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Taking Advice

Billionaires who want to fund scientific endeavors sometimes need help figuring out where to put their money, Nature News says. That's where physicist Marc Kastner and his colleagues come in.

In February 2015, Kastner established the Science Philanthropy Alliance in Palo Alto, California. It's an "alliance of philanthropic organizations that encourage funding in basic research and advise other philanthropists — especially new ones — on how to go about it," Nature News says.

The Alliance is in the spotlight now — when Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan announced they were pledging $3 billion for medical research last month, Zuckerberg made it a point to say that any fellow philanthropists looking to spend money on scientific research should ask for Kastner's advice.

"This is a milestone for the alliance, in the sense that its goal is to try to increase the funding for basic research across many fields, not just in biology," Howard Hughes Medical Institute former president Robert Tjian tells Nature News.

The HHMI was one of the Alliance's six founders. It now has 15 members, including the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the Kavli Foundation, and the Wellcome Trust. The group was formed in order to encourage philanthropists to fund basic research. "There was a need to support basic research that wasn't being met, and I thought I could help by having philanthropists do some of that,"Kastner tells Nature News.

Importantly, Kastner adds, "Philanthropists don't want us to tell them what kind of research to support, but they want to make sure they're doing it in the best way possible, and that's what we want, too."