Most observers seem to agree that for America to fulfill its economic potential, it must continue to dominate emerging high tech industries. For that to happen, America must continue to fund basic scientific research. But in recent years, federal funding for basic research has declined. Labs are being shuttered. Scientists are being dislocated and research projects are being postponed or simply abandoned.
As pointed out by a recent New York Times article, however, that is not where the story ends. America’s growing population of billionaires is increasingly funding basic research. For instance, several years ago, Paul Allen, a Microsoft co-founder, set up a brain science institute in Seattle to which he donated half a billion dollars. Fred Kavli, another billionaire, established brain institutes at Yale, Columbia and the University of California.
This crop of philanthropists includes Michael Bloomberg, who has had major impact on Baltimore, hedge fund titan James Simons, Eric Schmidt of Google and Larry Ellison of Oracle. While some point out that these very rich people may have personal agendas that don’t match neatly with social needs, the most prominent of these philanthropists, Bill Gates, has donated about $10 billion for global public health.