19 Jan 2018

Seven Ways To Boost Your Chances Of Funding

Seven Ways To Boost Your Chances Of Funding

Seasoned researchers and other experts offer advice on how to maximize your chances of getting funding for your research

In these days of high competition for research funding, how can students and early career researchers increase their chances of winning grants? Experienced researchers and program officers offer their advice:

1. Cast a wide net

Explore the full range of grant opportunities in your area. APA, the American Psychological Foundation, and the Social Psychology Network maintain databases of hundreds of grants. Also, check grant funding sources directly, including federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Institute of Education Sciences (IES), and private organizations such as the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York or the Russell Sage Foundation. State psychological associations and honor societies, such as Psi Chi, may also offer funding. Consider both standing opportunities (with deadlines one or more times per year) and one-time opportunities.

Funding is available for researchers at every career stage. For graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, there are fellowships, awards to increase diversity and funding to help young scientists transition to independent research early in their careers. Some of those awards are still available for researchers as they transition to faculty positions. There is also a range of funding, starting with small, pilot grants to test whether a project is feasible and extending to large, highly sought grants that support specific, well-developed research projects. Senior faculty may also apply for training grants that support graduate and postdoctoral educational and research programs.

One way to identify funding opportunities is by following agencies and foundations on social media, says Elizabeth Albro, PhD, the associate commissioner of teaching and learning at the National Center for Education Research in IES. Also, watch for webinars and workshops at scientific conferences that agencies and other funders may offer to help researchers become familiar with different funding opportunities and how to navigate the application process.

Some grant or fellowship applications for graduate students or postdoctoral researchers may require a nomination or support letter from a faculty member. Don't be shy about asking professors to nominate you. More often than not, a mentor will want to write a letter for you. "Your success is their success," says Justin Strickland, a graduate student at the University of Kentucky and chair of the APA's Science Student Council. Once someone agrees to nominate you, give him or her a copy of the award instructions and a current CV to remind them of the research you have done and the activities you have been involved in to help them write an in-depth evaluation of you and your work.

2. Put your research question into context

As you think about writing up your research proposal, remember that you should explain how your research idea relates to and expands upon experiments and theories that have already been published. "We want to see how new research draws from and contributes to psychological theory in an innovative way," says Tamera Schneider, PhD, a program director for social psychology at NSF. To do this successfully, you need to be able to articulate the current state of the field and how your work advances what is already known. You also need to show how the research meets the need of the particular funding organization from which you are requesting money. Research questions that start from a newer theory or model or propose a significant twist to an older one can also give you an edge.

3. Work with the program officer who manages the grant

Program officers at the funding organization can guide you on whether your proposal is a good fit for their grant, says Bonnie Spring, PhD, a psychologist at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. Sending an email with a one-page description of your project — including the question you want to answer, the theories from which the question arises, and your hypotheses and methods — and asking for an honest assessment from the program officer can go a long way toward making sure your proposal matches the call for applications for a grant, says Schneider. Program officers may also give you specific feedback about the scope, originality and feasibility of the research. After an application is evaluated, program officers "can also make recommendations to improve proposals based on our reviewers' insights, which help researchers strengthen their future submissions," Schneider says.

4. Get help from your institution, including your university grants office

Your department may have faculty with strong track records in obtaining grants, and they may have examples of winning applications to share with you. In addition, most research universities have a grants office that can help you plan your application, such as by advising on a timeline and budget for the project. These offices will also work with you to ensure your grant application has the proper sign-offs across the institution and will often submit the application on your behalf.

5. Start well before the deadline

Make sure you have plenty of time to develop a coherent description of your research. Schneider encourages applicants to read their work out loud so they can identify gaps in thinking. "If you read a proposal out loud and have a question, the reader will probably have the same question, too," she says. Once you think you have a strong description, send it to your mentors and colleagues for feedback. Plan for several weeks to develop and refine your application, then several more to get feedback from mentors and colleagues and integrate that into a new draft and more time for a final review before you submit the application. If submitting through your institution's grants office, take note that it might require you to submit the application to the office weeks in advance of the grant deadline.

6. Know your audience

One of the biggest challenges in writing grant applications is communicating your idea in a clear, concise way to reviewers with different areas of expertise. Find out who will be reviewing your application by checking with the program officer. The names of the members of the review panel may be available, or you may be able to find out only the areas of expertise that will be represented. If the panel is made up of researchers in your field, you can be more technical in your research description, Spring says. But if it is an interdisciplinary review panel, be sure you are clearly defining specialized terms and abbreviations.

7. Apply without fear of failure

Often, students won't apply for grants because they have pre-rejected themselves, says Aaron Benjamin, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "They are afraid of being laughed at for their ideas," he says. But almost no graduate student or early career psychologist wins the biggest and best awards on the first try. Of course, not succeeding can be disappointing, but there can be a silver lining: You may get the benefit of a constructive critique of your proposal and an invitation to revise and resubmit it. Plus, learning how to cope with rejection is a key part of growing as a researcher. "If you're not experiencing at least occasional rejection, you're not stretching far enough," Spring says.

For a list of funding opportunities from APA, state psychological associations, private foundations and government entities, visit www.apa.org/education/grad/funding.aspx.

By Ashley Yeager

This article was featured in the July/August 2017 Monitor on Psychology

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13 Mar 2017

Where to Find Government Grants for Psychologists

Where to Find Government Grants for Psychologists

The government, with its relatively large budget, is still a good source of funding for researchers. Here are some government institutions that give out a significant number of grants suitable for psychologists. We've also included some grants obtainable from private institutions and non-profits.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

In FY 2016, NIH invested approximately $32.3 billion in medical research. NIH provides financial support in the form of grants to enhance health, promote healthy lives, and reduce the burdens of illness and disabilities. Researchers in the psychology field would fall into these categories.

You don’t have to be an esteemed scientist for NIH to give you money. NIH supports scientists at various stages in their careers, from predoctoral students on research training grants to investigators with extensive experience who run large research centers. NIH is committed to supporting New and Early Stage Investigator (ESIs), a category that includes early career researchers who are 10 years out from having completed their research degree.

NIH awards more than 80% of its budget in 50,000 competitive grants to more than 300,000 researchers at over 2,500 universities, medical schools, and research institutions. The average success rate of NIH grant proposals is about 19%, a percentage that has held steady for 10 years.

NIH funds several types of grants, including Career Development Awards (“K series” grants) for early career research scientists committed to research and newly trained clinicians; Resource Grants, which are “used in a wide variety of ways to provide resources to research projects or to enhance research infrastructure”; and Research and Training Fellowships, which provide research training opportunities to undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral trainees. These also provide the unique opportunity to receive funding for research training during off-quarters or summer periods to encourage research careers and/or research in areas of national need.

Here is more information on NIH competitive grants: https://grants.nih.gov/grants/oer.htm.

NIH also offers writing tips, a helpful 10 step process for the grant application process, and more helpful information about getting a grant.

And, here is some good advice for NIH grant applicants, straight out of APA.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA)

While SAMHSA does not offer many grants for individuals (grants are usually offered for the purposes of institutions), early career psychologists can apply, representing their organizations, if they are using the grants to provide community services.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

NSF funds research and education in most fields of science, including Social and Behavioral Sciences, and receives thousands of applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

NSF receives approximately 40,000 proposals each year for research, education and training projects, and funds approximately 25% of the proposals, a percentage that has increased over the past few years. In addition, the Foundation receives several thousand applications for graduate and postdoctoral fellowships.

You can find general listings for NSF grants here, listings for funding opportunities specifically for grad students here, and funding for postdoctoral fellows here.

Health and Human Services (HHS)

According to its website, HHS distributes the largest amount of grant funding of any Federal agency. While most HHS grant funds are given to States, approximately 32,800 grants were awarded to nongovernment agencies. Career psychologists who do not work for government agencies can apply for grants, on behalf of their employer. You can see available opportunities for individuals by visiting grants.gov and selecting “Individuals” in the “eligibility” section.

HHS also provides helpful tips for writing grant proposals.

More Government Agencies

For other government agencies, you can register as an individual to apply for grants that go directly to researchers, not institutions, at grants.gov, which is a centralized location where government agencies list their grant opportunities.

You can also learn more about navigating the grant application processes here.  

The government agencies that currently list available grants for research opportunities include the following: Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); Department of Justice (USDOJ), which offers research opportunities related to violence that could easily relate to social science; Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Search for grants here. APA also keeps a very helpful list of government grants here.

Other Grant Opportunities

The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation awards grants for research, specifically in the mental health field, to researchers at various career stages: the NARSAD Young Investigator Grant, which supports researchers at the postdoctoral level or the assistant professor level, for up to $35,000 a year for a maximum of two years; the NARSAD Independent Investigator Grant, which supports scientists at the associate professor level for up to $50,000/year for a maximum of two years; and the NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Grant, which grants full professors up to $100,000 for one year.

The William T. Grant Foundation offers grants to support research in the area of human behavior, ranging from $100,000 to $1 million, for applicants employed at tax-exempt organizations. These grants are specifically given for research related to youth services.

Newton’s List also offers a list of grant opportunities for researchers interested in international research.

The American Association of State Colleges and Universities also has a list of current grant opportunities.

Another good place to look is the APA's scholarship, grant and award database, located here. This is a great location to find research funding, grants and scholarships awarded by APA and other psychology-related organizations.

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08 Mar 2017

Fellowship Opportunities at APA and Beyond

Fellowship Opportunities at APA and Beyond

Fellowships provide funding, support research, and enable researchers to study at desirable places while gaining great field experience. Fellowships are also hard to find. So, we’ve found some for you, listed below.

APA Congressional Program

  • Description: APA's Congressional Fellowship Program places fellows as staffers for a member of Congress or as Congressional Committee staffers for one year.
  • Why it’s great: This program provides psychologists with an invaluable public policy learning experience and an opportunity to contribute to the effective use of psychological knowledge in government. This program also broadens awareness about the value of psychologist-government collaboration within the federal government.

APA Executive Branch Science Fellowship Program

  • Description: The APA Executive Branch Science Fellowship Program places a psychological scientist in a federal executive branch agency with a science-related mission for one year.
  • Why it’s great: The fellowship offers placement in esteemed national agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense, the Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Academy, and provides additional learning opportunities through a science and public policy seminar series administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and APA.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services (MHSAS) Fellowship

  • Description: With grant support of $793,978 per year from SAMHSA, this fellowship is offered by APA’s Minority Fellowship Program, and provides financial support, mentoring, and professional development for 24 doctoral fellows and one postdoctoral fellow per year.
  • Why it’s great: The MHSAS Fellowship is designed to support the training of future practitioners in behavioral health services and prevention, and provides potential leaders with specialized experience in providing direct services or developing policy for ethnic and racial minority communities.

APA Services for Transition Age Youth (STAY) Fellowship

  • Description: The STAY Fellowship receives grant support of $532,000 per year from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Association (SAMHSA) for funding, mentoring, and professional development of up to 40 fellows at the master’s level per year.
  • Why it’s great: The STAY Fellowship is uniquely designed for students in terminal master’s programs in psychology whose training prepares them to provide mental health services to transition age youth (ages 16 through 25) and their families.

Elizabeth Munsterberg Koppitz Child Psychology Graduate Student Fellowship

  • Description: Sponsored by the American Psychological Foundation (APF), the fellowship awards $25,000 for graduate students in child psychology.
  • Why it’s great: Not only does the fellowship provide development opportunities for students who are in the process of shaping their careers in various areas of psychology, but it also provides support for scholarly work that contributes to the advancement of psychology.

Summer Science Fellowship

  • Description: The APA Summer Undergraduate Psychology Research Experience Grants program offers up to five grants to college and university departments to support undergraduate research assistantships in psychology laboratories for six to eight weeks during the summer to provide undergraduate students with research experiences.
  • Why it’s great: This fellowship is uniquely designed to provide undergraduate students who have little or no prior laboratory experience with the opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of how scientific research is conducted.

While students themselves are not able to apply directly for an opportunity grant, APA makes it very easy to forward the grant announcement to teachers or department chairs and request that their school participates. APA provides funds to pay each student at the institution’s current rate of pay for undergraduate research assistants.

APAGS/Psi Chi Junior Scientist Fellowship

  • Description: The Junior Scientist Fellowship provides support for students in the early stages of a research-oriented graduate program with funding for a research project so they can gain research experience.
  • Why it’s great: In addition to providing research experience, the fellowship also serves to increase recipients’ chances of securing a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowship in the future.

Here are a few fellowships that are offered outside of APA that might be of interest as well:

APA-IUPSYS Global Mental Health Fellowship

  • Description: The APA-IUPsyS Global Mental Health Fellowship enables psychologists to contribute to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, for one year. Fellows focus on issues related to the WHO Mental Health Action Plan following an orientation period at WHO headquarters in Geneva.
  • Why it’s great: The fellowship provides a unique opportunity for a psychologist to contribute to WHO’s work and be involved with international mental health policy and implementation.

The Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health’s Predoctoral Fellowship in Gender, Sexuality and Health

  • Description: The predoctoral fellowship, funded by a training grant award from the National Institute of Child Health and Development, Population Dynamics Branch, offers PhD applicants who are planning on entering doctoral training programs in the fall substantial funding, guaranteed for up to five years.
  • Why it’s great: The predoctoral fellowship is the nation’s first multidisciplinary doctoral training program in gender, sexuality, and health, and is designed to prepare students for research and teaching careers focusing on the role of gender and sexuality in shaping reproductive and sexual health, both nationally and globally.

Jacquelin Goldman Congressional Fellowship

  • Description: The fellowship offers up to $90,000 to developmental and clinical psychologists with existing experience working with children for the enhancement and promotion of psychologist-government interaction among psychologists and within the federal government.
  • Why it’s great: Fellows with an interest in public policy related to the psychological development of children will gain an unparalleled learning experience, attending a two-week orientation program on congressional and executive branch operations and participating in a yearlong seminar series on science and public policy issues.

Here are some other policy-related fellowships to consider:

James Marshall Public Policy Fellowship (Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues (SPSSI)

  • Description: This postdoctoral congressional fellowship provides the opportunity to apply psychological research to the analysis of social and science policy. Fellows enjoy access to a range of AAAS Fellowship professional development opportunities and support throughout the fellowship year and beyond.
  • Why it’s great: Knowledge of policy processes at the national level is “desirable” but not required, which means candidates who are interested in policy but don’t have a lot of experience in the policy field still have a chance.

The Dalmas Taylor Memorial Summer Minority Policy Fellowship

  • Description: The fellowship, jointly hosted by APA, provides graduate students of color with an opportunity to work on public policy issues for two to three months each summer in Washington, D.C.
  • Why it’s great: This fellowship is perfect for grad students who have committed to a career with a focus on ethnic minority issues.

Special Note: All applicants for the Dalmas Taylor Fellowship are strongly encouraged to apply for the APA Minority Fellowship Program Summer Institute.  Preference will be given to applicants who apply to both!

Society for Research in Child Development Policy Fellowships

  • Description: The SRCD offers both congressional and executive branch fellowships for postdoctoral scholars from a variety of disciplines who demonstrate exceptional competence in an area of child development research.
  • Why it’s great: Fellows are offered access to staff members of the SRCD Office for Policy and Communications in Washington to be used as a resource throughout the year. Following the fellowship, fellows move on to a wide variety of careers in academia, public policy, or research.

Capitol City Fellowship Program

  • Description: Graduates of master’s degree programs are placed in city agencies to participate in public policy making at the local level, and are given the opportunity to meet with city officials during the fellowship.
  • Why it’s great: The program simultaneously prepares fellows for government public service at the local level, and develops their management abilities.

Leaders for Health Equity

  • Description: This is a new fellowship program for early career health-care professionals offered by The George Washington University and funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies, with a focus on health disparities, designed to develop leaders in the advancement of health equity.
  • Why it’s great: The fellowship combines traditional in-person and online learning, and helps students build comprehensive knowledge of national and global health disparities.

Public Health Fellowship in Government

  • Description: Offered by the American Public Health Association, this fellowship offers placement in the House or Senate, and fellows are given the opportunity to work on legislative and policy issues such as creating healthy communities; improving health equity; and addressing environmental health concerns, population health or the social determinants of health.
  • Why it’s great: Fellows receive the opportunity to enhance public health science and practical knowledge in government.

Robert Wood Johnson Health Policy Fellows Program

  • Description: This fellowship offers mid-career health professionals and behavioral and social scientists who are interested in federal health policy with an opportunity to work directly with health policy leaders.
  • Why it’s great: More than 250 RWJF fellows have participated in the policy process at the federal level and have applied that leadership experience to the improvement of the health-care system, public health and health policy.

White House Fellowship Program

  • Description: This fellowship provides early career professionals who hold a record of achievement and leadership with the opportunity to work with White House career staff and with Cabinet members. White House fellows typically spend a year as full-time, paid assistants to senior White House staff, the Vice President, Cabinet Secretaries and other top-ranking government officials.
  • Why it’s great: The mission of the program is for fellows to return to their former or new occupations more experienced in public policy decision-making and better prepared to contribute to national affairs.

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09 Feb 2017

Create a Crowdfunding Platform For Your Research

Create a Crowdfunding Platform For Your Research

Crowdfunding is an increasingly popular way to garner support for all types of fundraising efforts, including academic research. Not only does crowdfunding expand your funding options beyond scarce school resources and competitive grants, it also typically increases the visibility of your research, which can lead to additional support. Creating a crowdsourcing platform for your research study can facilitate connections with established researchers in your field and attract interested volunteers to assist you with your research.

Through crowdfunding, researchers can also increase community participation in their research, not only through donations and gift giving, but also by providing the public with a learning experience. Researchers at the University of Western Australia (UWA) have connected with the public through their crowdsourcing efforts via an innovative partnership with chuffed.org, a website that hosts funding campaigns for organizations and individuals dedicated to social causes. UWA students use chuffed.org as a social networking space devoted to their research projects. UWA’s alliance with chuffed.org enables the public to donate to research fundraising campaigns very easily, as the established website provides tax receipts and offers a secure payment option for donors.

Although having a partnership such as UWA and chuffed.org is beneficial, students can raise funds on their own. It is not necessary for your school to partner with an established crowdfunding site for you to use crowdfunding to cover the cost of your research. In fact, according to Dr. Campbell Thompson, Director of the Office of Research Enterprise at UWA, the success of research project funding is ultimately determined by the researcher’s own connections, rather than the collaboration between UWA and chuffed.org. “Students at UWA are expected (and encouraged) to take advantage of their own contacts through additional social networking methods [Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.] to increase their fundraising potential,” says Dr. Thompson.

One researcher did exactly that. After receiving donations from family, friends, and strangers, she was able to finance an important part of her research. “A total of 73 people backed our campaign, and I’m immensely grateful to each and every person who donated, shared, and supported us. A little over a week ago, I was finally able to conduct the fieldwork,” she writes on her chuffed.org page.

To begin crowdfunding for your research, you should first set a fundraising goal. For example, a Principal Investigator decided on a fundraising goal by calculating the cost of financial compensation for an assistant, paid at a fair daily rate, to maintain the ecosystem they monitored for their research. At UWA, researchers using chuffed.org usually set a goal of $10,000–$15,000, and the average donation is $50. Their most successful project raised $40,000. You should also offer “perks” for donors as incentives. For example, at a certain amount, a donor would receive an acknowledgment in a research paper, a T-shirt, or a tour of a research site.

Whether you use your school’s resources, a crowdfunding site like chuffed.org, or your personal social networking presence as tools for fundraising, follow the lead of UWA researchers and start creating a crowdfunding platform for your research.

Ready to get started? Take a look at these crowdfunding platforms.

In the comments section below, share how you’ve covered the cost of your research projects with us!

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09 Dec 2016

Consider an Alternative Funding Method for Your Research

Consider an Alternative Funding Method for Your Research

The cost of research can be high, and funding opportunities for research studies are competitive. With the ever-growing presence of crowdfunding resources on the Internet, for purposes ranging from creative projects to personal medical expenses, why not take advantage of crowdfunding for academic research? Here are a few venues for this alternative method of research funding:


Experiment.com, an internet crowdfunding source for the specific purpose of scientific research, comprises a community of over 66,000 members and a display of over 60 experiments. This resource remains available to anyone who wishes to submit a study for the public solicitation of donations.

Experiment.com boasts a success rate of 48%, and shares stories (and data results) of research projects that have been successfully completed after having raised all of the necessary funding.


Chuffed.org hosts funding campaigns for organizations and charities devoted to social causes. Why not post your own research project to solicit funding? If you are able to communicate a clear outcome for your research funding purpose, you will likely be eligible to run a campaign on Chuffed.org.

According to Chuffed.org, the site’s campaigns raise an average of $7,000, and their largest campaign to date raised $345,000.

Unlike most crowdfunding sites, Chuffed.org does not charge any fees for campaigns. Donors pay the processing fees for their donation, at no cost to you. Also, Chuffed.org allows you to keep your funds, even if you don’t hit your fundraising goal. Partial funding for research can go a long way!

#SciFund Challenge

#SciFund Challenge not only provides a crowdfunding platform specifically for the funding of research, but also offers a wide range of resources, such as tools for outreach to publicize your research.

In 2014, #SciFund Challenge enjoyed a success rate of almost 70% for their funded projects. [1]

While many #SciFund Challenge projects are ecologically oriented, there is no rule that states they all must be. Anyone with a research project in the social sciences may sign up for their free newsletters, informational service, and crowdfunding resources.

If you are considering submitting proposals for research funding, visit https://experiment.com/, http://www.chuffed.org, or https://scifundchallenge.org/ to view their terms and regulations to see if these innovative alternative methods of funding work for you!

[1] Faulkes Z. #SciFund round 4 analysis. 2014. http://scifundchallenge.org/blog/2014/03/18/scifund-round-4-analysis/.

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07 Dec 2016

When Funding Dries Up

When Funding Dries Up

In an era of tightening budgets, grad students are increasingly at risk for losing university support.

Nicole Strange can almost see the finish line. Her dissertation committee just approved her proposal, and she's applying for internships. She's just a year or two from completing her doctorate in counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky. But for the first time in her academic career, she's thinking about dropping out. Why? She has exhausted all sources of funding.

She managed to find a practicum position that pays $15,000 a year, but it doesn't offer tuition or insurance benefits. She applied for three dissertation grants and two tuition fellowships. One of the grants came through, but paid only $360. Strange already spends 50 to 60 hours a week on her practicum, classes, dissertation and internship applications, so another part-time job is out of the question. So is taking on more debt. Her credit cards are maxed out, her student loans total $148,000 and she has run out of options to borrow more.

"I didn't think money would derail my education," she says. "I don't know what to do."

Strange isn't alone. As schools across the country grapple with dwindling budgets, many grad students are losing their teaching assistantships and watching as other funding sources dry up. Given these harsh realities, even students who feel relatively secure in their funding may want to consider searching for outside support and trumpeting the value they bring to their departments, says Nabil Hassan El-Ghoroury, PhD, APAGS associate executive director.

"The recession definitely hit graduate students," El-Ghoroury adds. "But students can be proactive; there are preventive things to do."

The big picture

Today's financial woes are bad enough. But beginning in July, graduate students will no longer be eligible for subsidized Stafford loans, in which the government pays interest while the student is enrolled full time. This is a serious change — $10,000 borrowed in year one of graduate school, at 6.8 percent interest, could grow to nearly $14,000 after five years of graduate school.

Plus, several other federal funding sources for grad students will be slashed. For instance, the McNair Scholars program, which helps minority students to pursue doctoral degrees, lost $10 million of its $46.2 million budget last summer, and the Jacob K. Javits Fellowship program, which funds doctoral studies in psychology and other disciplines, was canceled.

But the news isn't all bad. Graduate students and other APA members worked with the APA Education Directorate to keep the Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) program, the only source of federal funding exclusively for psychology training, safe from the federal budget ax. APAGS officers and others attending the 2012 Education Leadership Conference conducted hundreds of meetings on Capitol Hill to ask for lawmakers' support. Thanks in part to their efforts, Congress maintained level funding for the GPE program at about $3 million.

In addition to the Education Leadership Conference, students also can learn more about advocacy at APA's State Leadership Conference, by getting involved with state psychological associations and by attending APAGS programming at the APA Annual Convention, says APAGS Chair-elect Jennifer Doran.

Doran, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at the New School for Social Research, encourages graduate students to write, call or even visit their elected representatives to discuss funding issues. "They really do listen," Doran says. "Students have a really powerful voice."

Coping with cuts

When funding evaporates, students should consider non-traditional avenues, says El-Ghoroury. Options could include searching for jobs outside of your department and using social media. "Letting people know 'I lost my funding and I need a part-time job' is a real way to access resources you might otherwise not have thought of," he says.

You may not want to connect with supervisors on Facebook or other personal social networking sites, but be sure to connect on LinkedIn, El-Ghoroury says. "Because it's business-related, it's really appropriate," he says. "Sometimes funding opportunities come up that may not be publicized," so having that connection with a supervisor could give you an inside track.

It also helps to find your own funding sources, says El-Ghoroury. "Apply for national grants and training grants, and be on the lookout for adjunct positions with supplemental funding," he says. You might also want to search APA's website for grants, scholarships and other awards.

Third-year doctoral student Julia Kearney* knows that graduate funding is never guaranteed, but she didn't expect to find that out the hard way. When she lost her counseling psychology teaching assistantship earlier this year, school officials told her it was because dwindling enrollment had cut revenue. Now Kearney is weighing her options to make up the $12,000 in lost funding. She's thinking about cashing in retirement funds she saved before starting her doctoral degree. "I'll try to go as long as possible before I do that," she notes.

In the meantime, she has applied for adjunct teaching jobs at community colleges. But few are closer than an hour's drive away. "Then it would become a push, with how low adjunct pay rates are and the high price of gas," she says.

Sometimes, students can avoid getting hit by budget cuts by promoting themselves within their department, says Doran. "Advocate for why you're a good student and a good researcher," she says. "If one student gets funding in your program, you need to be able to make a case for yourself to be that student." Don't be hesitant to tell your advisor or mentor about financial difficulties. "They don't always realize your situation," Doran adds.

Finally, be aware of the funding climate at your school. If you're at a state university with severe budget problems, it's probably time to start lining up new funding sources. That's especially important for advanced grad students, because assistantships tend to go to students who are just beginning their graduate training.

"If you're a more advanced student, get those grants or get an adjunct position at a local college," he says. "At least have something in your back pocket."

*Name changed to protect privacy.

By Rebecca Voelker

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07 Dec 2016

Secrets for Securing Research Funding

Secrets for Securing Research Funding

Apply early — and often — for success in funding your research as a graduate student, experts say.

It's no easy feat to find research money in today's arid funding climate. But there are funding sources that students might not know about — and tapping into them is a great way to impress your advisors and future employers.

"Securing your own funding — be it through a research grant or fellowship — shows that you have the capacity to be an independent researcher," says University of Iowa psychology doctoral student Edmarie Guzman-Velez, recipient of a National Science Foundation (NSF) graduate research fellowship to conduct memory and emotion research on people with Alzheimer's disease.

The ability to bring in their own grant money also changes students' relationships with their advisors, allowing for more peer-based interactions and discussions, says Bruna Martins, a doctoral psychology student at the University of Southern California, who has also secured an NSF fellowship.

"It really gives you the opportunity to pursue something that might not align perfectly with the research goals of your lab," Martins says.

Sounds great, right? So how do you procure this money?

Start early

Students should begin identifying potential grants before they are even eligible to apply, advises APAGS Assistant Director Eddy Ameen, PhD. "That way, you can shape your research pathway so that it crosses a few potential funding streams."

In addition, Martins notes, developing your grant-writing skills early in your graduate career gives you more time to hone your abilities and your research story, which will likely lead to more success.

"Starting off is the hardest part," she says. "Getting your feet wet is a great way to get that process started and to start mastering the art of writing grants."

Do your research

It may surprise you to learn there are scores of research funding sources for graduate students — as long as you know where to look. For starters, check in with your department and university. These internal opportunities offer an excellent way to begin applying for grants and credentials en route to "meatier" awards from the federal government.

Also, be sure to ask your school's grant/fellowship office about other grants and fellowships they know of, Martins says.

"This is often a little-known resource on campuses, and the officers there are so knowledgeable, not only about the existence of grants and fellowships but also the procedure and things to keep in mind, as well as what the mission of some of these grants are, which is really important," she says. "Then you can write your application with that in mind."

In addition, APA, the American Psychological Foundation and several other affiliated organizations offer grants.

Listservs, including those of APA divisions, state psychology associations and other more specialized organizations, can also be a great way to find potential funding sources, says Ana Hernández Kent, a doctoral psychology student at St. Louis University and member of the APAGS Science subcommittee.

"Their emails often include grant and other funding opportunities and give helpful information such as deadlines and who should apply," she says.

Follow the instructions

Guzman-Velez still cringes when recalling a friend who had a stellar application for an NSF fellowship but was automatically disqualified after submitting her references in nine-point font, when the instructions required nothing smaller than 10-point font.

"They didn't even look at her application," she says.

Martins cautions that every step of the grant process is a test of a student's ability to be detail-oriented as a researcher, so it's important to find out as much as you can about the rules of the grants you're after.

"It's the first litmus test for the people who will be judging your grant," she says. "They need to know that you're very invested in it and that you're going to follow the instructions that they set forth diligently and not think you're beyond the rules."

Reach out

Making connections with more senior graduate students — particularly those who have received the grant you're applying for — can also be a key factor in helping you strengthen your application, says Mike Sladek, an NSF graduate research fellow and developmental psychology graduate student at Arizona State University. Ask what they did, how soon they started writing their grants and what they think helped them succeed, Martins says. If they're willing to share their application with you, it can be a great way to better understand the components that may lead to success. And definitely ask them to be part of your review team when it's time to finalize and proof your application, Sladek says.

Get personal

Your cover letter is your chance to showcase your career as a scientist, and specificity is key, says Guzman-Velez. As a grant reviewer for APAGS, she says she's constantly seeing cover letters telling her that the applicant is a promising student, without providing evidence to back up that statement.

Martins agrees, and encourages students to avoid vague descriptions about themselves, such as, "I have a passion for science," which don't give the readers a true sense of who you are and why you're qualified for the award.

"We all have a passion for science," she says. "Most of the people who are applying for the grant will use that kind of language, so be concrete and really spell out who you are and what your background is. It gives you a step up relative to the other applicants."

Showcase the fit

In addition to describing who you are as a scientist, your cover letter should convince the reader that your research goals are in line with the grant maker's mission and goals.

"You're trying to tell a story about who you are as an applicant, what you envision in terms of your relationship with this grant institution and then show them how the fit is great and that you are ready to perform this project that you're proposing," Martins says.

Go outside your field of study

Have your application reviewed by your advisor, other faculty who may have experience with the particular grant, and other graduate students, Sladek says.

"It's also not a bad idea to get feedback from scholars outside of your area of study," he says. "They should be able to follow your application just as well as someone familiar with your research area."

Be sure to factor in this extra review time from the start.

"If your mentor usually takes a week to get back to you, make sure you give him or her a few weeks to review your application," Guzman-Velez says. "It's not only the writing part that you have to keep in mind, but also the back-and-forth between you and your advisor, so that you can get your application as polished as possible."

Don't give up

Persistence is key in grant writing, Guzman-Velez says.

"I applied for NSF my first year in grad school and didn't get it, but I used the feedback I received from them to strengthen my application and then in my second year, I was awarded the grant," she says.

And rejection is simply part of the process, Martins says, making it important to develop a thick skin early on.

"Getting practice with dealing with no and understanding that it's not personal and moving on from that builds your emotional resilience as a scientist," she says.

By Amy Novotney

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07 Dec 2016

Grant Writing 101

Grant Writing 101

How to craft a grant that could boost your career prospects.

When Thomas Eissenberg, PhD, gives the first lecture of his grant-writing course for grad students, he asks his students how many plan to become professional writers. "Nobody raises their hands," says Eissenberg, a professor of psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University. "That's too bad, because as a scientist, you'll be writing for a living."

Grant writing is a necessary part of life for many psychologists. If you plan a career in research, knowing how to find funding is key. But even psychologists who plan to go into practice benefit from grant-writing skills, says John G. Borkowski, PhD, a psychology professor at the University of Notre Dame. "A student going into an applied mental health career might very well have to apply for grants," he says. Someone working in community mental health, for instance, might seek funding for outreach programs from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the state mental health agency.

No matter where your interests lie, it's never too early to familiarize yourself with the grant-writing process. "You're going to be doing it," says Eissenberg, "and you need to excel at it."

Special skills

If your university offers a grant-writing course, you should sign up, Eissenberg says. Just as writing a manuscript is completely different from writing a newspaper article or a novel, grant writing, too, is its own beast — and it's a tough skill to teach yourself. "It's not something that can be done in a list of 10 tips," he says.

Your mentor and other experienced faculty are also an invaluable resource. Ask if you can read their grants, or even offer to help your mentor write or edit a section. "Be your own advocate, and ask to see your mentor's grant proposals," says Amber Story, PhD, the deputy director of the Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences at the National Science Foundation (NSF). "Grant writing is a collaborative process and being part of it early gets you a big leg up," she says.

Luckily, most psychology grad students aren't expected to come up with the funds to cover their entire dissertation research costs. Often, they're covered by departmental funds or grants awarded to their mentors. Once you start planning your own research projects, however, it's a good idea to start thinking about grants.

Talk to your advisor and your university's grant office for information on available funding, both internal and external. (See "Grant Resources" in the box below for more information on locating grant opportunities.)

The U.S. government is the biggest source of research funding for scientists. In fiscal year 2012, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) awarded more than $21 billion in research grants, plus another $772 million in training grants. The NSF, meanwhile, awarded more than $6.7 billion for research support, equipment and education.

For psychology graduate students, among the most coveted awards are the NIH's Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellows, known as the F31. This training grant helps cover the cost of your education — and it looks great on your resume, says Eissenberg. The NSF also offers a Graduate Research Fellowship.

After you've finished your degree, the Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Postdoctoral Fellowships, or F32, are similarly prestigious grants that can help you land a great postdoc position. Ideally, you should apply for this grant during your dissertation year. At NSF, the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate offers SBE Postdoctoral Research Fellowships along two tracks — broadening participation and interdisciplinary training. Many smaller grants are also available to students and early-career scientists, both through the government and private foundations, including the American Psychological Foundation.

Your best foot forward

So you found a grant to apply for. Now what? First, make sure it's the right fit, Story says. The NSF and NIH have program officers to assist in the proposal process. They can help you make sure your idea is appropriate for a particular grant or funding agency before you write up the entire application.

"Write a few paragraphs about your project, email it to the program officer and ask for a phone call to discuss it," Story advises. "Call early to save yourself the time and grief."

And then make sure your application is watertight. To do that, say experts:

  • Know your audience. Different agencies and programs have different procedures, requirements and funding missions, says Story. Make sure you know the priorities of the agency you're applying to.
  • Take your time. It can be tempting to rush to get a proposal out when you see an opportunity. But if you don't budget enough time for your application, it shows, says Molly Wagster, PhD, the chief of the Behavioral and Systems Neuroscience Branch at the NIH's National Institute on Aging. For all NIH grants, applicants may only revise and resubmit their proposal once, she says. If you don't put in a stellar effort in the first place, you're doing yourself a big disservice.
  • Pay attention to detail. Make sure your nouns agree with your verbs. Use spell check. Follow the submission guidelines exactly. "A sloppy proposal does give reviewers pause," Story says. "If you're not conscientious enough to take care with the proposal, how conscientious are you as a researcher?"
  • Be concise and clear. Have a compelling theoretical framework, and make sure your experiments will clearly test the hypothesis you've derived from that framework, Story says. "Those links have to be crystal clear." And don't forget that grant reviewers are mostly volunteer scientists and faculty members with busy full-time jobs, Eissenbeg adds. Make it easy for them to keep reading. "If your application isn't focused, you'll lose your audience very quickly."
  • Cover the bases. Some predoctoral grants require information about the applicant's training plan as well as his or her research plan. Sometimes applicants focus their energy on their research plans but give their training plans short shrift, Wagster says. Include details, such as how and when you'll be interacting with your primary mentor, and clearly describe your training timeline.
  • Rein it in. Being overly ambitious is a common problem, says Eissenberg. "Don't try to do too much. If the review committee senses a project can't be done in the time allotted and with the money requested, they can't possibly give you a good score," he says.
  • Show you care. Too often, applicants don't fully convey their enthusiasm, Eissenberg says. "Communicating passion for your idea counts for a lot."
  • Ask for help. Enlist your mentor or another colleague to read your application and offer critiques. Don't submit an application that hasn't been looked at by another set of eyes, says Borkowski.
  • Don't get discouraged. In fiscal year 2012, fewer than 20 percent of applicants to the NIH were awarded grants. The NSF success rate was less than 25 percent. Rejection is part of the process, even for experienced investigators. Hang in there. "Don't put the application in a drawer and leave it there. Build on it, resubmit it or submit it somewhere else," Borkowski says. "The first no is just the beginning to getting a yes."

A creative process

Submitting a polished application is obviously essential. But there are other steps you can take to make yourself attractive to grant committees. For instance, start publishing as early as possible.

"Publications show your past track record," says Borkowski. "Funding agencies want to give money to someone they can trust."

Also keep in mind current funding trends. Lately, Borkowski says, some funding agencies are particularly keen on research that explores the biological basis of behavior, as well as bench-to-bedside research that connects basic science to real-world problems. Interdisciplinary science is also highly prized by funding agencies, Eissenberg adds.

That said, don't contort your interests to make your research fit the latest funding fashions. Ultimately, your enthusiasm for an idea is what will make you successful both as a researcher and a grant writer. "If you're passionate about an idea, that's what's going to drive you forward," Eissenberg says.

Above all, don't be afraid of writing grant applications. The process isn't just about scoring dollars. It's also a way to hone your ideas.

"Grant writing should be a creative process," says Eissenberg — a chance to figure out how to solve a puzzle that intrigues you. "At least until you get to the budget stage and have reality hit, you have a question you want to answer and all the resources in the world to try to answer it," he adds. "It's an exciting enterprise, and you should want to write a grant."

By Kirsten Weir

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02 Dec 2016

PsycIQ Quick Links: External Funding Sources

PsycIQ Quick Links: External Funding Sources

There are several external sources you can use for scholarships, expenses, funding, and awards for your research—and we’ve found them!

National Institute of Mental Health

  • Description: The National Institute of Mental Health provides several opportunities for funding research, training and career development and clinical trails through grants and research contracts.
  • Why It’s Great: Funding opportunities, listed by type, are displayed right at the top of the page, with program announcements and easy access to requests for applications.

National Science Foundation

  • Description: NSF provides funding opportunities for graduate students and postdocs, as well as educational development opportunities.
  • Why It’s Great: You can search for recent opportunities, or search by field, and find application/proposal guides, timelines, and contact information.

Brain and Behavior Research Foundation

  • Description: The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation provides awards and three types of Investigator Grants to support mental health research.
  • Why It’s Great: Easily searchable, detailed description of awards, purposes and eligibility and timeline of application process.

Mental Health Research Association

  • Description: A detailed list of priority areas, all in the mental health field, which MIRA accepts grant proposals for research project funding.
  • Why It’s Great: Direct links provide easy access to grant applications.

William T. Grant Foundation

  • Description: Research grants, career development programs for early-career researchers, and fellowships.
  • Why It’s Great: The foundation provides an actual database of funding! Also, a search engine is available, which holds an exhaustive list of grants, eligibility requirements and application guides.

This list will continue to grow as we add more outside funding opportunities. We’d love to hear about any opportunities you’ve been able to find! Please contact us to forward any research funding opportunities you’ve seen!

APA has some funding opportunities worth considering. Learn more >>

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28 Jul 2016

PsycIQ Quick Links: APA Funding Sources

PsycIQ Quick Links: APA Funding Sources

APA has a number of resources to help you find scholarships, funding, and awards for your work—and we've assembled them all in one place!

APA Scholarship, Grants and Awards Search Tool

  • Description: APA and its affiliate organizations provide a wide range of grants, scholarships and awards with the aim of advancing the science and practice of psychology as a means of understanding behavior and promoting health, education, and human welfare.
  • Why It's Great: Wide range of search criteria, including topics, sponsors, funding type, recipient classification, and deadline range.

American Psychological Foundation Funding

  • Description: The American Psychological Foundation is seeking to seed innovation through supporting projects and programs that use psychology to solve social problems. APF grants align with our mission of enhancing psychology to elevate the human condition and advance human potential. We offer grants for early career funding and seed grants for research and for targeted programs.
  • Why It's Great: Segmented presentation of awards by type and career phase, plus more robust search available.

APA Science Directorate Awards, Honors & Research Funding

  • Description: Each year, the Science Directorate honors researchers, students and departments in psychology through various awards and honors programs. The awards are intended for researchers from all subdisciplines of psychological science and contribute to our overall mission: to communicate, facilitate, promote and represent psychological science and scientists.
  • Why It's Great: APA awards segmented specifically for scientists and researchers, plus monthly updates sharing the latest federal research funding opportunities.

APA Public Interest Directorate Scholarships, Grants and Awards

  • Description: APA's Public Interest Directorate offers funding in many forms, from monetary awards to grants – for a wide variety of use, such as opportunities for early career research proposals, training, and conference attendance.
  • Why It's Great: Funding opportunities are listed by type, with links to more detailed descriptions of each opportunity available and a list of previous awardees.

APAGS Scholarships, Grants and Awards

  • Description: APAGS offers its members travel and training grants, research scholarships and recognition awards.
  • Why It's Great: Easy to find opportunities just for students, both within APA and from other esteemed organizations.

There are also several external sources you can use for scholarships, expenses, funding, and awards for your research. Learn more >>

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