Advancing the frontier of experimental physics
Opportunities abound to advance the scientific frontier in experimental physics. We have confidence that work done for its own intrinsic interest is intellectually satisfying and can lead to great societal benefits.
Yet, the funding landscape in the United States has serious gaps that limit the rate of discovery in the physical sciences. Brilliant young scientists are actively recruited by universities and provided substantial start-up funds to help them get off to a quick start in their work. The assumption is that after a few years, this focused support will be sufficient for the best individuals to create a research record and fare well in the competition for research funding. Unfortunately, however, the success rate for research proposals is low, introducing a large element of chance into research careers and the loss of innovative ideas and new discoveries – especially if the proposed ideas are risky. Further, a researcher recognizing an opportunity to make advances in a related field or explore scientific questions that lie in the intersections of sub-disciplines may be rebuffed.
It is common for excellent ideas from brilliant people to be left unfunded. The net effect is that at the moment when scientists could be at their most productive, they may experience difficulty in finding resources necessary to advance their ideas. Creative people often increase the amount of time they spend applying for grants just at the point when they have the skills, team, and ideas to advance the frontier most rapidly. The Experimental Physics Initiative seeks to address this gap by making awards that support experimental physicists who may lack conventional or flexible research funding to tackle their most creative and innovative research ideas.
The goals of the initiative by the end of the eleventh year are:
- The 120 mid-career scientists who have received Moore Foundation funding have distinguished themselves among their peers as having made extraordinary contributions to the field of experimental physics.
- Collaboration among these investigators has led to advances in experimental physics that would not have occurred without Moore Foundation support.
- Supported researchers have fostered an inclusive and supportive community within their research groups and in their academic department.
To achieve its goals, the Experimental Physics Investigators Initiative will employ two connected strategies:
- The first is to select and support outstanding individual investigators to advance cutting-edge research in experimental physics that improves scientific understanding of the natural world.
- Second is to host convocations and facilitate other interactions among the investigators to unleash creativity through exchanging ideas and fostering collaboration that will lead to insightful experiments and new discoveries.
Both strategies conducted in a culture that supports continued development of inclusive research groups and that promotes equitable access to education and career development within the experimental physics community.