The National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAKFI) is a program of the National Academy of Sciences Engineering, and Medicine with support from the W.M. Keck Foundation. Launched in 2003, NAKFI has been catalyzing interdisciplinary research at the intersection of science, engineering and medicine, and enhancing collaboration among researchers, funding organizations, and universities.
NAKFI is funded by a 15-year, $40 million grant from the W.M. Keck Foundation. The initiative builds on three pillars of vital and sustained research: interdisciplinary encounters that counterbalance specialization and isolation; the formulation of new questions; and communication bridging scientific divides, habits of thought, and institutions. Toward these goals, the multifaceted National Academies Keck Futures Initiative incorporates three core activities each year: Futures Conferences, Futures Grants, and the National Academies Communication Awards. NAKFI is an important component of the pursuit of discovery that President Obama has said is necessary to fuel our prosperity and success as a nation for the next 50 years.
Futures Grants provide seed funding to Collective Behavior: From Cells to Societies Conference participants who are at U.S.-based institutions, on a competitive basis, to enable further pursuit of important new research and other activities stimulated by the conference, bringing people together in a variety of new ways and sparking new research.
These grants are intended to provide researchers seed money to go further and take larger next steps in developing a line of inquiry by supporting activities such as the involvement of students and post docs to the research effort, the purchase of equipment, and the acquisition of preliminary data – which will position them to compete for larger awards from other sources.
These grants emphasize flexibility and freedom; applicants are encouraged to think “outside the box” in determining how they would utilize the award to make a positive difference in research related to the conference topic, interdisciplinary collaboration and their careers. Creative proposals that focus on the “newest” science or ideas are encouraged. Grant requests can involve interdisciplinary collaboration at one institution or across multiple institutions. All applications must show how they are related to ideas generated at the The Future of Advanced Nuclear Technologies Conference.
Grant proposal examples include (but are not limited to):
- Two research groups have a unique line of research related to The Future of Advanced Nuclear Technologies that they want to pursue jointly, but cannot apply for other funding because there are no preliminary data. The researchers apply for a Futures Grant as seed money to support interdisciplinary research in this area, to acquire preliminary data in order to compete for larger awards from other sources.
- Members of an assigned Interdisciplinary Research Team or iDEA Group from The Future of Advanced Nuclear Technologies Conference want to continue their group’s discussions at a researcher’s lab for a week during the summer. In addition, they want to include a physicist, behavioral psychologist, and expert in energy systems, because their expertise is needed to help with the next steps of the discussion. The group requests funding to support the meeting (travel, lodging, food, lab supplies, etc.).
- A public policy expert and engineer who met at the conference want to explore collaboration opportunities related to The Future of Advanced Nuclear Technologies. They also wish to include a radiation expert in these discussions. The researchers apply for a Futures Grant to support travel to each other’s labs, to learn more about each other’s work, and to explore potential collaborations.
- A biologist and an robotics engineer at different institutions want to support a graduate student for a year to begin a new joint research project, in order to make progress and explore a larger collaboration between the groups. They request funding to support the student for a year and his/her travel between the groups.