Thursday, May 28, 2015

TIL about the Petroleum Research Fund

Trolling through the 2014 ACS financial statement, I see that there's a short history of the Petroleum Research Fund, something that I don't quite understand, but seems to be an occasional source of funds for academic work: 
The American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund is an endowment fund established on October 25, 2000 as a result of The Agreement of Transfer of Trust (Agreement) between the Society and Morgan Guaranty Trust Company of New York, approved by the Attorney General for the State of New York, and ordered by the Supreme Court of New York. The Agreement dissolved the Petroleum Research Fund Trust (the Trust) and transferred the assets to the Society to create the American Chemical Society Petroleum Research Fund (the Fund), the purpose of which is the same as the Trust. The Agreement made the Society responsible for the management and administration of the Fund in an account separate and apart from any other accounts of the Society. As a result of the transfer, the historic dollar value for the Fund was established at $72,500,000, the value of the securities originally donated in 1944 to create the Trust. This amount must be held inviolate as permanently restricted assets. 
The assets of the Fund consist primarily of domestic equities, foreign equities, fixed-income securities, and hedge funds. Under the terms of the Agreement, annual payouts from the Fund are capped at a maximum spending rate of 5% of the net asset value of the Fund over a rolling three-year average. The Society uses distributions from the Fund to make grants for advanced scientific education and fundamental research in the petroleum field. Grants are expensed when awarded by the Society’s board of directors and accepted by the recipient. All grants awarded by the Fund in 2014 and 2013 were accepted by the grant recipients.
Here's a little more history about the fund, via the ACS. Looks like the fund has somewhere in the $478 million dollar range in "temporarily restricted net assets" and it made somewhere around $19 million dollars in grants in 2014. Curious to know how much that compares to NSF or NIH funds available to chemists. 


  1. Looking at what they won't fund, it's a pretty safe bet to say that if NIH will fund it, PRF doesn't want to even see it. (modulo a very overcrowded pool of pure synthetic organic chemists).

  2. The PRF has historically been a good supporter of early career researchers. It was my group (and many others') first grant! It's not a ton of money, but it's a good boost to the startup pool. One of a very select few early career awards that really favors synthetic organic/organometallic/inorganic chemists over the bio and materials/energy flavor.

  3. The basic PRF new-investigator grant is $110k total over two years, with no overhead allowed. At my R1 that basically funds 75% of a grad student for two years plus some supplies/travel.

  4. They have funds just for primarily undergraduate institutions too, which is awesome (although my first two applications have been denied).