Mapping philanthropic support of science

Louis M. Shekhtman, Alexander J. Gates, Albert László Barabási

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While philanthropic support for science has increased in the past decade, there is limited quantitative knowledge about the patterns that characterize it and the mechanisms that drive its distribution. Here, we map philanthropic funding to universities and research institutions based on IRS tax forms from 685,397 non-profit organizations. We identify nearly one million grants supporting institutions involved in science and higher education, finding that in volume and scope, philanthropy is a significant source of funds, reaching an amount that rivals some of the key federal agencies like the NSF and NIH. Our analysis also reveals that philanthropic funders tend to focus locally, indicating that criteria beyond research excellence play an important role in funding decisions, and that funding relationships are stable, i.e. once a grant-giving relationship begins, it tends to continue in time. Finally, we show that the bipartite funder-recipient network displays a highly overrepresented motif indicating that funders who share one recipient also share other recipients and we show that this motif contains predictive power for future funding relationships. We discuss the policy implications of our findings on inequality in science, scientific progress, and the role of quantitative approaches to philanthropy.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9397
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 24 Apr 2024
Externally publishedYes

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© The Author(s) 2024.


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