Capitalize on initial investment
This page was developed by Lisa Limeri (University of Georgia) and Kara Rogers (University of Texas Austin).
CUREs are often initiated with support from a single source of funding such as a grant from the National Science Foundation or pilot funding from administration. These sources are typically not sufficient to fully support the CURE on a continuing basis, so it is critical that CUREs find ways to expand and diversify their funding sources as they grow. Programs in CUREnet have identified various avenues for sustained funding. Depending on the context of the CURE and institution(s), programs have had success in combinations of some or all of these funding and support avenues. A general trend is a shift towards diverse sources so that sustainability of the CURE is not reliant on a single source.
An important piece in establishing continued funding is effectively marketing the CURE by communicating the benefits to stakeholders, funding agencies, and institutional administration.
Examples of CURE Funding Strategies »
Keep costs low
Whenever possible, keeping per-student costs minimal will make it easier to support the CURE in the long term and to justify additional investments by maximizing the impact of funding. This proactive approach can help lower the barrier to continuing a CURE after a grant or other funding ends. In many cases, running a CURE can be less expensive than a corresponding "traditional" lab course! Modular CURE curricula can also allow users to pick and choose portions of the activities that best fit in their financial constraints.
Some fields of research or other methods of implementation are inherently less costly. For example, research that makes use of web-based data collection (e.g., online surveys), computational approaches (e.g., bioinformatics), low-cost model organisms, and pre-existing, freely available datasets can help keep costs low.
CUREs can be designed to capitalize on materials and equipment that the institution already possesses. For example, the Cell Biology Education Consortium, BASIL, and PARE were all designed to use common lab equipment. At high research activity institutions, CUREs can be integrated into pre-existing research labs and take advantage of pre-existing research infrastructure.
Keep instructional costs low by involving students who have completed the CURE previously serve as peer educators or mentors. Sometimes this meets credit requirements for independent study, experiential learning, or teaching practicums that not only keep costs low but return added benefits for the students. Other benefits to peers include being able to continue their research and develop leadership and mentoring skills. This is a common strategy that has been implemented by many CUREs.
Integrate into institutional budget
Costs associated with traditional or inquiry-based labs may be re-appropriated to support the CURE. A benefit of this approach is that these costs are built into the standard operating budget of the institution and thus can be more stable over time. There is huge variety in the ways that institutions fund their lab courses, so the way this can be implemented will vary across institutions. CURE leadership will need to investigate how their particular institution funds lab courses to figure out how to best integrate a CURE into the budget.
If courses are integrated into the curriculum so that they fulfill students' degree requirements, instructional costs associated with them can be covered by the institution's standard operating budget.
Another option is to redirect costs associated with traditional labs to support CURE costs. This works especially well if the CURE was designed to keep costs low. Traditional labs are not free, and, depending on the design, CUREs can cost a similar amount or even less.
When there is strong buy-in from administration, they may set aside funds to support the CURE through other financial mechanisms.
Fundraising & development priority
When administrators support the CURE effort, they can make it a priority in the institution's fundraising and development goals. Some CUREs have been supported by setting up or redirecting an existing endowment.
Another option is to fundraise from institutional donors for the CURE program. This strategy requires strong coordination among administrators, the CURE leadership, and development personnel to align goals and strategize to identify and market to potential donors. One strategy could be to create a menu of funding options that appeal to donors with different capacities. It may also be advisable to generate a wishlist so that "asks" are ready when a funding opportunity presents itself.
When goals of the CURE align with goals of corporations, mutually-beneficial partnerships can be formed. CUREs can solicit donations from relevant industry partners who will gain exposure to future potential business and employees.
Industry-CURE partnerships can also result in research collaborations where corporations can benefit from data-sharing. When pursuing this option, CURE leadership will need to carefully consider intellectual property ownership.
An additional benefit is the alignment of valued skills and expertise and training. That is, students in the CURE are trained with marketable skills and expertise. In turn, corporations have a larger pool of well-qualified, trained scientists nearby.
Continued pursuit of extramural funding
Repeatedly applying for grant funding requires continuous innovation and enhancements to justify continued funding. A benefit of this is that it motivates continuous improvement and innovation.
However, a downside of this approach is that it can be challenging to perpetually depend on extramural funding. This can place the program at risk if the proposal is not funded or if the granting agency discontinues supporting that type of program. One strategy to mitigate these risks is to move towards distributed grant funding. That is, instead of pursing single large grants, pursue multiple smaller grants to support pieces of the CURE initiative.
Other means to support multi-institution efforts
If a CURE grows to many institutions, the home institution may be less willing or able to support a large, multi-institutional effort or it may make more sense to distribute support amongst the sites. Some CURE organizers are finding creative solutions to the multi-institution problem. Two CUREs (GEP and VIP) within CUREnet are beginning to secure non-profit 501c3 status. This will open up new potential avenues for securing funding, including crowd-source methods such as Kickstarter campaigns.