As it approached its 50th anniversary a few years back, the Whitehall Foundation of Palm Beach, Fla., decided it was time for some serious self-evaluation. Officials there wanted to make sure that the foundation was supporting the right kind of scientists - and that the scientists were enjoying substantial gains from the backing they were getting.

The most efficient approach to finding out, the officials concluded, was to query the scientists themselves. So they prepared a survey asking grant recipients from the past 15 years just what they thought about the foundation. Physiologists, biologists, and neuroscientists from universities and private labs were asked to participate. The survey, according to Laurel T. Baker, trustee and corporate secretary for the foundation, was designed to give the trustees a "thumbnail sketch" of the foundation's effect on the careers of the researchers it had funded.

To quantify the foundation's effect, the survey featured questions...

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