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James S. McDonnell Foundation


Last Updated: 2016-05-11

At A Glance

James S. McDonnell Foundation

(also known as JSMF)

1034 S. Brentwood Blvd., Ste. 1850

St. Louis, MO United States 63117-1229

Telephone: (314) 721-1532


Type of Grantmaker

Independent foundation

Financial Data

(yr. ended 2014-12-31)

Assets: $511,054,066

Total giving: $27,878,474





Additional Contact Information

Additional e-mail:


Established in MO - In 1950, James S. McDonnell, Jr. established the McDonnell Foundation, incorporated as a private foundation. The foundation has pursued his goals by supporting scientific, educational, and charitable causes locally, nationally, and internationally. The organization was renamed the James S. McDonnell Foundation in 1984 in honor of its founder and was reorganized in 2002 with amended by-laws by its current board members, descendants of James S. McDonnell.

Purpose and Activities

JSMF believes that private philanthropic support for science is most effective when it invests in the acquisition of new knowledge and in the responsible application of knowledge for solving the real world problems. The 21st Century Science Initiative, the foundation's revised program and funding strategy, will award two types of grants in three program areas. The three program areas are Mathematical & Complex Systems Approaches for Brain Cancer Research, Studying Complex Systems, and Understanding Human Cognition. Projects supported through the 21st Century Science Initiative are expected to meet highly selective intellectual standards.

Program Area(s)

The grantmaker has identified the following area(s) of interest:

21st Century Collaborative Activity Awards

The foundation offers these awards to initiate interdisciplinary discussions on problems or issues, to help launch interdisciplinary research networks, or to fund communities of researchers/practitioners dedicated to developing new methods, tools, and applications of basic research to applied problems. Collaborative Activity Awards developed from questions or topics discussed at foundation-sponsored meetings may be initiated by foundation Advisory Panel members, particularly when the outcome of collaborative discussions assists with foundation program planning. Collaborative awards will not be awarded in support of large, program-project style research proposals. Strong preference will be given to applications involving multi institutional collaboration, and the lead applicant must be sponsored by a non-profit institution. The grantee institution must agree to administer the award and to waive all indirect costs. Applicants for this award should submit a letter of inquiry, which must be submitted electronically to:

JSMF Scholar Awards Program

For Scholar Awards the program's emphasis is furthering the science of complex systems via the continued development of the theory and tools used in the study of complex research questions and not on particular fields of research per se. JSMF is particularly interested in projects attempting to apply complex systems approaches to coherently articulated questions. In general, JSMF receives many more proposals than it can fund. Research projects outside the foundation’s described area of interest will not be funded. JSMF funds internationally. Applications must be sponsored by a qualifying institution as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Tax Code. For more information see JSMF web site.

Studying Complex Systems

The program supports scholarship and research directed toward the development of theoretical and mathematical tools that can be applied to the study of complex, adaptive, nonlinear systems. It is anticipated that research funded in this program will address issues in fields such as biology, biodiversity, climate, demography, epidemiology, technological change, economic development, governance, or computation. JSMF supports research in the brain sciences through its topical program Understanding Human Cognition. The foundation recommends that researchers in the neurosciences not submit proposals to the Complex Systems RFA. Typically, such proposals are unsuccessful. While the program's emphasis is on the development and application of the theory and tools used in the study of complex research questions and not on particular fields of research per se, JSMF is particularly interested in projects attempting to apply complex systems approaches to coherently articulated questions. Proposals intending to apply complex system tools and models to problems where such approaches are not yet considered usual or mainstream are appropriate to the RFA.

Understanding Human cognition

The program is intended to help investigators pursue experiments designed to answer well-articulated questions. The foundation is looking for well-designed experiments matched to intriguing questions. The proposed question should not stretch beyond what is answerable with available or developable research tools. See foundation web site for additional information .

Fields of Interest

  • Brain and nervous system disorders
  • Diseases and conditions
  • Education
  • Health
  • Higher education
  • Psychology and behavioral science
  • Science
  • Social sciences
  • University education
Population Groups
  • Academics

Financial Data

Year ended 2014-12-31

Assets: $511,054,066 (market value)

Expenditures: $31,912,490

Total giving: $27,878,474

Qualifying distributions: $28,780,669