Civic Engagement 2019 Microgrant Initiative

Research!America has requested proposals from student and postdoc-led science policy groups to participate in the second year of our civic engagement initiative begun in 2018. Research!America provides funding to student groups in activities of their design that focus on civic engagement and elevating the importance of scientific research, innovation and public health in the national conversation to increase awareness among public officials and local community leaders.


Civic engagement is a critical skill set for scientists for many reasons.  For scientists at any career stage, it is an opportunity to take part in our democracy while contributing a scientific perspective on important issues facing our communities and our nation. A total of 81% of Americans surveyed would like scientists to inform elected officials about their research and its impact on society, based on a 2019 poll commissioned by Research!America. In addition, early-career scientists’ perspectives and creativity are uniquely valuable to the “public square’’ while civic engagement is an increasingly critical component to becoming the thought leaders of tomorrow.

Another reason why civic engagement skills are important to scientists as compared to other fields: scientific research is heavily dependent on public funding with almost 50% of basic research support coming from the federal government. Knowing how to educate the public and policymakers about this critical resource is vital to strengthening research as a national priority.

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Science policy groups across the country managed by graduate students and postdocs are eligible to apply. Grants are made only to support activities of student groups and not are not payable to individuals. Eligible students groups must have a fiscal sponsor. If you have questions about locating a fiscal sponsor, please contact Caitlin Grzeskowiak ( for assistance. Grants are payable to the fiscal sponsor for the benefit of named student policy group. The microgrants do not provide indirect costs for sponsoring institutions. 

Criteria for Evaluation

We are interested in supporting projects to enable early-career scientists to increase their level of engagement with elected officials, non-elected government officials and community leaders. The project can encompass a single large event or a number of events and activities. Some examples include roundtable discussions, public forums and social media engagement.  Innovative ideas are welcomed. Grant awards will be considered from project budgets up to $3,000.

Highly competitive proposals will be distinguished by the following:

  1. Sustainability: how will the project or similar activities continue once the grant is completed?
  2. Collaboration: network and initiate projects with other science policy groups?
  3. Diversity: does the proposal engage with ethnically and socio-economically diverse communities?
  4. Accessibility: include materials (i.e. sample messages) that will be available as community resources.
  5. Innovation: explores a new idea or new twist on a program model.

All proposals should include examples of activities the group plans to do to engage public officials.  We welcome original ideas. The following are thought-starters:

• Briefing/panel discussion with scientists and city council members about a local issue

• Campus-wide or community science fair with local or state officials and members of the public

• Lab tour with public officials (with photos and/or video)

• Op-eds and letters-to-the-editor about federally-funded research in local publications as a way to engage for conversations with policymakers.

• Roundtable discussion with public officials and young scientists

• Science Pub Night event featuring young researcher and local government leader to discuss an area of research important to the community

• Social media strategies to raise awareness of federally-funded research with public officials and community leaders

• Twitter chat and/or Reddit AMA on a health or research issue (encourage public officials to participate)

• Webinars (with guest speakers) highlighting the health and economic benefits of research (invite public officials to participate and make archived recordings available)

Want to find out more information on who your elected officials are and what roles they play in science policy? Check out for state and local level information. Don’t forget, you can also invite non-elected officials (staff and regulators) too!

Grantees are encouraged to send event photographs, videos and other materials to Research!America; these might be posted on our website or social media platforms and/or shared with other grantees.

Research!America Science Meets Science Microgrant 

This year, in addition to the microgrants described above, Research!America is introducing a new Science Meets Science initiative which aims to bridge social scientists (e.g.. anthropology, sociology, psychology) with STEM scientists (e.g.. life sciences, chemistry, mathematics). 

Competitive proposals are those that undertake civic engagement activities based on combining expertise across scientific domains. The types of projects may be similar to the examples above or entirely novel and are encouraged to include engagement with public officials as a component. Teams that include students majoring in communications are also encouraged. 

Applicants may request up to $3000 in support of a civic engagement effort led by both social and physical science teams. Additional funding may be available for highly competitive applications.

Applicants seeking funding under the Science Meets Science program should follow the application directions above and note this interest on their form as well as in their project description.


 “As we think about creating a complex global problem-solving agenda…, It will engage all fields from physics to psychology, from economics to biology, from electrical engineering to sociology…Policymakers will be crucial to any and all solutions. Science and technology and public policy empower each other’s goals. In contemporary society, neither could be appropriately effective without being a partner-participant with the other.”  Neal Lane, Scientific Advisor to President Bill Clinton.

Application Details and Review Process

Proposals were due by September 20, 2019. Proposals are reviewed by Research!America leadership and staff who score the proposals based on the rubric found hereFull text of the application can be found in this document. After initial scoring, the reviewers will convene to discuss all of the proposals and contact applicants if further details are required. Funding decisions will be announced on October 7, 2019. Funded projects are to be completed by March 31, 2020.

Please note that Research!America is a 501(c)(3) organization. As such, we are nonpartisan and do not participate in or support activities that favor specific political parties or candidates.

The grantee(s) shall not use any portion of the grant for any of the following purposes:

• To carry on propaganda or attempt to influence legislation.

• To directly or indirectly participate in, or intervene in, any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to any candidate running for public office.

For more information, please contact Caitlin Grzeskowiak, Science Outreach Coordinator

For 30 years, Research!America has been committed to advocacy for science, discovery, and innovation to achieve better health for all. This work is also supported in part by a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation.

Policy Contacts

We have health challenges in this country that science will provide answers for if given the chance and we haven't given science that opportunity
Mary Woolley, President and CEO, Research!America