Mission and Model
The Simons Foundation’s mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences.
Co-founded in 1994 in New York City by Jim and Marilyn Simons, the foundation exists to support basic — or discovery-driven — scientific research undertaken in the pursuit of understanding the phenomena of our world. Marilyn Simons served as president of the foundation until 2021, when David Spergel was appointed president of the foundation.
The Simons Foundation’s support of science takes two forms: We support research by making grants to individual investigators and their projects through academic institutions, and, with the launch of the Flatiron Institute in 2016, we now conduct scientific research in-house, supporting teams of top computational scientists.
The mission of the Flatiron Institute is to advance scientific research through computational methods, including data analysis, theory, modeling and simulation.
New experimental techniques in many fields of study are creating enormous amounts of raw, complex and sometimes noisy data. Understanding and learning from these data and modelling the complex processes they reflect is a pressing concern in the scientific community. At the same time, advances in concepts, algorithms and computation are enabling new kinds of simulations that can capture rich nonlinear, and often time-dependent, processes. These simulations demand increased sophistication in scientific technique, algorithmic development and computation.
The Simons Foundation launched the Flatiron Institute to address these challenges, developing new conceptual, algorithmic and computational methods and bringing them to bear on important scientific issues. The institute provides a highly interactive research environment for physicists, biologists, astronomers, neuroscientists, chemists, computational scientists, data scientists and programmers to work together to create, deploy, apply and support state-of-the-art computational methods.
The institute currently comprises the Center for Computational Biology, launched in 2013 as the Simons Center for Data Analysis; the Center for Computational Astrophysics, launched in 2016; the Center for Computational Quantum Physics, launched in 2017; the Center for Computational Mathematics, launched in 2018; and the Center for Computational Neuroscience, launched in 2020. The work of these centers is supported by the Scientific Computing Core.
To learn more, please visit the Flatiron Institute.
The Simons Foundation makes grants in four areas: Mathematics and Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, autism research (Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative) and Outreach & Education. Our Simons Collaborations are a new funding model for the foundation, spanning Mathematics and Physical Sciences and Life Sciences.
The Simons Foundation seeks to create strong collaborations and foster the cross-pollination of ideas between investigators, as these interactions often lead to unexpected breakthroughs. In an effort to promote such interaction between scientists, in 2012 the foundation launched a new collaborative funding model, the Simons Collaborations, which bring funded investigators — sometimes from different disciplines — together to work on a timely and important problem. To date, 23 Simons Collaborations have been launched in and across our Mathematics and Physical Sciences and Life Sciences divisions.
The Simons Foundation Mathematics and Physical Sciences (MPS) division supports research in mathematics, theoretical physics and theoretical computer science by providing funding for individuals, institutions and science infrastructure.
To learn more about MPS programs, please visit Mathematics and Physical Sciences.
The Simons Foundation Life Sciences division seeks to advance basic research on fundamental questions in biology, with a focus on origins of life, microbial oceanography and microbial ecology and evolution.
To find out more, please visit our Life Sciences pages.
The Simons Foundation Autism Research Initiative (SFARI)’s mission is to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders by funding innovative research of the highest quality and relevance. SFARI offers grant programs to support bold, imaginative and rigorous research relevant to its mission. Standing Request for Application (RFA) programs include Pilot Awards, as well as Bridge to Independence Awards. Additional funding mechanisms include the Collaborations, which support multidisciplinary teams of investigators tackling critical issues in the autism research field, and Targeted RFAs, which are offered on an ad-hoc basis. To help increase diversity and fight inequity in autism research, SFARI also offers a Supplement to Enhance Equity and Diversity (SEED) Award.
To help bring new researchers in the field, lower barriers of entry and drive research, SFARI has created and maintains several resources for autism scientists. These resources include autism cohorts such as SPARK, Simons Searchlight and the Simons Simplex Collection, animal and cell models of autism, as well as a repository of postmortem brains from donors with and without autism, and related neurodevelopmental conditions. The editorially independent, online magazine Spectrum provides comprehensive news and analysis of advances in autism research. For more information on SFARI, please visit SFARI.org.
The Simons Foundation’s Outreach & Education programs seek to stimulate a deeper interest and understanding of science and mathematics among students, professionals and the interested public. Science Sandbox supports and collaborates with programs that unlock scientific thinking in everyone. The division’s education initiative, Math for America, focuses on reaching secondary school students with a corps of outstanding STEM teachers and leaders in U.S. public schools. Quanta Magazine seeks to illuminate basic science and math research through public service journalism. Two lecture series, Simons Foundation Lectures and Simons Foundation Presents, connect practicing scientists and the interested public with some of the top minds in science in a lecture setting.
To find out more, please visit our Outreach & Education pages.
The Informatics Group manages the foundation’s many and expanding scientific and administrative data assets. Informatics provides guidance to some of the foundation’s data-intensive research grants and, importantly, advances the foundation’s commitment to the open sharing of information. Group members regularly collaborate on research projects with SFARI and the Flatiron Institute’s Center for Computational Biology, as well as with external investigators. Internally, they assist the foundation’s grants administration groups.
Read more about the Informatics Group here.
The Simons Foundation is a 501(c)(3) organization.