Applications are open for the Civic Engagement Microgrant Program, now in its fourth year. Microgrants of up to $4,000 will be awarded to graduate student and postdoc-led groups in the STEM and social sciences to design projects that create dialogue with public officials, local community leaders, and the public around issues of common concern. The funds provide opportunities for grantees to develop skills in communication and program planning, along with an understanding of policy and government in order to have an impact in their local areas. Applications are due October 12, 2021.

BACKGROUND  

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 89% of Americans surveyed think it is important for scientists to inform elected officials about their research and its impact on society, based on a 2021 poll commissioned by Research!America.

Civic engagement is an increasingly critical component to become the scientifically-trained leaders of tomorrow. Early-career scientists’ perspectives and creativity are uniquely valuable to the “public square’ and the development of innovative, sustainable policies that drive scientific and medical progress.’ 

Another reason that civic engagement skills should be prioritized as compared to other fields: scientific research is heavily dependent on taxpayer funding with almost 50% of basic research support coming from the federal government. Knowing how to communicate effectively with the public and policymakers about the value of science is absolutely vital to strengthening research as a national priority.

Learn more about student advocacy.

2021-2022 civic engagement Microgrants initiative

The 2021-2022 Civic Engagement Microgrant Initiative welcomes novel ideas and programs for early career researchers to build policy, advocacy, and communication skills and increase their level of engagement with elected officials, non-elected government officials, and community leaders.

We are also encouraging collaboration between STEM scientists and social scientists through a track called Science Meets Science.

“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.

The Science Meets Science track 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. 

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 communication majors is also encouraged.

Science Meets Science projects will fall into at least one of the modules listed below. The role of both social scientists and STEM scientists should be highlighted in the project application.

APPLICATION DETAILS AND DEADLINES

Each proposal is reviewed by Research!America leadership using the rubric found here. Highly competitive proposals will address the areas listed in the rubric.

Proposals are due by midnight on October 12, 2021. Funding decisions will be announced by November 1, 2021. Funded projects must be completed by May 20, 2022.

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.
2021-2022 MICROGRANTS Modules

On your application, please indicate the module(s) you are applying for and if your project is incorporating the Science Meets Science track.

Previous in-person and virtual events include thought-leader panels, roundtable discussions, webinars, op-ed writing workshops, and science fairs. We encourage your creativity!

 

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 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.

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. Due to COVID-19, all microgrant activities should follow university and local guidelines to maintain the health and safety of all participants and event attendees.

 

Learn more information about the 2020-2021 Microgrant projects. 

Learn more information about the 2019-2020 Microgrant projects.

Learn more information about the 2018-2019 Microgrant projects.

Submit an application.

2021-2022 Supplemental Programs for Microgrant Recipients

Micrograntees will have access to exciting programming including educational resources on science policy, a networking forum with other university-based science policy leaders, and webinar trainings to enhance your microgrant project. 

Networking Sessions – Meet fellow microgrant recipients through virtual “coffee hours” to expand your network, share news updates, promote your events, exchange ideas, and troubleshoot any issues you may have.

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. 

Webinar Trainings – These trainings bring experts to share best practices in program management, event planning, virtual platforms, media relations, and science communication.

Eligibility

Science policy groups across the United States managed by graduate students, medical students, and postdocs are eligible to apply. Grants are designated 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 microgrants@researchamerica.org for assistance. Grants are payable to the fiscal sponsor for the benefit of the named student policy group. The fiscal sponsor is responsible for ensuring the financial guidelines of the grant agreement are met. Microgrants do not provide indirect costs for sponsoring institutions.

Frequently asked questions

What is a fiscal sponsor? A fiscal sponsor is an institution that accepts and processes the grant for your project. In most cases, this will be an office within a university or a university department. If you need help finding a fiscal sponsor, please contact microgrants@researchamerica.org.

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 applications is October 12, 2021. Applications will open on September 1, 2021

Who is eligible to apply? We are accepting proposals from early-career scientists, who we are defining as graduate students, postdocs, and medical students, who are involved in science policy groups/organizations.

When do I need to complete my project? Projects need to be completed by May 20, 2022.

Are you funding in-person events? Yes. For the health and safety of our microgrant recipients and audiences, all events should be held according to university and local guidelines. Microgrant recipients should have a backup plan to hold events virtually if COVID-19 guidelines change.

What are my reporting responsibilities to Research!America? You will be required to complete a short midterm report (est. 5-10 min), a final report (est. 15-20 min), and a brief program survey. You will also check-in with the program manager via email twice a month; the program manager will support your project as needed.

When will I receive funding? You will receive the grant money approximately 2-3 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.

What is the difference between advocacy and lobbying? Advocacy and lobbying are often confused, used interchangeably, and clarification is important. Advocacy is often driven by the need for educating the public and/or lawmakers and raising awareness about a policy issue. Lobbying is when efforts are focused on influencing a specific piece of legislation. The microgrants may support advocacy but not lobbying.

Sample messages:

Advocacy: "It is critical to make federally funded health research a higher priority in the U.S. to enable the development of life-saving cures and treatments while contributing to economic growth."

Lobbying: "Please support H.R. (or S. if Senate) 111 to increase funding for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality."

For more information, contact microgrants@researchamerica.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.

Civic Engagement 2021 Microgrant Initiative