Evaluating Basic Science Investments: Toward a More Robust Practice

Evaluating Basic Science Investments: Toward a More Robust Practice

While philanthropic organizations play a crucial role in supporting research that advances our understanding of the world, many face the challenge of assessing the effectiveness of their investments, an issue brief from Mathematica Policy Research and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation finds. According to the brief, Evaluating Basic Science Investments: Toward a More Robust Practice (4 pages, PDF), basic science research by definition lacks clearly defined outcomes, plays out over long time horizons, and involves many scientists, institutions, and funding organizations. The brief highlights insights from early efforts by several foundations — many of which are members of the Science Philanthropy Alliance — to establish best practices for monitoring, evaluating, and learning from grantmaking in the area of basic science, including the need to articulate the desired impact more clearly, align research questions with appropriate methods and indicators, learn from failure, and deciding on the right level at which to measure impact.