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SECG Blog - Getting Funding for Research
Dr Nanda Gopal, AAG SECG (Communications Group member)
You are an early career researcher (ECR) who has either just completed your PhD or has a few years of experience post PhD and are passionate about embarking on a research. You have applied for a few grants and the outcome was negative, and you keep hearing how difficult it is to attract funding as an ECR. It can be quite a distressing time! So, where do you go from here?
Among the various requirements for a funding application to be successful is a good track record. This is especially true for larger amounts. A good track record establishes the fact that the applicant is capable of taking a research to completion. But, for us as ECRs in early stages of our careers, not all of us have a great track record. And it’s a Catch 22 situation: we need opportunities to build a track record, but need a track record to get opportunities. How do we break the cycle and come out of it to achieve something meaningful?
Let’s look at some ways to work towards the goal of getting funding for your research.
Whatever stage you are in, set an intermediate goal in the area of research that interests you. Try getting into projects in that area: at this stage, just focus on getting in and creating and building your profile, rather than the position. You may be part of a major team. This step should ideally be in the earlier part of your career.
Benefits of such a role are many, including:
- Working in the field of your choice
- Networking or collaboration with like-minded researchers
- Maintaining work continuity, and
- Staying current in the field.
All these help you to build your profile. They can also help in the future when you apply for funding. Working with a team will open up new venues that will scale up your career and visibility. Another key benefit of this approach will be assessing the gaps and feasibility of new approaches. This is crucial in funding applications: the proposed research must address a necessity in the community and should contribute towards resolving it.
While you are at it, look out for small funding opportunities and target them. Having a track of multiple completed projects helps in projecting a successful researcher. You can apply for seed grants to develop pilot methods, research tools such as questionnaires, develop new methods (like scales) and devise new analysis techniques. Having broad experience in research helps. Going this route also assists in publications.
If you do not have one already, look for a mentor and establish a working relationship. They are invaluable in viewing your progress from a different perspective and charting your career and research path.
Think outside the box and look at closely related research opportunities. You might stumble upon something that might open up doors.
Go for it: get working on your applications and keep submitting until you are successful.