Finding your funding path: How and where to find your pathway to research independence

 

 

Getting funding to carry out your research is central to the success of any researcher. But also, as Jessica Polka and Viviane Callier point out in their NatureJobs column, “Fellowships are the future“, getting independent funding can be an important step in the development of the independence of early career researchers, which is critical to helping them develop their scientific careers.

 

However, the route to obtaining funding can be hard to navigate, and so we at Future of Research want to provide a resource that brings together information about fellowships, but in addition include an important step in advocating for those who are independently funded: helping them find out which institutions will support them.

 

Ironically, even though it would seem obvious that institutions would covet junior researchers bringing their own sources of funding, the reality for many on postdoctoral fellowships at U.S. institutions is that they may lose health benefits or salary, as the institution may claim that as they are not employees of the university and so no longer entitled to employee benefits. This results in people turning down prestigious awards, simply because they may not be able to afford them. Some institutions even claim that postdoctoral fellows “do not provide services to the university“; but they do, in the form of service such as training and mentoring graduate students and undergraduates and, of course, giving up intellectual property rights to the institution.

 

However, there are also institutions who treat researchers the same regardless of funding source; and even institutions who reward those who get awards with supplementary stipends. It is therefore important to figure out where you will be valued as a researcher striving towards independence, as well as finding the funding mechanism that can help support you.

 

Therefore, we have teamed up with researchers at Washington University in St. Louis as part of their INTER-SECT program of INTERactive Simulation Exercises For Career Transitions to develop a policy exercise to help us advocate for equal treatment of all researchers, regardless of funding source, and we need your help to gather data on institutional policies. Please see the “Give us your fellowship wisdom!” tab below for more details on how to help us.

 

Below you can also find general resources on sources of funding awards and fellowships, and we will continue to update these resources as we discover new ones, so that hopefully you can find the information you need to progress in an informed manner. Please contact info@futureofresearch.org with comments on the resource, and how we can make it more useful, this is a work in progress!

 

Give us your fellowship wisdom!

With the INTER-SECT program, we are asking you to:

 

  • Collect data on graduate and postdoctoral training fellowships to assist in populating a database.
  • Create a fact sheet on fellowships and the institutional policy for disbursing the fellowship.

 

You can find more details on the full policy exercise here at the INTER-SECT site, but here are the key things we want to create for the community:

 

1) Gather data on fellowship opportunities for junior scientists

Current institutional practices around setting of pay scales, handling of fellowship support, and setting of benefits, vary drastically. For example, some fellowships require the award holder to give up health or other benefits. For this task, you will investigate a specific fellowship opportunity, determining stipend level, benefits and eligibility requirements. You will then look at how such a fellowship is handled at your university, and at one or more additional institutions. The goal is to collect sufficient data to enable comparison of trainee support across your institution, and thereby advocacy for equitable policies, e.g. ensuring that benefits are accessible to all junior scientists regardless of fellowship status. The data you provide will also be part of a crowd-sourced effort to examine policies and practices nationwide.

Choose at least one fellowship and at least one institution of interest to you. Research the specific fellowship in terms of various criteria that include, but are not limited to the following items, and enter them into the Google Form here (LINK TO BE ADDED):

FELLOWSHIP INFORMATION

  • Sponsoring organization
  • Fellowship title/link
  • Application deadline
  • Application materials required

ELIGIBILITY

  • Citizenship requirements
  • Eligibility – title (grad student/postdoc)
  • Eligibility – year of training (no. of years in current training)

AWARD DETAILS

  • Award amount
  • Award duration
  • Type of award (salary/stipend)
  • Title of awardee (scholar/fellow)
  • If renewable, list number of years
  • Extra information specific to individual fellowship

UNIVERSITY DISBURSEMENT

  • List all fellowship-associated benefits
  • Possible funding usage (e.g. conferences)
  • Additional research funds to supplement fellowship
  • Relevant contact person at institution

 

Our goal will be to help advocate at your university for equitable policies, e.g. ensuring that benefits are accessible to all junior scientists regardless of fellowship status.

Institutions Providing Incentives for Receiving Funding

A number of institutions provide incentives and rewards to scholars who get their own research funding. A non-exhaustive list, which was kindly supplied by Erica Siebrasse from the Van Andel Institute, is below. Do you know of incentives at your institution? Let us know – email info@futureofresearch.org:

Graduate Students

  • Brown University
    • Salary increase to 1-1/9x normal stipend
  • Penn State
    • Additional 5% stipend and $1000 travel award/year for securing an external fellowship
  • Purdue
    • $250 for applying for an external fellowship (one award/year)
  • University of Alabama Birmingham
    • $500 for applying for an external fellowship (one time)
    • $1500/year for securing an external fellowship
  • University of Iowa
    • $500 for applying for an external fellowship (limit is one award/year)
  • Washington University at St. Louis
    • Additional $5000/year stipend for securing an external fellowship
  • Wayne State University
    • $1000 for securing an external fellowship greater than or equal to Wayne State stipend

 

Postdoctoral Researchers

  • University of California, Irvine
    • $250 for applying for an external fellowship (one time); Must be used on research-related expenses (to include travel & prof. dev.)
    • $1000 for securing an NIH K award (one time); Must be used on research-related expenses (to include travel & prof. dev.)
  • University of Chicago (Biological Sciences Division)
    • $8500 (fellowship doesn’t include health insurance) or $1800 (fellowship includes health insurance) to supplement fellowship and ensure postdocs are receiving equivalent benefits no matter their funding source
  • Van Andel Research Institute
    • $1000/year for those who receive external fellowships for the duration of the fellowship
Links to Institutional Policies - Postdocs

Northwestern University (Illinois)

University of Chicago: university policies for fellows and scholars (non-fellows)

The Van Andel Institute (Michigan)

 

General Fellowship Resources

General resources:

The Institute for Broadening Participation has an excellent database of funding opportunities and a series of resources to help with applying at http://pathwaystoscience.org/

Cornell has a list of graduate and postdoctoral opportunities here.

 

Graduate students:

 

Postdoctoral Funding:

An excellent starter list is this regularly updated list of postdoctoral opportunities from Johns Hopkins – see here; the current spreadsheet is here.

MIT has a list of life sciences opportunities here.

Georgia Tech has this list of postdoctoral fellowships.

UC Berkeley has this list of postdoctoral fellowships.

The National Postdoc Association (NPA) website has resources on:

Find a PhD (UK) – https://www.findaphd.com/

Also check out NIH fellowship sites, NSF fellowship websites, such as this site for Postdoc Programs, and Foundational sites (more to come, stay tuned).

 

International Fellowships:

NIGMS Predoctoral Training Program (T32)

From NIGMS:

“Through this funding announcement, NIGMS intends to encourage changes in biomedical graduate training to keep pace with the rapid evolution of the research enterprise that is increasingly complex, interdisciplinary, and collaborative. As the scientific enterprise has expanded, there is greater variation in the backgrounds of people participating, approaches taken to investigate research questions, and the range of the careers in the biomedical research workforce that Ph.D. recipients are pursuing. There is also an increasing recognition of the need to enhance reproducibility of biomedical research results through scientific rigor and transparency. This FOA is intended to enable the scientific community to develop and implement evidence-based approaches to biomedical research training and mentoring that will effectively train future generations of outstanding biomedical scientists.”

 

The new funding announcement for the T32 can be found here.

The NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP)

From the NSF:

“The purpose of the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is to help ensure the vitality and diversity of the scientific and engineering workforce of the United States. The program recognizes and supports outstanding graduate students who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) or in STEM education. The GRFP provides three years of support for the graduate education of individuals who have demonstrated their potential for significant research achievements in STEM or STEM education. NSF especially encourages women, members of underrepresented minority groups, persons with disabilities, veterans, and undergraduate seniors to apply.”

 

Deadlines for 2017 are in the next week; if you are applying this year, and want to check out these tips gathered by Christine Liu at the last minute, take a look (LINK TO STORIFY/BLOG POST TO GO HERE)!

 

Otherwise, if you are considering applying in 2018, here are details and resources gathered about the GRFP which we will continue to update throughout the year.

 

FELLOWSHIP INFORMATION

  • Sponsoring organization
    • National Science Foundation
  • Fellowship title/link
    • NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program
    • https://www.nsfgrfp.org/
  • Application deadline
    • Varies depending on field of study
    • Life Sciences, Geosciences → October 23, 2017
    • Computer and Information Science and Engineering, Engineering, Materials Research → October 24, 2017
    • Psychology, Social Sciences, STEM Education and Learning → October 26, 2017
    • Chemistry, Mathematical Sciences, Physics and Astronomy → October 27, 2017
      • Application deadlines received by 5 p.m. local time of applicant’s mailing address
      • Reference letter submission Nov 2; 5:00 p.m. ET
  • Application materials required
    • Following information must be submitted through the FastLane GRFP application module:
      • Personal information
      • Education, Work and Other Experience
      • Electronic Transcripts
      • Proposed Field(s) of Study
      • Proposed Graduate Study and Graduate School Information
      • Names and emails of at least three reference letter writers
      • Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement
      • Graduate Research Plan Statement

 

ELIGIBILITY

  • Citizenship requirements
    • United States citizenship, national, or permanent resident status by application deadline
  • Eligibility – title (grad student/postdoc)
    • Graduate student, confirmation of acceptance in science or engineering is required at the time of Fellowship acceptance
  • Eligibility – year of training (no. of years in current training)
    • As an undergraduate → May apply as an undergraduate senior as well as a post-baccalaureate, before beginning graduate training
    • As graduate student → Limited to only one application to the GRFP submitted with in the first or second year of graduate school.  
    • As individual returning to graduate education → For applicants who have completed more than twelve months of graduate study or have earned a previous graduate or professional degree
      • Only eligible if they have had an interruption in graduate study of at least two consecutive years prior to November 1st of the year the application is submitted
      • Applicants must have completed no additional graduate study by August 1st of that year
      • Must address the reasons for the interruption in graduate study in the Personal, Relevant Background and Future Goals Statement

 

AWARD DETAILS

  • Award amount
    • $34,000 stipend to the Fellow
    • $12,000 cost-of-education to the graduate degree-granting institution, per tenure year per Fellow
  • Award duration
    • Three years during a five year total fellowship period
  • Type of award (salary/stipend)
    • Stipend
  • Title of awardee (scholar/fellow)
    • Fellow
  • If renewable, list number of years
  • Extra information specific to individual fellowship
    • Annual activities report
      • Submitted every Fellow year in the Spring, May 1st
      • Must declare fellowship tenure intentions for the following year
        • i.e. On tenure (three-year allowance), on reserve (two-year allowance) → Total five-years
NIGMS Institutional Research and Academic Career Development Awards (IRACDA) (K12)

The IRACDA program trains postdocs who wish to go into research and teaching faculty positions. From the National Institute of General Medical Sciences:

“The purpose of the IRACDA program is to develop a diverse group of highly trained scientists to address the nation’s biomedical research needs. The program promotes consortia between research-intensive institutions (RII) and partner institutions that have a historical mission and a demonstrated commitment to providing training, encouragement and assistance to students from groups underrepresented in the biomedical research enterprise of the nation. The IRACDA program combines a traditional mentored postdoctoral research experience with an opportunity to develop academic skills, including teaching, through workshops and mentored teaching assignments at a partner institution. The program is expected to facilitate the progress of postdoctoral candidates toward research and teaching careers in academia. Other goals are to provide a resource to motivate the next generation of scientists at partner institutions and to promote linkages between RIIs and partner institutions that can lead to further collaborations in research and teaching.”

 

The IRACDA program has published this outcomes assessment demonstrating that a large proportion of alumnae go on to get faculty positions at a diverse range of institutions.

 

A map of IRACDA-participating institutions, and contact information for each program, can be found here.

 

Tips and Resources on Writing Grants

In “Couch to K (or R)” from Edge for Scholars, you will find a six-part series of posts which breaks down the grant-writing process (focused on NIH K or R awards, as the name suggests).