The Sloan Foundation makes grants to support original research and broad-based education related to science, technology, and economics aimed at improving the quality of American life. The foundation is an independent entity and has no formal relationship with General Motors. As of December 31, 2011, the Sloan Foundation's assets totaled $1.65 billion.
During the initial years of Alfred P. Sloan’s presidency, the Foundation devoted its resources almost exclusively to education in economics and business. Grants were made to develop materials to improve high school and college economics teaching; for preparation of and wide distribution of inexpensive pamphlets on the pressing economic and social issues of the day; for weekly radio airing of roundtable discussions on current topics in economics and related subjects; and for establishing a Tax Institute at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania to interpret new taxes and new trends in public finance for the average citizen.
Starting in 1950, New York University’s Institute of Economic Affairs received annual grants for projects concerned with educating the public on economics issues, including a series of educational animated short films produced by Warner Bros. starring Sylvester and Elmer Fudd and directed by Friz Freleng that illustrate basic elements of capitalism. This series includes By Word of Mouse (1954), Heir-Conditioned (1955) and Yankee Dood It (1956).
During Sloan’s presidency the foundation also established several programs dedicated to furthering research and education in science and technology, including the Science Research Fellowships, MIT Sloan Fellowships in Executive Development, Alfred P. Sloan Fund for Research in the Physical Sciences and the Alfred P. Sloan National Scholarship Project.
The foundation also made substantial grants to fund a variety of major building projects, including founding what would become the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute and the establishment of the MIT Sloan School of Management.
From the late 1960s to 1989, the foundation made hundreds of major grants and invested millions of dollars in support of science research and education projects. During this time, the foundation reorganized its grant making to include special programs called "Particular Programs". The Particular Programs in Neuroscience and Cognitive Science helped establish these fields as coherent, autonomous disciplines. In 1969, the foundation announced its first Particular Program aimed at improving access of minorities to management and medicine professions; subsequent Particular Programs focused on minorities in engineering and public management.
In the mid-1970s the foundation initiated a program to increase the ability of journalists from newspapers, wire services, magazines, radio and television to interpret issues in economics for the general public. This program was later expanded to include science and technology issues in addition to economics. During this time the foundation funded graduate-level journalist training programs at The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University, contributed to the establishment of the Vannevar Bush Fellowships in the Public Understanding of Technology and Science at MIT, and funded the Harvard University School of Public Health to establish a year-long fellowship program for mid-career print and broadcast journalists on science, medical developments, and public health.
The Sloan Foundation also made many civic contributions to the foundation’s home city of New York, including grants to Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, Channel 13, New York Public Library, New York University, and the Fund for the City of New York.
In 1989, Ralph E. Gomory, a mathematician and former Senior Vice President for Science and Technology at IBM, was appointed as the foundation’s fifth president. He was the longest serving president since Alfred P. Sloan. Under his leadership, the foundation sponsored research relevant to many national issues. During the Gomory presidency, the foundation expanded its support of scientific research projects, helping fund programs such as the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, Census of Marine Life, Barcode of Life, Encyclopedia of Life, and the Deep Carbon Observatory, and seeding new fields of scientific research such as synthetic biology and the study of the indoor environment. The foundation also expanded its mission to include topics such as online learning, working families, economic research as it relates to globalization and American competitiveness, and additional civic issues. In 2000 the Sloan Foundation initiated a national program to prevent bioterrorism that has evolved to address general terrorism preparedness, and has made 40 grants totaling over $17 million. Other projects recently sponsored in whole or in part by the Sloan Foundation are the Encyclopedia of Life, Sloan Digital Sky Survey and the Census of Marine Life, which includes the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS).
In December 2007 Gomory became president emeritus and joined the Stern School of Business at New York University as a research professor.
In 2008, Paul L. Joskow, an economist and Professor of Economics and Management at MIT, was appointed as the foundation’s sixth president.
Paul L. Joskow became President of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation on January 1, 2008. He is also the Elizabeth and James Killian Professor of Economics, Emeritus at MIT. He received a BA from Cornell University in 1968 and a PhD in Economics from Yale University in 1972. Professor Joskow joined the MIT faculty on July 1, 1972, and became Professor Emeritus on September 1, 2010. He served as Head of the MIT Department of Economics from 1994 to 1998 and was the Director of the MIT Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research from 1999 through 2007.
At MIT he was engaged in teaching and research in the areas of industrial organization, energy and environmental economics, competition policy, and government regulation of industry. Professor Joskow has written or edited seven books and over 125 articles and papers in these areas. His papers have appeared in the American Economic Review, Bell Journal of Economics, Rand Journal of Economics, Journal of Political Economy, Journal of Law and Economics, Journal of Law, Economics and Organization, International Economic Review, Review of Economics and Statistics, Journal of Econometrics, Journal of Applied Econometrics, Yale Law Journal, New England Journal of Medicine, Foreign Affairs, Energy Journal, Electricity Journal, Oxford Review of Economic Policy, and other journals and books.
Professor Joskow is a Director of Exelon Corporation, a Director of TransCanada Corporation, and a Trustee of the Putnam Mutual Funds. He is a Trustee of Yale University and a member of the Board of Overseers of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He is the Chair of the National Academies Board on Science, Technology and Economic Policy. He previously served as a Director of New England Electric System, State Farm Indemnity Company, National Grid, and the Whitehead Institute of Biomedical Research. Professor Joskow has served on the U.S. EPA's Acid Rain Advisory Committee and on the Environmental Economics Committee of the EPA's Science Advisory Board. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Toulouse School of Economics. He served as President of the Yale University Council from 1993–2006. Professor Joskow is a past-President of the International Society for New Institutional Economics, a Distinguished Fellow of the Industrial Organization Society, a Fellow of the Econometric Society and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Starting in January 2018, Adam Falk, currently president of Williams College, will assume the presidency of the foundation.
The Alfred P. Sloan Foundation makes grants in six broad subjects, known within the foundation as major program areas.
Under the auspices of enhancing the public understanding of science and technology, the Foundation has awarded a series of grants to filmmakers since 2003. One example is the Alfred P. Sloan Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, which rewards filmmakers who make films that focus on science or technology as a theme, or depicts a scientist, engineer, or mathematician as a major character. The current monetary value of the award is $20,000. The Foundation also gives the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Feature Film Prize of $25,000 at the Hamptons Film Festival and similar grants at the Tribeca Film Institute. The Foundation also provides "Film Development" grant awards for screenplays that fit its stated mission, "to create and develop new scripts about science and technology and to see them into commercial production at the major studios and networks." The Foundation provides support to the Museum of the Moving Image to publish Sloan Science & Film, which hosts an archive of all Sloan-winning films and publishes original articles about the intersection of science and film.
The Sloan Work and Family Researchers Network supports research and education about work-family issues. The Sloan Work and Family Researchers Network supports research and education about work-family issues. The foundation also funded the national workplace flexibility campaign as part of the Working Families program led by Kathleen E. Christensen.
The Sloan Fellowships are annual awards given to more than 100 young researchers and university faculty, to further studies in science, economics, neuroscience, computer science, molecular biology and ocean sciences, among other disciplines. In March 2008, the foundation gave a $3 million donation to the Wikimedia Foundation, renewed in July 2011.