An interesting article from Nature on how donations are crucial for scientific research:
It takes money to do research and, increasingly, much of it comes from private donors and foundations, especially in the United States...
Overall, philanthropic groups in the United States contribute US$30 billion annually to science, similar to the amount spent by federal agencies, according to a 2022 analysis of US non-profit tax returns.
That’s more than in Europe, where a 2016 review of about 1,000 foundations estimated that philanthropies contributed more than $6.4 billion a year to research and innovation. That is only around 2% of the $353.6 billion total for the region, which was provided mostly by governments and industry.
Nature interviews four scientists on the differences between philanthropic and government funding:
There’s no central repository where you can find out about all the possible private funding avenues... I asked people who are further on in their careers whether they knew of any funding, fellowships or prizes that I should be aware of. I got lots of helpful advice. Otherwise, it requires trawling the Internet. (Danika Hill)
With my philanthropic grants, if some issue came up, I could make a phone call to say, “I’m facing this problem. Could I rearrange the budget a little bit?” But with a government grant, that kind of conversation is basically impossible. (Rafael Chaves)
In Israel, science is not as well funded by the government as scientists would hope compared to other spending. As scientists there, we spend a lot of time applying for grants and thinking about the next one, and it doesn’t get easier with time because we live in a country where there’s always a crisis that needs funding for the military. Science is always at the end of a long list of priorities, which is a real problem. (Hermona Soreq)
The federal research awards process, from the very small grants to huge projects, is largely driven by peer review. This means that scientists need to convince other scientists that this is a good use of money, either by writing proposals or by trying to drum up support. At the individual donor level, by contrast, much is face to face — a lot of it is personal chemistry. (Steven Kahn)