About RCSA

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Research Corporation for Science Advancement do?

RCSA is a private operating foundation that aids basic research in the physical sciences (astronomy, chemistry, and physics mainly) at U.S. colleges and universities. It supports research independently proposed by college and university faculty members and carries on activities related to science advancement. RCSA is a strong supporter of improvements in science education.

Who created RCSA?

The Foundation, America’s second oldest, was begun in 1912. The idea for an organization to support academic scientists and bring their inventions to market was the brainchild of American physical chemist Frederick Gardner Cottrell. The original board of directors, made up of eminent scientists, was recruited by Dr. Cottrell and by Charles Doolittle Walcott, then secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. With the backing of the Smithsonian's Board of Regents, Walcott assisted Cottrell in founding Research Corporation, and served as its unpaid executive officer during its first years. The story is told in its entirety in Cottrell: Samaritan of Science, the biography by Frank Cameron, available from RCSA's communications department.

Where does RCSA funding come from?

The Foundation was established with funds from the business of designing and installing a smokestack pollution-control device called the electrostatic precipitator. The first “green machine,” it was invented by Dr.  Cottrell. The resulting pollution-control business was later sold, creating an endowment for Research Corporation. Additional funds were provided by the proceeds from inventions contributed by public-spirited scientists. These inventions included the first antifungal antibiotic (nystatin) donated by Elizabeth Hazen and Rachel Brown (1951); royalties from the commercial synthesis of vitamin B1 contributed by Robert R. Williams and Robert E. Waterman (1935); the patent on the maser-laser concept given by Charles H. Townes (1951); and the process for growing hybrid seed corn created by Donald F. Jones and Paul C. Mangelsdorf (1949).

How is RCSA administered?

The Foundation is governed by its self-perpetuating Board of Directors. Its active members and emeritus members include many men and women who have distinguished themselves in academe, finance, industry and the professions. The foundation president is Robert Shelton, Ph.D., an experienced science administrator in academia and former president of the University of Arizona.

Does RCSA currently handle inventions?

No. Although for many years the Foundation did maintain an invention administration program for academic inventors and their institutions. In 1987 RCSA’s patent-management business became the genesis for Research Corporation Technologies (RCT), a wholly independent company whose business is technology transfer.

Does RCSA claim rights to inventions that result from the research it supports?

No. Today the Foundation recognizes innovative scientists and supports high-risk/potentially high-reward research, as well as efforts to improve education in the physical sciences. Through its partnerships with other foundations, government agencies and private investors, RCSA encourages its awardees to further the development and application of potentially useful discoveries. It does not claim rights to discovery.

How long from the date of submission of a proposal to a decision on funding should I expect?

Approximately six months.  A proposal submitted in a fall cycle will receive a recommendation for or against funding by early April. Official approval from RCSA’s Board of Directors typically occurs in May.  Similarly, a proposal submitted in a spring cycle will receive a recommendation for or against funding by early October. Official approval from RCSA’s Board of Directors typically occurs in November. Please note that typically a program only accepts proposals once a year, either in the spring or fall cycle.

Does RCSA allow for overhead to be paid from its grants?

No, RCSA does not allow for overhead. Also, most indirect costs are not allowed, except for the institutional portion of FICA and Medicare on faculty and student stipends (up to 7.65 percent).  For the Cottrell Scholar Award and Scialog programs institutionally mandated indirect costs for stipends for post-doctoral fellows are allowed.  See the guidelines for these programs for details.

I've read your literature and program guidelines, but would like to ask specific questions. Who can I talk to?

For detailed questions pertaining to programs or awards, a program officer would be your best bet. They are available to talk to you at RCSA, and they often visit college and university campuses to make direct contact with faculty members. Procedural questions on applying for awards may be found in specific program guidelines available on this website, or they can be answered by any program staff member.


RCSA’s communications department can answer general questions regarding the Foundation and its operations. The communications department does documentary research and publishes on issues related to academic science, the Foundation's programs, its chartered objectives and its history; distributes newsletters, annual reports, books and occasional publications, and maintains the Foundation's website (dhuff@rescorp.org).

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