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For millennia, humanity has found awe and wonder in contemplating the cosmos. Today, scientists use ever-evolving tools to push the boundaries of our knowledge of the universe and our place and purpose within it.

In our Mathematical and Physical Sciences funding area, we support research seeking to shed light on the fundamental concepts of physical reality. We also explore the interplay between these sciences and broader human experience.

What is the nature of the universe that we inhabit? What are the most fundamental, microscopic constituents of physical reality? How are physical systems more than “the sum of their parts?” How do these various ideas come together? The John Templeton Foundation is interested in fundamental questions in the mathematical and physical sciences and how they might converge to form a coherent picture of physical reality.

We also want to understand the roles and implications of the sciences within a wider context of human purposes. How do discoveries in the mathematical and physical sciences challenge our ways of thinking and reasoning? How do cultures, institutions, or societies impact how such research is conducted and vice versa? How can we further inspire awe and wonder at the unveiling of nature’s mysteries?

Project Structure Considerations

In 2024, we expect to invite several projects that would aim to establish interdisciplinary hubs designed to foster innovative collaborations in the mathematical and physical sciences (MPS). We specifically seek Funding Inquiries for hubs consisting of four or more senior researchers and a significantly greater number of junior researchers, visitors, and other scholars. Topical emphases should align with the themes and priorities described below. These Funding Inquiries should propose projects no more than three years in duration and budgets in the range of $2-4 million (actual amount must be justified by the details of the project design). Applicants are also encouraged to include the following:

  1. Formation of new and catalytic research collaborations and networks, creating bridges between people and fields that are not already in conversation with each other.
  2. A contextualized impact statement that describes how the hub’s activities would address important questions or issues within the relevant fields of study or in the public sector.
  3. Non-science interdisciplinarity – priority will be given to projects that connect the mathematical and physical sciences with other disciplines, such as philosophy, history, social and cultural studies, etc.
  4. Cultivating the next generation – priority will be given to projects with outstanding plans to involve/engage young scholars.

We seek projects that will conduct rigorous scientific research in one or more of:

  1. Cosmology
  2. Quantum Foundations
  3. Complexity and Emergence

We are especially interested in research projects that touch on more than one of these themes.

We also prioritize projects which bring rigorous MPS research to bear on:

1.) Questions of Human Reasoning: Examples include but are not limited to: new perspectives on causality, the existence of objective reality(ies), what information or artificial intelligence can reveal about human cognition.

2.) Cultural and Social Perspectives: Examples include but are not limited to: how discoveries or advances are perceived by differing peoples, how the cultural background of scientists impacts the practice of science, the interplay between scientific institutions (organizations, collaborations, teams) and scientific practice, the impact of locating research facilities in particular cultural contexts.

3.) Inspiring Awe and Wonder: Examples include but are not limited to: public outreach about MPS which inspires awe and wonder, with a special emphasis on reaching those populations/demographics less engaged by conventional outreach methods; considering how awe and wonder animate practicing scientists; initiatives to encourage scientists to reflect on or reengage with feelings of awe and wonder.