Hello there bloggies! I am back from my Scandinavian adventure. It’s time to get back on the blogging and tweeting schedule. So let’s do it! Welcome to Science Sunday!

Scientific research is an expensive endeavor, even in academia. This work requires the most advanced technology, state of the art equipment and materials, huge lab space, and lots of incredibly talented/highly-trained researchers. All of these do not come cheap.

So, how and who pays for all of this? Just a quick FYI, this post will focus on the US. Funding and paying for research can vary depending on country, but a lot of the sources are shared.

Government

One of the most substantial funders of scientific research comes from the government, namely from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). These government bodies provide funds to basic, clinical, and translation research that would not necessarily be supported in the private sector. However, this research is vital to providing a foundation for industry and healthcare.

Applying funding awards through the government typically requires submission of the ever dreaded grant application. Grants are dense proposals reviewed by peers in the scientific community and agency staff. They require an incredible amount of time and effort to craft, and their success can have a major effect on the success of a researcher. It’s why many lab heads spend most of their time writing grants instead of actually doing hands-on research.

Non-profit Organizations

As science and technology has a massive impact on daily life, there are many non-profit organizations that have been formed to build a sense of community around a disease or field and to support research. One way non-profits supports research is to provide actual monetary support for projects and researchers themselves. Some of these include the American Heart Association, American Cancer Society, Howard Hughes Medical Institution, among countless others. Some of these are directly supported by charitable donations as seen by the Jimmy V Foundation and the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As with the government mechanisms, most of these require a grant application. However, these applications are usually more specialized to specific research areas as opposed to the more general/standardized government submissions.

Institutions

Researchers typically work for academic or research institutions. These institutions can offer their own monetary support to their researchers’ work. The most obvious form of support comes in the form of lab space and core facilities made available to researchers. Institutions can also provide funds for materials and equipment. Sometimes this comes in the form of a start-up package for new members or bridge support to help fund work between grants.

Partnerships with industry

Researcher in academia and industry are not mutually exclusive entities. Scientists in the two sectors frequently interact. In fact, their research can often be in synergy as scientists work toward similar goals. When this happens, industry and academia can form a powerful partnership taking advantage of the diverse skillsets and inherent advantages of academic and industry research. These partnerships (when done right!) can both improve scientific knowledge and provide new healthcare and technologies.

Crowdfunding

A relatively new way to raise funds for research is to appeal directly to the public. By posting details of their project on sites like experiment.com, researchers can show what they hope to achieve and ask for donations (big and small) to help make the project a reality. Similar ventures have been seen for entertainment (music/movies) and entrepreneurial endeavors. Although new and a small contributor, it’ll be fascinating to see whether crowdfunding becomes more and more frequently seen in the funding game.

Academic research requires monetary support from a variety of sources. An interesting factor is that much of the support comes directly or indirectly from the public, whether through tax dollars, charitable donations, tuition, or direct contributions. This investment by the public makes communication of science and research even more important. The research community is dependent on the public in order to perform their research and experiments. Informing the public that these ventures are worthwhile to fund and helping advance science, technology, and healthcare are vital for sustainable research.

Thank you ever so much for stopping by Science Sunday! What ways do you fund your research? Should there be other ways? What do you think public funds supporting research? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter @DrFsThoughts.

See you all later!

-Dr. F

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