Research!America is reviewing proposals from graduate student and postdoc-led science policy groups to participate in the third year of our civic engagement initiative begun in 2018. This year, Research!America provides funding to student groups for virtual activities that focus on civic engagement and sparking dialogue with public officials, local community leaders, and the public around science and health research.
Civic engagement is a critical skill set 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 2020 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.
2020-2021 Microgrants: virtual modules
Below are descriptions of various funding opportunities for our 2020-2021 Microgrant Initiative. Due to COVID-19, all microgrant activities are to be conducted virtually. While we strongly encourage innovation and creativity, we recognize the shift for virtual events may warrant additional guidance. All microgrant recipients will be able to participate in webinar trainings designed to assist you with program management, virtual platforms, media relations, and science communication.
You can select from the following modules below (please indicate your module on your application):
Design your own virtual event – [up to $2,000] previous events include thought-leader panels, virtual roundtable discussions, webinars, op-ed writing workshops, and virtual science fairs. We encourage your creativity!
Podcast - [up to $1,000] This opportunity will sponsor equipment and advertising costs for launching a science communication or science policy-focused podcast. Please include the idea for your podcast in the description including who the target audience is and how you plan to reach your audience.
Data visualization – [up to $2,000] Data visualization is the graphic representation of information, creating images to explain complex data patterns to audiences. Data visualization helps the viewer understand data in a digestible way, focusing on the major points the scientist wishes to highlight. Microgrant proposals should apply this approach to science policy topics of interest to the local community. Groups that submit in this category should use publicly-available data.
Startup funding – [up to $4,000] Designed for new science policy groups, this provides year-long funding (with the possibility of a second year) to build interest among students, initiate programming, and develop sustainable local support.
Design your own virtual event (Science Meets Science) – [up to $2,000] (put intro for SMS) previous events include thought leader panels, virtual roundtable discussions, webinars, and virtual science fairs. We encourage your creativity! Groups that submit in this category are required to work across interdisciplinary scientific domains (STEM scientists working with social scientists and others [see description]). The types of projects may be similar to the examples above or entirely novel.
Podcast (Science Meets Science) - [up to $1,000] This opportunity will sponsor equipment and advertising costs for launching a science communication or science policy-focused podcast. Please include the idea for your podcast in the description including who the target audience is and how you plan to reach your audience.
Data visualization (Science Meets Science) – [up to $2,000] Data visualization is the graphic representation of information, creating images to explain complex data patterns to audiences. Data visualization helps the viewer understand data in a digestible way, focusing on the major points the scientist wishes to highlight. Microgrant proposals should apply this approach to science policy topics of interest to the local community. Groups that submit in this category are required to work across interdisciplinary scientific domains (ideally STEM scientists with social scientists) using publicly-available data. Teams that include students majoring in communications are also encouraged.
Startup funding (Science Meets Science) – [up to $4,000] Designed for new science policy groups, this provides year-long funding (with the possibility of a second year) to build interest among students, initiate programming, and develop sustainable local support.
What is the research!America Science meets science track?
“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.
Last year, Research!America introduced a new Science Meets Science microgrant track which pairs 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.
Applicants may request additional funds in support of a civic engagement effort led by both social and physical science teams. Teaming with other students, including MBA, law, or communications majors is also encouraged.
2020-2021 supplemental programs for microgrant recipients
Early-career scientists participating in our microgrant program are also eligible to participate in programs designed to augment the microgrant experience by providing educational resources on science policy, a networking forum with other university-based science policy leaders, and webinar trainings to enhance your microgrant project.
Science Advocacy Forum – Through discussion of thought-provoking articles and topics, this module is designed to build a community of early-career scientists who are interested in policy and advocacy. Participants will have access to the science policy course and new “journal club”-style discussions focused on science communication, policy, and advocacy led by Research!America.
Science Policy Course – This course will introduce students to the disciplines of science funding, science advocacy, and science policy. Instructors will provide students with a brief overview of United States Government structure, legislative and regulatory processes, and how government agencies determine funding levels and oversee federally supported research activities. The course will explore who makes policy/legislation affecting scientists and how it proceeds through the development process. Also covered will be how scientists can participate in both advocacy and policymaking efforts. Students will demonstrate comprehension of the materials by developing a short policy memo to the Trump administration that outlines key opportunities and challenges for federal agencies supporting research activities (e.g., NIH, NSF, USDA, etc.).
Webinar Trainings – These trainings bring experts to share best practices in program management, event planning, virtual platforms, media relations, and science communication.
Science policy groups across the United States managed by graduate students, medical students, and postdocs are eligible to apply. Grants are made only to support activities of student groups and are not payable to individuals. Eligible student groups must be located in the United States with a fiscal sponsor based in the U.S. If you have questions about locating a fiscal sponsor, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance. Grants are payable to the fiscal sponsor for the benefit of the named student policy group. 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 virtual event or a number of activities. Some examples include virtual roundtable discussions, public forums, and social media engagement. Innovative ideas are welcomed.
Highly competitive proposals will be distinguished by the following:
Sustainability: how will the project or similar activities continue once the grant is completed?
Collaboration: network and initiate projects with other science policy groups?
Diversity: does the proposal engage with ethnically and socio-economically diverse communities?
Accessibility: include materials (i.e. sample messages) that will be available as community resources.
Innovation: explores a new idea or new twist on a program model.
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.
Application details and review process
Proposals are due November 9, 2020. Each proposal is reviewed by Research!America leadership using the rubric found here. 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 November 20, 2020. Funded projects must be completed by June 1, 2021.
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.
Frequently asked questions
What is a fiscal sponsor? A fiscal sponsor is an institution that accepts the grant for your project. In most cases, this will be a university or a university department. If you need help finding a fiscal sponsor, please contact email@example.com.
Can I apply for more than one module? Yes! You can select the modules you want to apply for on the application page. Just be sure to address each module in the description.
When is the deadline to apply? The deadline for the first round of applications is November 9, 2020. You can apply here [link to site]
Who is eligible to apply? We are accepting proposals from graduate students science policy groups or groups/organizations who are working with graduate students.
When do I need to complete my project? Projects need to be completed by June 1, 2021.
Are you funding in-person events? For the health and safety of our microgrant recipients and audiences, all events funded by this program must be held virtually.
What are my reporting responsibilities to Research!America? You will be required to complete a short midterm report and a final report and survey. You will also provide brief check-in messages via email twice a month to offer support for projects when needed.
When will I receive funding? You will receive the grant money approximately two weeks upon returning the signed microgrant agreement.
Can the fiscal sponsor use grant money for indirect costs? No, we recommend alerting your sponsoring institution of this policy ahead of submitting the grant.
Once I’m awarded the grant, what is involved in the microgrant program? The microgrants are a way for scientists to connect with new audiences and build programs for civic engagement. To provide you support, we offer a series of training webinars on managing events, science communication, and media relations. This year, we are also offering an introductory science policy course to provide additional science policy training. We will check in with you on the status of your project every other week. These check-ins are done via email and help us identify areas we can augment your program. You are required to produce a final report and complete our feedback survey to improve the program.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.