Doron Weber, Vice President, Programs and Program Director at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, is the recipient of the NBF’s 2018 Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community.
Doron Weber was born on a kibbutz in Israel, grew up in New York City, and was educated at Brown University, the Sorbonne, and Oxford where he was a Rhodes Scholar. Although his early training was in the arts and fiction-writing, he published several science books, worked at The Rockefeller University, a Nobel-filled biomedical research institute, and gradually moved into science. For over two decades, he has worked at the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, a philanthropy making grants in science, technology, and economics, where he currently serves as Vice President and Program Director.
Weber’s signature Sloan program, Public Understanding of Science and Technology, focuses on connecting the “two cultures” of science and the arts, which he regards as two sides of the same human impulse to understand and meaningfully describe the world around and inside us. Weber helps commission, develop, and produce an array of culture defining products—books, radio, television, film, theatre, new media—to illuminate and humanize science for the lay public. He helped start Radiolab, Tribeca Film Institute, and World Science Festival; supports Emmy-winning television on American Experience, NOVA, and National Geographic, award-winning plays at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, and London’s National Theatre, and Oscar-winning films via film schools and film festivals at Sundance, Tribeca, San Francisco, and Los Angeles.
Weber’s book program supports individual authors and has resulted in over 100 published books. Critically acclaimed titles include Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures, Dava Sobel’s Galileo’s Daughter, Kai Bird and Martin Sherwin’s American Prometheus, Richard Rhodes’s Hedy’s Folly, Jared Diamond’s Collapse, Stuart Firestein’s Ignorance, and Eric Kandel’s The Age of Insight. More recent books include Carl Zimmer’s She Has Her Mother’s Laugh, Oren Harman’s Evolutions, Richard Rhodes’s Energy, Adam Becker’s What is Real?, Julie Wosk’s My Fair Ladies, Seth Stephens-Davidowitz’s Everybody Lies, Catherine Price’s Vitamania, David Baron’s American Eclipse, M. R. O’Connor’s Resurrection Science, Kevin Davis’s The Brain Defense, Robert Kanigel’s Eyes on the Street, Brooke Borel’s Infested, and Jonathan Waldman’s Rust.
While Weber has developed an organization that supports thousands of screenplays, plays, teleplays, radio plays, webisodes, games, VR, and librettos, he considers books to be an anchor and critical entry point for the entire program, believing books have an outsize influence because they often represent the first serious foray into a new field where authors can uncover or synthesize new knowledge and convey it in the richest, deepest, and most nuanced way. Books also serve as a platform to other media. Weber has helped adapt foundation-supported books (The Poisoner’s Handbook, Hedy’s Folly) into television documentaries (The Poisoner’s Handbook, Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story); other books (Hidden Figures, The Man Who Knew Infinity) into films; and even books (The Elegant Universe) into plays (String Fever). He has championed stories about women scientists in every medium.
At Sloan, Weber also runs the program in Universal Access to Knowledge, which seeks to harness digital information technology to make the benefits of human knowledge accessible to all. His grantmaking has helped lead the Digital Public Library of America, a consortium of over 2,000 libraries, archives and museums in 50 states, and to scale Wikipedia into the largest encyclopedia in human history and the fifth largest web site in the world. A recent grant to Consumer’s Union focuses on consumer privacy in the digital age.
Weber’s work at Sloan has been profiled in The New York Times, The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Lifehacker, Fortune, and Filmmaker Magazine. His program has received numerous awards including the National Science Board’s Public Service Award “for its innovative use of traditional media—books, radio, public television—and its pioneering efforts in theater and commercial television and films to advance public understanding of science and technology.”
Prior to Sloan, Weber worked at The Rockefeller University, the Society for the Right to Die, and The Reader’s Catalog. He has also been a screenwriter, speechwriter, teacher, tutor, taxi driver, romance novelist, busboy, and boxer. He currently serves as President of The Writers Room Board, National Secretary for the Israel Rhodes Scholarship, Trustee of Shakespeare & Co, and Board Visitor of the Wikimedia Foundation. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, National Association of Corporate Directors, and USA Triathlon.
In 2012, Weber published Immortal Bird: A Family Memoir (Simon & Schuster), named one of the 50 Notable Works of Non-Fiction by The Washington Post and an Amazon Best Book of the Month. He previously coauthored three books: Safe Blood: Purifying the Nation’s Blood Supply in the Age of AIDS, The Complete Guide to Living Wills, and Final Passages: Positive Choices for the Dying and Their Loved Ones. His articles and reviews have appeared in The New York Times, LA Times, USA Today, Barron’s, The Washington Post, and the Boston Review, among others. He is currently at work on a novel.