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Identifying the Right Funding Opportunities that Match Your Research


Dr. Danny M. D’Amore, Associate Editor

December 2020

The question is: How do you find the right funding resources for your newest scientific research? Sometimes, it may feel like the options are limitless; other times, you may only find one or two sources, and nothing matches just right.

To optimize the time spent searching, take a few moments to ask yourself a few questions: How much funding do you need? Do you need your funding all at once, or would several small grants suit you? Do you have a very specific idea, or can it be customized to specific calls for proposals? Let’s address these questions in more detail:

How much funding do you need?

The answer to this question will really help you narrow down your search. If your calculations are pushing $100,000 USD and upwards, you need to start considering the largest funding bodies, such as the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, European Research Council, or Australian Research Council. These are national or regional bodies that govern large sums of money and grant some of the largest research awards; however, with these awards, these grants are often the most competitive, and thus, the most difficult to obtain.

Can you piece funding together?

If you do not need all your funding at once, consider applying to several smaller grants to piece your final sum together. This is especially feasible if you need $10,000 USD or less, are only responsible for one part of a project, or are simply starting your research career (such as an undergraduate or a graduate student). In this scenario, you can apply to grants hosted by regional bodies or scientific associations, such as the Animal Behavior Society, the Genetics Society of AustralAsia, or The Geological Society of America. Individual awards are often $5,000 and less but winning several of these grants is often sufficient to fund dissertation research, or your first independent project as a new faculty member or postdoctoral scholar. The great news is that these funding bodies often realize these are the researchers applying for these grants and restrict applicants to certain groups (such as graduate students, post-docs, or new faculty members).

Is your research idea specific, or can it be customized for specific proposals?

There is no wrong answer to this question, but it is important you are honest with yourself, as it will likely influence your approach. If you have a very specific idea, it might be better to start writing once you find the one or two calls it will suit. If you feel your research can be adapted easily, you may benefit from writing yourself a “frame” or a “shell” that you can then alter and fill in as you select each proposal to submit. With many proposals to submit, you will find yourself busier towards the end; thus, it is most helpful to make sure you have a solid foundation so you do not miss any deadlines!

Once you have generated these answers, it is time to go grant shopping! There are, however, a few additional resources you might find handy in your search:

Have you met your grant officers?

If you are working in academia, chances are, your university has at least one grant officer employed; most universities have one grant officer for each department. Ultimately, it benefits your university if you are successfully awarded funding, so this resource is available to help researchers identify appropriate grants and make sure researchers are following all guidelines set out by funding resources.

If you are not in academia, this might not be an option for you, but no worries. You may have to spend a bit more time finding grants, so make sure to allot yourself that time. You may also benefit from finding a colleague or grant editor to read your work before submission; if nothing else, you want to make sure you meet all requirements and qualifications before submission.

Have you checked the funding lists?
Peeref – One of the most comprehensive platforms for global research funding opportunities. This resource is free and does not require any subscription.
grants.gov – A United States based list with funding opportunities from 26 different federal sources. This resource includes both large and small funding bodies and does not require any subscription
The National Science Foundation (NSF) – While you can find NSF’s grants on grants.gov, their own page is an easier way to navigate specific fields. All scientific fields can find potential funding resources under this umbrella. This resource is free and does not require any subscription.
The National Institutes of Health: Office of Extramural Research – Again, you can find NIH’s call for proposals on grants.gov, but their own webpage may be easier to navigate if you are specifically looking for grants related to human health research. This resource is free and does not require any subscription.
*Research – A list based out of London that provides both research-related jobs and research funding. This is an international resource with funding outside of the United Kingdom. This resource is not free and does require a subscription.
Terra Viva Grants Directory – An online list based around agriculture, energy, the environment, and natural resources. This resource focuses specifically on developing countries. While this resource usually requires a paid subscription, they are offering discounts and free memberships due to COVID-19.
The Spencer Foundation – Based in the United States, the Spencer Foundation provides funding resources for those conducting education research. This resource is free and does not require any subscription.
Pivot – A funding tool developed to match researchers to potential funding sources once they have developed a personal profile. This is very customizable and reliable; however, this is not a free resource and requires a subscription.

Finally, do not forgot to check societies you are a member of and your university or department for institutional funding. Once you have found your targets, it is time to write. Once you write, make sure you review to give yourself the very best chance possible.

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