Funding Your Research
At most colleges and universities, your ability to find funding for your research program will be a major measure of your success. You need to be able to find fundable projects, identify possible sources of funding (internal and external), and then convince the people reading your proposal that you are just the person to tackle the research you propose.
Jump down to
- Grant Writing
- Sources of Funding
- Successful Proposals, including (but not limited to) NSF proposals
- Tips from Workshop Alums
Grant writing: identifying sources of funding and writing proposals
- Tips on writing a grant proposal, (more info) from the U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), but applicable to the grant writing process in general. This page includes a detailed, extended discussion of how to plan a budget, with examples.
- How to Get Started in Research, a booklet by the Council on Undergraduate Research, includes information on finding funding and advice on writing grant proposals.
- Getting Your Research Ideas Funded. Cathy Manduca's overview of things to consider as you write your first grant proposal, including identifying the best source of funding for your project and writing a proposal aimed at that funding agency. Cathy is the director of the Science Education Resource Center at Carleton College. This page is based on her presentation at the Early Career Workshop.
- Writing the Broader Impacts Section of Your Research Proposal, a posting from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor" Mailing List, describes what NSF looks for in the broader impacts section of proposals and recommends strategies for strengthening that section of a proposal.
- Tips for a Winning Research Proposal, a posting from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor" Mailing List, provides advice on strengthening your proposal, from start to finish.
- Advice about writing grant proposals. (Microsoft Word 36kB Sep29 05) Steve Ackerman's take on what reviewers are going to be looking for in your proposal. Steve is the director of the Cooperative Institute for Metereological Satellite Studies at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. This document is from the Early Career Workshop.
- Advice for faculty at 2-year colleges seeking grants. (Microsoft Word 34kB Oct4 05) Steve Semken's advice to 2-year college faculty seeking external funding, including a series of questions to help you figure out the process at your institution, and a list of grant sources you might consider. Steve now teaches at Arizona State University, but taught for many years at Dine College, the college of the Navajo nation. This document is from the Early Career Workshop.
- Elements found in most successful proposals, a posting from Rick Reis' "Tomorrow's Professor" Mailing List, summarizes the characteristics of good proposals.
- Ten Simple Rules for Getting Grants, an article from PLoS Computer Biology, provides 10 short tips on writing grant proposals.
- Lessons from serving on NSF panels, an article by Terry McGlynn documenting tips on writing NSF proposals learned from serving on review panels.
Sources of funding
- Grant opportunities from hundreds of federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, Department of Education, Department of Energy, Department of Transportation, the Environmental Protection Agency, NASA, USGS, and NSF, are now posted in one place. Want to receive email announcements for new funding opportunities? Sign up. For more information about a specific agency, follow the links below:
- The National Science Foundation: everything you ever wanted to know (more info) about getting funding, including a complete listing of NSF funding programs. Also, NSF instructions for preparing your proposal, including the invaluable Grant proposal guide, with detailed step-by-step instructions. It includes such gems as several examples of broader impacts of research projects, published by NSF in an effort to help us all write stronger proposals.
- The Environmental Protection Agency. (more info) If you're applying to the EPA, be sure to follow their tips on writing a grant proposal. (more info)
- U.S. Geologic Survey, National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Project
- U.S. Department of Education
- U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science
- The American Chemical Society's Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF). The ACS-PRF has starter grants for faculty in their first 3 years.
- The David and Lucile Packard Foundation also offers grants to faculty in their first three years, at a select group of institutions.
- This web page with research funding sources for undergraduate projects may be helpful for funding smaller projects that don't require a large NSF grant.
Successful Proposals written by geoscience faculty members
- American Chemical Society - Petroleum Research Fund (ACS-PRF) proposals
- 2016: Determining initiation conditions for glass ramps: case study at the leading edge of the great Permian spiculite belt. (Acrobat (PDF) 3.5MB Oct19 18) PI: Kathleen Ritterbush, University of Utah.
- 2008: Organic carbon sources and accumulation rates along a regional transect of meromictic lakes, Maine (USA). (Microsoft Word 704kB May15 09) PI: Brad Hubeny, Salem State College. Grant type: UNI.
- 2005: Warm Saline Deep Water Production in the middle Eocene - early Oligocene. (Microsoft Word 967kB Jun1 06) PI: Ellen E. Martin, University of Florida. Grant type: AC.
- 2005: Top down and bottom up: Testing the fidelity of two paleoproductivity proxies in the context of the late Miocene to early Pliocene "biogenic bloom". (Acrobat (PDF) 472kB Jun1 06) PI: Katharina Billups, University of Delaware. Grant type: AC.
- 2005: Development of an Orbital Calcareous Nannofossil Biochronology for the Paleocene to lower Oligocene. (Microsoft Word 658kB Jun1 06) PI: Tim Bralower, Pennsylvania State University. Grant type: AC.
- 2005: Alluvial Facies Architecture and the Role of Climate and Tectonics in Basin-Fan Systems, Death Valley, California. (Acrobat (PDF) 210kB Jun14 06) PI: Jeffrey Knott, California State University, Fullerton. Grant type: B.
- 2004: Developing Late-Holocene Records of Flood-Producing Precipitation Variability from Small Lakes in Southern California (USA). (Acrobat (PDF) 298kB Jun28 06) PI: Matt Kirby, California State University, Fullerton. Grant type: G.
- Department of Education (ED) proposal
- 2006: Teaching the Process of Science. (Microsoft Word 131kB Nov18 10) Awarded within the FIPSE (Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education) program. PIs: Anne Egger, Stanford University, and Anthony Carpi, John Jay College, CUNY. You can also see the results of this grant on the Visionlearning and Teaching the Process of Science websites.
- Department of Transportation (DOT) proposal
- 2004: Highway Flares and Runoff: a Potential Source of Perchlorate to Surface Water? (Microsoft Word 123kB Jan20 06) Rhode Island Transportation Center/Dept. of Transportation. Co-PIs: Tom Boving and Anne Veeger, University of Rhode Island.
- Fulbright NEXUS proposal
- 2011-2012: ENCOMPASS: Collaborative Observatories for Management, Policy, & Science for Society. (Acrobat (PDF) 99kB Jun4 12) PI: Suzanne Pierce, University of Texas at Austin.
- NASA proposals
- 2016: Impact Cratering: The effects of target topography and heterogeneity (Acrobat (PDF) 1.8MB Jul30 18). Awarded within the Solar System Workings program. PI: Jennifer L. B. Anderson (Winona State University); Co-Investigator: Mark J. Cintala (NASA Johnson Space Center); Collaborator: Jeffrey Plescia (John Hopkins Applied Physics Lab)
- 2004: Global Analysis of Grooved Terrain Tectonics on Ganymede. (Acrobat (PDF) 2.1MB Nov8 05) Awarded within the Outer Planets Research Program. PI: Geoffrey Collins, Wheaton College.
- 2000: Volcanic and Tectonic History of the Nemesis Tessera Region on Venus. (Acrobat (PDF) 368kB Nov1 05) Awarded within the Planetary Geology and Geophysics Program. PI: Eric Grosfils, Pomona College.
- National Science Foundation (NSF) proposals, including awards within CAREER, EAR, OCE, ATM, and CCLI (now TUES).
- NOTE: we have so many of these that they are on a separate page. Follow the link above.
- USGS EDMAP proposals
- 2012: Continuation of Bedrock Geologic Mapping of Matinicus Quadrangle. (Acrobat (PDF) 1MB Jun4 12) PI: Martha Growdon, SUNY Oneonta.
- 2004: Detailed Bedrock Mapping in the Swift Run Gap 7.5' Quadrangle, Blue Ridge Province, Virginia. (Acrobat (PDF) 3.6MB Jun14 06) PI: Chuck Bailey, College of William and Mary.
Tips from Early Career Workshop Alums
On finding sources of funding
- I've found that the best approach [to finding funding sources] is to simply ask other folks in your field and other youngish faculty what sources they've been successful with. .... In all, I've found to my pleasant surprise that the funding situation is FAR from bleak, and with a little planning and effort, it's relatively easy to obtain modest amounts of funding for research. I think the trick is to be flexible, look at all sorts of funding agencies instead of getting hung up on NSF, and to prepare a meticulously written proposal that gets sent in well ahead of the deadline. I think it's also useful to be somewhat aware of the funding cycle for the agency in question, and get information directly from the program officer on the specific call for proposals
- Foundation grants often require more input and effort from your university, so your school needs to be supportive of that cause. On the other hand, most of the ones I've come across have little in the way of external reviewers (other than their board members, etc.) so the turnaround time for a decision could be quite good.
On writing grant proposals
- Focus thinking on asking questions rather than trying to answer them. Good questions equal dollars.
- Talk to the NSF project directors personally.
- About grant writing: (1) Ask other people to read and comment on the proposal. (2) Already have something done (if possible published) before writing the proposal so it seems already half done. (3) Be very careful in writing the proposal to avoid upsetting the reviewers - take care to find as many citations as possible and read what they say, give credit where due, and view it as a hypothesis testing' proposal rather than as a 'prove something' proposal.
- Most helpful advice for grant proposals: Start early; have other people read it before it goes (very important); suggest "benevolent" reviewers (i.e. people who you know or who know you).... [P]eople who know you or have at least heard of you will likely give you the benefit of the doubt, whereas people who might be famous in the field but have never heard of you might not.
- In-kind services (e.g., sample analyses) provided by other schools can sometimes count towards tenure as funding you've obtained.
- Make friends with the research office at your school. Hint: the way to do this is by not rushing them at the last minute to sign off on your hastily prepared proposal, but to hand things in well ahead of time. If they like you, they'll keep track of calls for proposals for you.