The Frontiers of Science symposia began in 1989 as a program of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) for outstanding early career researchers, under the age of 45, with two main goals: to give participants a broad scientific perspective by exposing them to ground-breaking research in fields far from their own; and to develop a network that will help participants as they progress to increasingly responsible positions of leadership in the scientific community.

The Frontiers program identifies futures leaders of science, both within the US and abroad, and presents this select group with a valuable network for them to develop their leadership potential.

Unique Meeting Format

At each Frontiers symposium, approximately 70-100 young scientists attend a 2.5-to 3-day meeting, during which some 25 of them report on current research within their disciplines in
eight two-hour sessions. The meetings are highly involved, as participants who are not on the formal program present their own research during the flash posters talks and two poster sessions at each meeting.

The symposium also includes ample free time for informal discussions, including cultural excursions, and meals at which seating is assigned to ensure a diverse group of attendees at each table. These future leaders of US and international science not only discuss ground-breaking advances in the formal sessions, but also take advantage of unstructured time to compare career trajectories, develop contacts within and outside their
fields, and develop a broad perspective on cutting-edge research across a variety of fields, and within different countries.

In 2005, the Los Angeles, California-based Kavli Foundation, which supports scientific research, honors scientific achievement, and promotes public understanding of scientists and their work, provided a 10-year, $5 million grant. In 2015 the Kavli Foundation renewed its commitment to Frontiers with a ten-year $5.5-million grant, providing a solid financial foundation for the program over the next decade, enabling broader dissemination of the content of each symposium, and strengthening opportunities for continued connections between participants over the years.  Participants in Frontiers symposia are designated Kavli Fellows.

International Expansion

The Frontiers program began with a symposium for early career U.S. scientists in 1989 and has expanded significantly across the globe over the past thirty years. The first bilateral partnership began with Germany in 1995. The program quickly expanded to include both China and Japan in 1998. One-year symposia took place with both the United Kingdom (2004) and France (2008) as part of a program to educate scientific organizations on the Frontiers model. The growth continued in 2005 with a bilateral partnership with India that was later placed on hiatus in 2015. Expansion of the program into Asia continued with Indonesia in 2011 and then finished with Israel and S. Korea in 2013.  Current partners include China, Germany, Japan, S. Korea and Israel.

Frontiers Alumni

Presently the Frontiers alumni group contains over 6,600 researchers and represents 28 different countries. The US cohort represents 58% of the alumni group and the oldest partnerships – Germany, China and Japan represent the largest cohorts of international alumni.  Additionally, the Frontiers alumni network spans 35 years and includes 19 alumni who have been awarded the Nobel Prizes and 335 who have been elected to the National Academy of Sciences - over 13% of the current membership, including 21 who were elected in 2023.