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Civic Engagement Microgrant Program

Read our report looking at the impact of the first four years of the Microgrant Program.

Microgrants of up to $3,000 will be awarded, on a rolling basis, to STEM groups led by master’s, PhD, postdoc, or professional students to design and execute projects that create dialogue with public officials, local community leaders, and the public around issues of common concern. These funds provide opportunities for grantees to develop skills in areas such as communication and program planning, along with an understanding of public policy and government to have an impact in their local communities. Thank you to the Sloan Foundation for supporting the summer microgrants.

BACKGROUND

Building trust in science and with local communities and with policymakers through public engagement is an essential skill for scientists to develop. 89% of Americans surveyed believe it is important for scientists to inform elected officials about their research and its impact on society, based on a poll commissioned by Research!America. In that same survey, results showed that 82% of Americans surveyed consider it part of the scientists’ job to share their research and its impact with the public.

Early-career scientists’ perspectives and creativity are uniquely valuable to the “public square” and the development of innovative policies and programs that build strong linkages between scientists and non-scientists. Civic engagement provides opportunities for scientists to take part in our democracy while contributing a scientific perspective on important issues facing our communities and our nation.

Another reason that civic engagement skills should be prioritized: 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 vital to strengthening research as a national priority.

CIVIC ENGAGEMENT MICROGRANTS INITIATIVE

The summer 2024 Civic Engagement Microgrant Program welcomes novel ideas and programs for early career researchers to support building policy and communication skills and increase their level of engagement with their communities, community leaders, and elected and non-elected government officials.

Civic engagement is highly interdisciplinary by nature, acknowledging the complexities of scientific and societal concerns by drawing on expertise from a wide breadth of disciplines. Collaborations across the following STEM disciplines are encouraged but not required (and are not limited to): psychology, sociology, anthropology, physical sciences, biological sciences, biomedical sciences, computer science and related technologies, engineering, economics, math, and medicine.

“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 DEADLINES

Each proposal is reviewed by Research!America using this rubric. Highly competitive proposals will address the areas listed in the rubric and facilitate collaborations across STEM disciplines.

  • Applications opened on March 29nd, 2024, and closed on April 30th, 2024.
  • Decisions will be announced in early to mid-May 2024.
  • Microgrant projects will officially begin when contracts are returned.
  • Funds must be spent by August 23rd, 2024.
  • The final report is due August 30th, 2024, signaling the end of the grant.

MICROGRANTS MODULES

On your application, please indicate the category you are applying for.

  • Startup Funding — Designed for new science policy groups (less than one year old), this provides funding (with the possibility of a renewal) to build interest among students, initiate programming, and develop sustainable local support. (Maximum: $3,000)
  • Design Your Own Community Event — This category supports the development of in-person, virtual, or hybrid events to bring together scientists, the community, youth programs and local officials. Examples include thought-leader panels, roundtable discussions, and hands-on science fairs. (Maximum: $2,000)
  • Digital Media — Technology and social media play a significant role in conveying and distributing information. This category is designed to support the creation of digital media that will be used to support science policy and civic engagement projects on topics of interest to local communities. The creation of podcasts, data visualization/infographics, videos, and other digital deliverables fall under this category. Data-driven projects should utilize publicly available data sets. (Maximum: $2,000)

EXAMPLES OF PAST MICROGRANT PROJECTS

  • Politics Under the Microscope at The Tri-Institute (Tri-I) NYC
    • Podcast started by four grad students
    • Topics covered:
      • Role of scientists in policymaking
      • COVID-19 vaccines- how they’re made and how they work
      • Science diplomacy
      • The unfashionable truth (negative environmental impact) of fast fashion
  • Women’s Association of Minority Scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch
    • Hosted a mentoring program and science fair called “Scientists Among Us: Youth STEM Program”
    • Partnered with an elementary school in an underserved community
    • Students got hands-on experience in conducting their own science experiment
  • Oklahoma Policy Engagement Network at the Oklahoma Medial Research Foundation
    • Oklahoma’s first and only science policy group formed
    • Professional development workshops
    • Hosted community science fair event

SUPPLEMENTAL PROGRAMS FOR MICROGRANT RECIPIENTS

Micrograntees will have access to exciting programming including:

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.

Webinar Trainings – These trainings bring experts to share best practices in program management, event planning, communications and media relations, public engagement, and more.

ELIGIBILITY

Groups of early career STEM students (master’s and PhD students), professional students (medical, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, etc.), and postdocs residing in the United States or a U.S. territory are eligible to apply. Applications must include the names of two co-leaders.

MICROGRANT- TERMS AND CONDITIONS

  • Grants are designated to support the activities of groups and are not payable to individuals.
  • Grants are payable to the fiscal sponsor for the benefit of the named group (see FAQs below).
    • Questions about locating a fiscal sponsor should be submitted to microgrants@researchamerica.org.
    • The fiscal sponsor representative is responsible for ensuring the financial guidelines of the grant agreement are met.
  • Groups must be located in the United States or a U.S. territory with a fiscal sponsor based in the U.S. or U.S. territory.
  • Microgrants do not provide indirect costs for sponsoring institutions.
  • Grants cannot be used to support stipends, salaries, or be used to pay for research expenses.

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 to:

  • To attempt to influence specific legislation (“lobbying”).
  • 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

Need help tackling the application?

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 submit more than one application? We highly recommend only submitting one application for review.

Can I select more than one category? Yes. Please note that the maximum grant amount for one group/organization’s activity is $3,000.

Where can I learn about past awardees and projects?

When is the deadline to apply? The deadline for applications is April 30 2024, 11:59 pm local time.

Who is eligible to apply? We are accepting proposals from early-career scientists, who we define as master’s and PhD students, postdocs, and professional students (medical, dental, pharmacy, nursing, etc.), who are involved in or are forming science policy groups/organizations.

When do I need to complete my project? Projects need to be completed (including a final report) by August 30th.

What are my reporting responsibilities to Research!America? You will be required to complete a short midterm report (est. 10-15 min), a final report (est. 20-30 min), and a brief program survey (10 min). 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 after returning the signed microgrant agreement.

Can the fiscal sponsor (i.e., your university) use grant money for indirect costs? No, all of the grant funds must be available to the grantee. We recommend alerting your sponsoring institution of this policy ahead of submitting the grant.

What is the difference between educating policymakers and lobbying? Lobbying is when efforts are focused on influencing a specific piece of legislation and is prohibited by the terms of our grant. However, microgrants may be used to educate and raise awareness about a specific topic (such as climate change).

Sample messages:

  • Education and Awareness: “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.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.”

I still have questions. Who can I contact? Please reach out to microgrants@researchamerica.org.

For 30 years, Research!America has been committed to advocacy for science, discovery, and innovation to achieve better health for all. The Civic Science Microgrant program is supported in part by a grant from the Rita Allen Foundation. Additional support received from the Chalk Talk Science Project. Special funding received from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for work related to Building Equity in the Research!America Microgrant Program.

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