These competitive grants provide seed funding to researchers who participated in the "Signals, Decisions, and Meaning in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering" conference, to enable them to pursue important new ideas and connections stimulated by the conference. The grants aim to fill a critical missing link between bold new ideas and major federal funding programs, which do not currently provide grants in areas that are considered risky or unusual. The seed grants allow researchers to start developing a line of inquiry by recruiting students and postdoctoral fellows, purchasing equipment, and acquiring preliminary data all of which can position the researchers to compete for larger awards from other public and private sources.
The National Academies Keck FUTURES INITIATIVE was launched in 2003 to stimulate new modes of scientific inquiry and break down the conceptual and institutional barriers to interdisciplinary research. The National Academies and the W.M. Keck Foundation believe considerable scientific progress and social benefit will be achieved by providing a counterbalance to the tendency to isolate research within academic fields. The FUTURES INITIATIVE is designed to enable scientists from different disciplines to focus on new questions upon which they can base entirely new research, and to encourage and reward outstanding communication between scientists as well as between the scientific enterprise and the public.