaps the most well-known example is the excessive accumulation of market power by large firms, which at the extreme can create a monopoly. Market power allows large companies to tilt the playing field in their favor, impose significant barriers to market entry, and ultimately squash competition. There’s also a less well-known mechanism through which large companies can stifle competition and innovation—by scooping up all the workers. There is reason to believe that in the tech industry, small companies are being systematically outbid by large companies in the market for talent. In a theoretically efficient market, workers receive compensation commensurate with their productivity. In an inefficient market, however, large firms can afford to hire talent at outsized salaries—even to perform tasks that do not put them to their best use. This is not just a problem for the small, innovative startups that compete with large tech firms. It is also a problem for the economy and wider society, since startups play a key role in commercializing scientific and technological advances which, in turn, benefit lives and produce economic growth. This grant supports James Bessen at Boston University, who is studying the conduct and consequences of labor markets where established platforms compete with startup firms for STEM workers. Bessen’s team will explore how competition for employees from large companies affects the growth, financing, and performance of startups, and the implications for policymaking. Their research will pay particular attention to the impacts on those startups whose founders are women or persons from marginalized groups. The project’s empirical approach will combine three datasets: Burning Glass data, which covers job openings; Crunchbase, a large database of corporations which contains information on firm founding and financing amounts; and Compustat, which provides extensive financial data on publicly listed firms. In addition to their own analyses, the team will make their code publicly available, creating a valuable public good for other researchers.

    To study the conduct and consequences of labor markets where established platforms compete with start-up firms for STEM workers

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  • grantee: University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
    amount: $1,500,000
    city: Chapel Hill, NC
    year: 2021

    To perform experiments and analysis that test the peptide-RNA origin-of-life scenario for the evolution of present-day proteins

    • Program Research
    • Sub-program Matter-to-Life
    • Investigator Charles Carter

    While we have a handle on the main outline of how life likely evolved on earth, the details remain shaky. It is widely accepted that the essential structures underpinning life on earth—DNA and proteins—originated from simpler substructures, nucleic and amino acids swimming freely in a primordial soup before combining into those complex structures. It’s also widely accepted that nucleic acids paved the way for single-stranded RNA, which doubled-up to become DNA. But just how that sequence of events took place is an area of intense controversy in origin-of-life research. Just how, exactly, did RNA manage to outcompete its rivals and stick around? Charles Carter, an expert in origin-of-life science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill aims bring the debate into the laboratory, exploring the properties and interrelations of RNA and amino acid chains (“peptides”) found in humans. Carter suspects that RNA and peptides coevolved together, a hypothesis that stands in contrast to the current leading theory that highlights RNA as the key molecule. Carter’s hypothesis is grounded in part in the tight bonds RNA and peptides are capable of forming, bonds that require a strong structural similarity that seems unlikely to have happened by chance if they did, in fact, evolve independently. The team will focus on their efforts on 20 RNA-peptide pairs that play an important role in protein synthesis, the critical cell process that uses DNA as a template, to create RNA molecules which, in turn, create proteins, using complex machinery in the cell’s cytoplasm. First, the team will seek to identify ancestral molecules that could have given rise to these contemporary RNA-peptide pairs. Next, they will synthesize copies of those ancestral molecules. Finally, they will use those copies to perform a series of experiments to determine important structural and chemical properties that would be consistent with the RNA-peptide scenario for the origin of life. Answering these questions would not just give us a plausible historical story about how life did emerge on Earth—it would also tell us something more fundamental about how life can emerge, be it on Earth or elsewhere. 

    To perform experiments and analysis that test the peptide-RNA origin-of-life scenario for the evolution of present-day proteins

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  • grantee: Harvard University
    amount: $1,500,000
    city: Cambridge, MA
    year: 2021

    To explore the rules of cellular organization and development by determining how cell development is influenced by molecular-scale properties of scaffolding on which cells are grown

    • Program Research
    • Sub-program Matter-to-Life
    • Investigator Donald Ingber

    Humans and nature use radically different principles to solve design problems. When building machines, human engineers tend to think in terms of discrete subunits, each with a unique function, coming together to create something greater—the motherboard, processor, graphics card, hard drive, and RAM combine to create a computer, for instance. Nature, however, works with a different set of design principles. While different parts of an organism certainly have unique functions, those functions are often not realized in discrete subunits but are instead distributed throughout the organism. If we look at systems only through our own approach to design, we might fail to understand biological systems and limit our ability to create in interesting ways.  This grant supports Donald Ingber at Harvard University who, together with a talented team of biologists, is exploring one of nature’s ubiquitous designs: hierarchical self-assembly. In Earth biological life, hierarchical self-assembly is achieved through nucleic acid subunits coming together to form intricate strands of DNA which, in turn, go on to guide cell development and differentiation. Grant funds allow the team to explore how aspects of molecular structure contribute to these critical, wide-ranging functions. First, they will use simulations to design different DNA-based molecular scaffoldings. Next, they will build physical copies of these scaffoldings and take measurements to see how the properties compare in reality. Finally, they will grow cells on the different scaffolding combinations to understand how the underlying structure impacts distributed functions throughout the cell. Ultimately, the set of experiments aims to advance our understanding of self-organization across multiple scales—and how variations in underlying DNA structures can impact functions at the cell, tissue, and organism level.

    To explore the rules of cellular organization and development by determining how cell development is influenced by molecular-scale properties of scaffolding on which cells are grown

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  • grantee: University of Washington
    amount: $1,499,287
    city: Seattle, WA
    year: 2021

    To realize the first de novo designed multicomponent artificial biomolecular machine

    • Program Research
    • Sub-program Matter-to-Life
    • Investigator David Baker

    Living systems rely on nanoscale molecular “machines”, many of them proteins, to perform a range of essential tasks such as transporting molecular cargo from place to place within cells, causing muscles to contract, and copying genetic information. Developing the ability to build such machines from scratch is a longstanding goal at the interface of biology, physics, chemistry, and engineering. While researchers are now able to synthesize a wide range of complex protein structures, the molecular machines we're currently able to build pale in comparison those used by living systems. The big difference is that while we've largely mastered the ability to synthesize static nanoscale structures, we don't yet know how to build biomolecular machines, structures capable of the complex mechanical motions that power advanced functionality at the nanoscale. This grant funds a project by a team led by David Baker at the University of Washington to create the first artificial protein machines designed from scratch. The team proposes to build rotary molecular motors consisting of self-assembled axle and ring nanostructures that use chemical and/or light energy to perform mechanical work. Baker will attempt to build a nanoscale rotary motor that will be realized via two primary efforts: design of self-assembling axle & ring nanostructures, and the coupling of relative motion (ring about axle) to the consumption of chemical energy by introduction of catalytic sites at the interface between the axle & ring components. Nanoscale imaging, mass spectrometry, and molecular manipulation will be used to verify the designed structures and their functionality.  If successful, the project has the potential to launch a new field—de novo design of biomolecular machines—whereby different inputs (chemicals, light, electrical potentials) are coupled to molecular systems to enable mechanical motions that provide a new way to manipulate matter on the atomic scale. Success would also represent a vast improvement in our understanding of nature's biomolecular machines and of the cellular biology they facilitate.

    To realize the first de novo designed multicomponent artificial biomolecular machine

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  • grantee: University of Vermont
    amount: $566,253
    city: Burlington, VT
    year: 2021

    To pilot a land-grant university model for supporting open source software as part of the University of Vermont Open Source Programs Office

    • Program Technology
    • Sub-program Better Software for Science
    • Investigator Juniper Lovato

    Open Source Program Offices (OSPOs) are an organizational innovation developed initially by companies in the tech sector as a way to institutionalize support for open source software projects of strategic relevance to the business’s interests, market, and workforce. The innovation has begun to be adopted by universities, with OSPOs being created as a useful formal mechanism for supporting open source software relevant to the research and teaching interests of faculty. University OSPOs offer training and support for faculty, students, and staff who want to grow local software efforts into healthy open source projects, aid faculty contribute to existing projects, document the value of open source work and facilitate relationships between researchers and other academic units like technology transfer, research computing, or the library. Funds from this grant support an ambitious set of activities at the University of Vermont developed by a group of people from three different parts of campus: the Library, the Vermont Complex Systems Center, and the Office of the Vice President for Research. Led by Juniper Lovato and Bryn Geffert, in the Vermont Complex Systems Center and Library, respectively, the team will build relationships with university stakeholders to create infrastructure for centralizing open-source activity, engage the broader community around an initial set of open-source projects, conduct trainings and create educational materials, and use all of the above as a case study to conduct open source ecosystems research.

    To pilot a land-grant university model for supporting open source software as part of the University of Vermont Open Source Programs Office

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  • grantee: Open Source Hardware Association
    amount: $993,600
    city: Boulder, CO
    year: 2021

    To support a cohort of emerging leaders who develop and maintain open hardware projects in university settings

    • Program Technology
    • Initiative Open Hardware
    • Sub-program Exploratory Grantmaking in Technology
    • Investigator Alicia Gibb Seidle

    Funds from this grant support the Trailblazers Program, a new awards program administered led by Alicia Gibb Seidle at the Open Source Hardware Association that will identify, recognize, honor and support leaders who have launched innovative open source hardware projects on college and university campuses around the U.S.  Up to eight award recipients will receive grants of between $50,000 and $100,000 to expand and augment their open source hardware documentation.  In addition to providing support to promising projects, the awards will raise the profile of winners within the open hardware community, encourage documentation of best practices, and signal to university administrators of the value of open hardware projects to the academic community.  Additional funds will allow the winning cohort to assemble together twice in the 2022-223 academic year, enabling winning projects to network, share strategies and lessons learned, identify common values and needs, and begin to build the core of a community of practice among open source hardware practitioners working in academia. 

    To support a cohort of emerging leaders who develop and maintain open hardware projects in university settings

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