Santa Fe Institute hits hard times

The linkurl:Santa Fe Institute;http://www.santafe.edu/ (SFI), a 24-year-old collaborative research center in New Mexico, is tightening its belt in anticipation of continued market instability and a curtailment in donations to support its work. Physicist and SFI director linkurl:Geoffrey West;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/52865/ told __The Scientist__ that, while the budget of the institute is in no immediate danger of evaporating, administrators there thought it prudent to freeze

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Oct 30, 2008
The linkurl:Santa Fe Institute;http://www.santafe.edu/ (SFI), a 24-year-old collaborative research center in New Mexico, is tightening its belt in anticipation of continued market instability and a curtailment in donations to support its work. Physicist and SFI director linkurl:Geoffrey West;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/52865/ told __The Scientist__ that, while the budget of the institute is in no immediate danger of evaporating, administrators there thought it prudent to freeze all linkurl:staff;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54988/ salaries, suspend planned renovations to a central conference room, and renegotiate the fees paid to visiting scientists, workshop attendees, and speakers. "We decided we should do a preemptive strike and brace ourselves for potentially bad news," linkurl:West;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53846/ said. "This situation with the bottom falling out of the market really might have a potentially big impact on us." The non-profit linkurl:Santa Fe Institute;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12263/ is particularly vulnerable to a sagging economy, West explained, because about two thirds of its funding comes from private sources - individual donors, corporate...
icipation of continued market instability and a curtailment in donations to support its work. Physicist and SFI director linkurl:Geoffrey West;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/52865/ told __The Scientist__ that, while the budget of the institute is in no immediate danger of evaporating, administrators there thought it prudent to freeze all linkurl:staff;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54988/ salaries, suspend planned renovations to a central conference room, and renegotiate the fees paid to visiting scientists, workshop attendees, and speakers. "We decided we should do a preemptive strike and brace ourselves for potentially bad news," linkurl:West;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/53846/ said. "This situation with the bottom falling out of the market really might have a potentially big impact on us." The non-profit linkurl:Santa Fe Institute;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/12263/ is particularly vulnerable to a sagging economy, West explained, because about two thirds of its funding comes from private sources - individual donors, corporate gifts, etc - with the other third coming from government grants. SFI's 2007 total revenue was more than $11 million, according to a spokesperson from the institute's development office. A slew of donors has bestowed gifts of more than $100,000 on SFI in the past. These include the Oprah Winfrey Foundation, and a foundation in the name of Ebay founder Pierre Omidyar and his wife, Pamela. With a global recession looming, West said that the institute had to do "some serious cutting here and there." The conversation in SFI's boardroom, West said, went something like this: "We should really not wait until we see the whites of their eyes and we're in panic mode," he said. "Let's act now while we're still relatively comfortable." West said that he hopes the salary freeze at SFI - the most drastic measure the institute took - will not last long and that further cuts will not be necessary. In the meantime, West said that he expects raising new money from new donors to become difficult, but that even with the corners being cut at SFI, the linkurl:science;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/54714/ coming out of the center will not be affected. "The philosophy is we will try to make every possible effort to keep the level of scientific activity pretty much the same." "It's a work in progress," West said. "I'll keep my fingers crossed." __Correction (posted November 3): When originally posted, this article mistakenly referred to the Santa Fe Institute as a 34-year-old research center. It is, in fact, 24-years-old. __The Scientist__ regrets the error.__

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