By the mid-1990’s, the Burroughs Wellcome Fund identified the interface of biology and the quantitative sciences as an area in need of funding. The Fund’s initial foray into the field began with the creation of interdisciplinary training programs. The Institutional Awards at the Scientific Interface funded 10 programs from 1996-2000, which supported 367 trainees.
Advancements in technology and the convergent mindset are transforming our ability to solve problems that were once seemingly intractable. BWF’s first-in-kind private investment in interdisciplinary training facilitated the transition of a traditional mindset of academic institutions and their investigators to think progressively by encouraging transdisciplinary infrastructure and skill sets.
BWF’s catalytic institutional grants represent a relatively small and early investment yet with long-term and profound impact for those who wish to accelerate progress. It’s now becoming commonplace to see a mathematician or a physical scientist as a principle investigator asking biological questions at well-integrated institutions. Importantly, this institutional program and its successor, the individual Career Award at the Scientific Interfaces, have been one of the few private sources of funding for foreign nationals – a vital source of biomedical intellectual capital in North America.
The following report details the results of surveys conducted on program alumni and with program course directors. A majority of those who responded to the survey indicated that they currently categorized their work as interdisciplinary. The program directors provided evidence of institutional change due to the training grants.