As we know, scientific research is an expensive undertaking. Reaching out to others for funding can be tricky as there are so many ways to fundraise. Some ways are more effective than others depending on the goal of your campaign.
The way you fund-raise also changes according to the amount being sought. The larger the request, the different strategies you will use to convince donors to contribute.
Conversely, if your target is much less then you’ll have to try other approaches to get the same level of support.
This article will discuss some helpful tips when it comes to seeking research funding. We will look at both small scale projects as well as large ones, so that everyone from student researchers to professors can benefit.
General fundraising rules apply here, such as staying focused on your message and audience, but remember, not every donor is going to feel the same way about your cause!
Keep in mind that most scientists do not receive enough money for their research, so even asking for a little bit can prove tough.
Quantity of funding
As mentioned before, how much money is available to you as an investigator or researcher can make a big difference in what you research and how well it goes.
With more money, you have more opportunities to do scientific experiments and investigations. You could spend the money on equipment or supplies, traveling for conferences, or any number of other things.
Less money means you are limited in what you can pursue.
There are many reasons why different levels of funding exist. Sometimes external factors affect getting grant funds, suchas when an organization’s leader dies or changes, or bad luck strikes and nothing works.
Other times, internal organizational issues may play a role like when someone close to the leadership position leaves their job or gets promoted.
Quality of funding
One important aspect of how well an organization is funded has little to do with money, but instead whether their resources are dedicated to research that benefits people or research that only benefits wealthy corporations.
This distinction was made famous in a 2013 New Yorker article titled “Income Inequality Is Changing What You Read”, where the author discussed how companies invest in studies that promote their products over studies that may be detrimental to their business.
For example, cigarette companies spend large amounts of money sponsoring studies about the harmful effects of smoking while pharmaceutical companies devote time and funds into studying drugs that can help them make more money.
There have been many instances of such practices in past decades, which has contributed to our current epidemic of obesity and chronic diseases. It takes a lot of effort to expose these bad habits, so some companies will continue to fund studies that emphasize their value until we as consumers shift to better alternatives.
One of the most important ways that funding affects scientific research is through government funded research. Universities and colleges are made possible by taxpayers, so as a taxpayer you have an interest in how their money is spent.
Governments run large scale educational programs designed to teach people things like mathematics or English. These programs are typically financed via taxes paid for this education. For example, every citizen of France is given free access to the University of Paris’s prestigious undergraduate program!
These universities also hold competitions to award grants and contracts to qualified researchers. Winning these awards allows these scientists to finance additional experiments or research projects due to the grant’s sponsor.
Competition among applicants not only rewards those who work hard, but it also encourages quality over quantity when seeking external financing. In other words, there are strict guidelines put into place to ensure that the money is well spent.
One of the most important ways that research is funded is through private sources, such as corporations, individuals, or foundations. These donors choose to contribute to specific projects, or they may give overall money to an organization.
Some examples of corporate sponsors include pharmaceutical companies that fund studies about new medicines, technology firms that want to see what effects their products have, and food manufacturers looking for the best way to advertise.
Individuals can be more motivated by something related to science than advertising, like supporting cancer research or studying how chocolate helps keep your heart healthy.
Foundations typically don’t pay cash directly for research, but instead use their resources to recruit other people to help fund projects. For example, many universities will ask for donations from a foundation in order to cover the cost of students and professors, which is one reason why university departments are sometimes difficult to find information about.
Another important source of research funding is individual donors, or people who choose to contribute to specific projects. These individuals can be very passionate about certain areas of science or they may have significant connections that help ensure the success of a project.
They may know of an expert in the field that needs some extra encouragement, or maybe they’re just really keen on their topic. Either way, they will usually invest their money in promoting the study of this professional’s area.
By adding sponsor marks to articles, blogs, and social media pages, you are providing advertising for your sponsors while also getting free publicity at the same time!
This is a win-win situation because even if the reader doesn’t buy from the advertiser, the advertisement links still work as normal ads. Creating engaging content is another way to draw in donations.
ByteSizeBiology has been running successful campaigns since 2016 by writing compelling scientific papers with emphasis on how every living thing depends upon energy to survive. By emphasizing the importance of nutrition, natural foods, and health benefits of fruits and vegetables, we gain attention for our sponsors’ products.
Our readers are educated and motivated, which makes it more likely that they will purchase the product after reading the ad. Because ByteSizeBiology receives no salary beyond server costs, all income goes directly into paying student interns and supporting students through tuition fees and food.
A significant amount of time spent on research is management, not pure science. Managers spend time organizing projects, assignments, meetings, and resources. This takes up about half of every academic’s working day.
Managers also organize internal and external reports, discuss findings with colleagues, and coordinate tasks and responsibilities. All of these things take away from doing scientific work, so scientists have to make room for this in their schedules.
By setting aside time each week or month for focused science, however, this can be managed effectively.
Some researchers manage this by using block scheduling, where they set aside fixed times each week to focus on one project. Others use semisynchronous groups, which allow people to share information more quickly than synchronous group settings like meeting at a same time and place.
More flexible strategies include using self-managed laboratories, where individuals manage their own space and equipment. Or using miniresearch units, which are smaller versions of labs that individual students run.
Beyond salaries, there are many other costs that come up when working in academia. These can include funding for research and/or teaching assistantships or fellowships, office supplies like printers and copiers, computer software such as Microsoft Office, and tuition at educational institutions where you hold an academic position.
Administrative support is one of the biggest expenses for academics, particularly those in more competitive fields. As an emerging researcher, you will need help navigating all of these administrative tasks to keep your project moving forward.
Some universities have dedicated staff members who handle internal review processes, communications with collaborators, responding to reviewers, organizing conferences and meetings, and other similar duties.
However, this isn’t the case for most higher education institutions, especially outside of the very wealthy. This is why it is important to be aware of the types of funding available to you as an academic — not only for yourself, but also for others around you.
The project itself
As mentioned before, scientific research is an integral part of our society that has vast-reaching impacts. These include improving health by studying diseases and finding new treatments, creating technologies like smartphones, space flights, and photovoltaic cells, and exploring the universe we live in.
Funding can have a big influence on what areas of science get explored and how much resources are invested into each area. Political funding may be given to projects that already have strong support or those who pay large sums of money for advertisements or lobbying services. Wealthy individuals or corporations may also fund specific projects or areas of research.
Projects that do not receive enough funds may not get completed, limited researchers may feel discouraged from working on projects that seem less likely to succeed, and important questions may go unanswered because there is no one willing to spend the money to find out!
Science is a very social field, and just as people in other fields rely on supporting memberships or paid positions, scientists depend on having adequate funding to keep them motivated and productive.