Keystone Symposia receives Bill Gates foundation grants
When Jane Peterson came on as CEO and president of the Keystone Symposia in April of 2014, one of her goals was to expand the organization’s global reach.
A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, the Keystone Symposia organizes conferences on a variety of topics that fall under the life sciences category, such as health, diseases, nutrition, biology, biochemistry and more. These conferences take place all over the world, from the mountains at Keystone to cities in Europe, Africa, Asia and South America. A conference might take place only once a year, or once every several years.
“My vision for Keystone (Symposia) is to increase the number of international meetings,” Peterson said.
Two recent announcements will be stepping-stones to making that possible. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the Keystone Symposia a three-year $2.25 million grant. The organization also announced a partnership with the Croucher Foundation and will receive $225,000 over the next three years to hold conferences in Hong Kong, with matching funds from Hong Kong University for the same amount.
SCHOLARSHIPS FOR SCIENTISTS
Hosting conferences for scientists isn’t cheap, especially when many of those scientists who are attending come from outside the country.
The grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will give the Keystone Symposia $750,000 per year over the next three years to fund conferences for its Global Health Series, as well as travel scholarships for investigators, clinicians, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows attending from low- and middle-income countries.
Conferences incur administration costs, which are offset partially by registration fees that the scientists pay and partially by grants and foundation donations. The Global Health Travel Awards, from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will go toward the registration, travel and lodging fees of scientists and attendees from low- and middle-income countries.
The recipients of the Global Health Travel Awards also get the benefit of a pre-meeting one day before the conference in order to familiarize themselves with the topic and the format of the conference. Conferences tend to last three to four days, depending on how focused or broad the current topic is.
This is the fifth three-year grant that Keystone Symposia has received from the foundation. The first was orchestrated by former president and CEO Jim Aiken, who retired last spring and also shared Peterson’s desire to expand the organization globally. Since then, more than 1,800 people have benefited from the Global Health Travel Awards.
One of the largest benefits to these conferences, aside from the conference itself, is getting scientists and professionals in the field together in one room, Peterson said. At a conference, graduate students and post-doctorate fellows can mingle with senior scientists. These face-to-face meetings often result in mentorships and globe-spanning collaborations.
CONNECTING WITH HONG KONG
This will be the Keystone Symposia’s first partnership with the Croucher Foundation. Formed in 1979, the foundation is independent and private, focused on promoting the natural sciences, technology and medicine in Hong Kong.
The last time the Keystone Symposia was in Hong Kong was 2011, hosting a conference with Hong Kong University on influenza.
Now, thanks to the partnership with the Croucher Foundation and matching funds provided by the university, the Keystone Symposia conferences will take place once a year in Hong Kong. Eventually, Peterson hopes to see its frequency increase.
“They are very interested in having Keystone meetings in Hong Kong,” she said. “There are a lot of really excellent scientists there and they are really interested in the topics we discuss at meetings.”
In Hong Kong, as with other internationally held conferences, advisory committees typically consist of experts within the region.
“We really want meetings to be part of the scientific fabric of the places we go that are outside the United States, in the sense of making sure that we have speakers in the program, organizers or co-organizers or advisors (who) come from the country or the region — because we’re talking about whole continents here — to make sure that we’re addressing the science that is of most importance there,” she said. “The plan of the program is not to bring Keystone meetings that could have met in the United States, … it is to have meetings there in order to engage the scientists there and to contribute to infrastructure building to support the science that is ongoing there in a wide variety of topics.”
She also said that she’s looking forward to the partnership over the coming years.
“We’re very pleased to have gotten the funding,” she said. “They consider a lot of proposals every year, we know we had stiff competition, so that makes us feel really good to know they liked our ideas.”
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