Tackling the Funding Question

I love the quote that is underneath the photo to the left.  And I loved it when my advisor told me that I would “miss 100% of the buses I didn’t try to catch.”  This seems like an apt metaphor for the funding game and the confidence hump that we must all get over in order to recognize our work is “worth it”.  I recently submitted a small, within-university grant for a pilot project I want to test.  However, when it came time to put the proposal together, my enthusiasm started to wane   What if the proposal isn ‘t what they are looking for?  How likely was it really that I would get the grant?  I felt myself talking my way out of applying bit by bit.

Funding is the albatross around most researcher’s necks. While it is a necessity for maintaining one’s career and work, it takes a considerable amount of time to put together a proposal. Oftentimes the calls are very specific, and researchers end up trying to morph their work into the topic outlined in the call. Finally, the confidence to go forth and say “yes, my research is worthy and important” is sometimes a sticking point. Getting up the gumption to submit that proposal is hard, but in order to move forward, the belief that your research is adding to your field is critical for success.
Is it worth it? Ultimately, yes. But keeping your focus and your internal compass set in the right direction will be the ultimate driver of your work. When applying for funding, ask yourself if you will be allowed the room for innovation and creativity that could yield new discoveries or a refinement of practice. Ask yourself if it is in line with your convictions surrounding your research.  If the answers are yes, make your case and cross your fingers.

This week, when I received word that I did, in fact, receive the grant I had applied for, I was ecstatic.  My advisor was right.  Sometimes the only thing standing in my way is me. However, to be successful we all must overcome the reservations we have about selling our research to the wider world.  The grant that I received was in line with my research focus, was small enough to fund a pilot without a excess of reporting requirements, and I can rest easy on where the money is coming from ethically.  What more could I ask for?

Sometimes, I think as graduate students we get overwhelmed by the funding process because it is such a mystery. But funding for your program, funding for research projects, etc. – these are all necessary elements of maintaining your work.  And if we truly believe in the benefit and good of our research, writing those proposals and taking the chance is a no-brainer.



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