Getting Funding

A disclaimer first: my perspective is from the sciences, and I understand that many fields outside of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) do not have the funding opportunities and support that I have grown to love and be super grateful for. OK, disclaimer over. Funding is great! And it’s important for the CV! And jobs (both keeping and getting)! But as funding gets cut, how can we effectively compete for money?

I’m going to hit this up in list form.

  1. Look for grants everywhere. I know that there are famous, prestigious grants, and I am not saying don’t go for those, because if you’re here, you’re probably the go-getting type that can land those awards. What I’m saying is that money is money, so digging deep, talking to people in your department and field, and keeping your eyes peeled for announcements of small money awards is well worth the time.
  2. Be concise. I know that I always want to throw in every even almost-relevant thing into each proposal. There are just so many cool questions! Why can’t I ask them all? Because it makes for a sloppy, unfocused proposal is why. So keep it focused and concise, and if you have a project with many different facets, think about writing a proposal for just a few of them at a time.
  3. Be specific. This is mostly for personal statement/broader impacts type of writing. It’s not going to be enough to say, “I really love working with the greater community outside of academia,” because it’s easy to say and super vague anyway and doesn’t give anyone any idea of what you can and want to do. Give specific goals for the future and give specific examples of what you have done in the past that will qualify you and prepare you for what you’re doing now.

Honestly, numbers two and three are probably the most common advice that I give to people I’m working with and talking to in academia. It’s surprising how hard it can be to get focused and specific. We’re in these fields because we love them and sometimes it can be hard to get that out in proposal form.

How about you? Do you have any grant/funding/fellowship related advice?

One reply on “Getting Funding”

I haven’t applied to any of the national fellowships.  I just don’t have any science street cred to get one through, and my advisor basically said I’d be wasting my time, although he would help me if I was really determined.  If I have any advice to give, I guess it is to go to departmental events, seminars, etc. and initiate friendly contact with faculty in your department besides your advisor.  That way, if you want to get a teaching or research assistantship, you have a better chance because they know you.  Also, I have been able to get department funding for travel even though the travel didn’t fit the criteria listed on the department award website — so it may be worth asking about funds that you don’t think you qualify for.

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