Alfred P. Sloan Foundation

In 2009, the Foundation published Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: A Grantmaking History as part of its 75th anniversary. The book contains a summary of the Foundation's grantmaking since its founding in 1934.
Download the text version.

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation believes that a carefully reasoned and systematic understanding of the forces of nature and society, when applied inventively and wisely, can lead to a better world for all.  The Foundation makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, and economic performance; and to improve the quality of American life.  Though founded in 1934 by Alfred P. Sloan Jr., then-President and CEO of General Motors, the Foundation is an independent entity and has no formal relationship with the General Motors Corporation.

The Foundation is unique in its focus on science, technology, and economic institutions. It believes the scholars and practitioners who work in these fields are chief drivers of the nation’s health and prosperity. In each grant program, the Foundation seeks proposals for original projects led by outstanding individuals or teams.  

The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation is interested in projects that it expects will result in a strong benefit to society, and for which funding from the private sector, the government, or other foundations is not widely available.  

The following initiatives are among those funded by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation: 

  • The Sloan Research Fellowships - This program seeks to recognize the achievements of outstanding young scholars in science, mathematics, economics and computer science. Past recipients of Sloan Research Fellowships have gone on to win 39 Nobel prizes, 16 Fields Medals (mathematics), and 13 John Bates Clark Medals (economics).
  • The Sloan Digital Sky Survey - The Foundation has provided core support for the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which uses a specialized telescope in New Mexico to perform research to improve understanding of the evolution of the universe. The telescope is also used to further analyze the quantitative basis for dark energy.
  • The Encyclopedia of Life – A joint effort with the MacArthur Foundation, this program endeavors to build a reliable online encyclopedia with a Web page for every known species on earth.
  • Public Understanding of Science, Technology, & EconomicsThis program seeks to bridge the two cultures—the humanities and the sciences—through support of books, radio, film, television, theatre, and new media to reach a wide, non-specialized audience. The program has supported books such as Eric Kandel’s The Age of Insight, and Richard Rhodes’s The Making of the Atomic Bomb.The nationwide theatre program has supported works such as David Auburn’s Proof, and Anna Ziegler’s Photograph 51, about Rosalind Franklin. In film, the Public Understanding program created a film development pipeline of multiple program partners through which Sloan is able to nurture and develop individual projects with different grants until they are successfully launched—in 2013 both Andrew Bujalski’sComputer Chess and Rob Meyer’s A Birder’s Guide to Everything premiered at festivals. The Foundation also has a robust radio and television program which supports original high quality programming across the country, and includes support of Radiolab and Science Friday, and supports television programs such as PBS’sThe American Experience. Other support goes to innovative efforts such as the World Science Festival.
  • STEM Higher Education - The Foundation has long supported students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Grants in this program aim to increase the quality and diversity of higher education in STEM fields.
  • Working Longer - Americans are working later in life, delaying retirement for a variety of reasons. While some continue working by choice, others need to remain in the workforce for financial reasons. Regardless of their motivation, the result is that people in the United States are working beyond what conventionally is thought of as retirement age. While most studies related to this issue have focused on how individually based factors such as health status, pension plans, and financial incentives influence the decision to retire, relatively little is known about employment patterns, obstacles to employment, or the ensuing economic impact.
  • Sloan Awards for Excellence in Teaching Science and Mathematics - This program identifies the best New York City high school science and mathematics teachers, recognizes their achievements with seven awards per year, and develops a Web site to disseminate their teaching materials and techniques around the country.
  • Digital Information Technology – This program seeks to better our understanding of the relationship between technology, information, and society, primarily through research on and the development of digital information technology for the conduct of scholarly research and to enhance and facilitate public engagement with knowledge through such organizations as Wikipedia and the Digital Public Library of America. Grantmaking in this program focuses on issues related to data and computational research, scholarly communication, and universal access to knowledge
  • Economic Institutions, Behavior and Performance - This program supports research on the structure, behavior, and performance of the U.S. economy with the goal of providing objective and nonpartisan insights that can inform and strengthen critical decisions facing leaders, policymakers, and the public.  Grantmaking focuses on behavioral economics and household finance, the economic analysis of science, empirical economic research enablers, and the economic implications of the 2008 financial crisis and subsequent global recession.