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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 $4,000 will be awarded to STEM graduate student and postdoc-led groups 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.

Stay tuned for news in March for the announcement of our special Summer 2024 microgrant opportunity.


Building trust in science and with local communities and with policymakers through public engagement is an essential skill for scientists to develop. 87% 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.

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.


The 2023-2024 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. The most competitive proposals will facilitate collaborations across STEM disciplines. Collaborations including the following STEM disciplines are encouraged (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.


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 open on September 7, 2023 and close on October 24, 2023.
  • Decisions will be announced in mid to late November 2023.
  • Microgrant projects will officially begin when contracts are returned.
  • A brief midterm progress report is due on February 12, 2024.
  • Funds must be spent by May 17, 2024.
  • Final report is due May 30, 2024, signaling the end of the grant.


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 year-long funding (with the possibility of a renewal) to build interest among students, initiate programming, and develop sustainable local support. (Maximum: $4000)
  • Design Your Own Community Event — This category supports the development of in-person, virtual, or hybrid events to bring together scientists, the community, and local elected and non-elected officials. Examples include thought-leader panels, roundtable discussions, and hands-on science fairs. (Maximum: $2000)
  • Digital Media — Technology and social media play a significant role in conveying and distributing informationThis 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: $2000)


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.


Groups of early career STEM 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 three co-leaders.


  • 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.


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 $2000 and the maximum grant amount for new group/organizations is $4000.

Where can I learn about past awardees and projects?

When is the deadline to apply? The deadline for applications is October 16, 2023, 11:59 pm local time.

Who is eligible to apply? We are accepting proposals from early-career scientists, who we define as graduate 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 May 30, 2024.

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.