Giving Compass' Take:

• The Science Philanthropy Alliance hosted a panel with two prominent science philanthropists who gave their advice on funding for research. The biggest takeaway: Start small.

• Do the research projects in your sector have enough financial support? Another valuable lesson here is that patience is required when it comes to science funding. Don't expect results immediately — longer-term gains will come.

• Here's why science holds the promise of a better future for all of us.

At a Science Philanthropy Alliance panel in London, Harvey Fineberg, president of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, interviewed two science philanthropists from the UK, David Sainsbury of the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain, founder of the Gatsby Charitable Foundation and chancellor of the University of Cambridge, and David Harding, founder and CEO of the Winton Group and Winton Philanthropies. Given that Fineberg leads an established foundation, Sainsbury has given to science for decades, and Harding has been supporting science for just over 10 years , the panel provided a range of perspectives.

Both men had some tips about learning about science and science funding to someone new to philanthropy. Sainsbury offered, “The first thing is to be clear what your interest is, then immerse yourself in it and find out more about it. Rather than creating a big plan, it’s helpful to support a few small projects in the area, and then follow those closely. In two to three years, you’ll have a much better understanding of that area of science — what the opportunities are, who the good scientists are, and what are the exciting research projects to support.” Sainsbury called this approach “splashing around in the shallows.”

Sainsbury also stressed that it is important to think about how philanthropy’s role is different from that of the government. With government funding in the US and UK often limited to short-term grants, which limit the creativity and risks that scientists take, there is a huge benefit to offering longer-term (for example, ten year) grants which allow scientists to take on more creative but riskier scientific research.

Read the full article on how philanthropists can support science research at Science Philanthropy Alliance.