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  Table of Contents  
REFLECTIONS ON RESEARCH
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 134-138  

Research funding—Why, when, and how?


1 Department of Dermatology, Armed Forces Medical College, Pune, Maharashtra, India
2 Department of Dermatology, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Dhanvantari Nagar, Puducherry, India

Date of Submission25-Aug-2020
Date of Decision04-Sep-2020
Date of Acceptance05-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication16-Jan-2021

Correspondence Address:
Shekhar Neema
Assoc Prof. (Dermatology), Armed Forces Medical College, Pune - 411 040, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_684_20

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   Abstract 


Research funding is defined as a grant obtained for conducting scientific research generally through a competitive process. To apply for grants and securing research funding is an essential part of conducting research. In this article, we will discuss why should one apply for research grants, what are the avenues for getting research grants, and how to go about it in a step-wise manner. We will also discuss how to write research grants and what to be done after funding is received.

Keywords: Research, research funding, research grant


How to cite this article:
Neema S, Chandrashekar L. Research funding—Why, when, and how?. Indian Dermatol Online J 2021;12:134-8

How to cite this URL:
Neema S, Chandrashekar L. Research funding—Why, when, and how?. Indian Dermatol Online J [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Feb 26];12:134-8. Available from: https://www.idoj.in/text.asp?2021/12/1/134/307180




   Introduction Top


The two most important components of any research project is idea and execution. The successful execution of the research project depends not only on the effort of the researcher but also on available infrastructure to conduct the research. The conduct of a research project entails expenses on man and material and funding is essential to meet these requirements. It is possible to conduct many research projects without any external funding if the infrastructure to conduct the research is available with the researcher or institution. It is also unethical to order tests for research purpose when it does not benefit patient directly or is not part of the standard of care. Research funding is required to meet these expenses and smooth execution of research projects. Securing funding for the research project is a topic that is not discussed during postgraduation and afterwards during academic career especially in medical science. Many good ideas do not materialize into a good research project because of lack of funding.[1] This is an art which can be learnt only by practising and we intend to throw light on major hurdles faced to secure research funding.


   Why Do We Need the Funds for Research? Top


It is possible to publish papers without any external funding; observational research and experimental research with small sample size can be conducted without external funding and can result in meaningful papers like case reports, case series, observational study, or small experimental study. However, when studies like multi-centric studies, randomized controlled trial, experimental study or observational study with large sample size are envisaged, it may not be possible to conduct the study within the resources of department or institution and a source of external funding is required.


   Basic Requirements for Research Funding Top


The most important requirement is having an interest in the particular subject, thorough knowledge of the subject, and finding out the gap in the knowledge. The second requirement is to know whether your research can be completed with internal resources or requires external funding. The next step is finding out the funding agencies which provide funds for your subject, preparing research grant and submitting the research grant on time.


   What Are the Sources of Research Funding? – Details of Funding Agencies Top


Many local, national, and international funding bodies can provide grants necessary for research. However, the priorities for different funding agencies on type of research may vary and this needs to be kept in mind while planning a grant proposal. Apart from this, different funding agencies have different timelines for proposal submission and limitation on funds. Details about funding bodies have been tabulated in [Table 1]. These details are only indicative and not comprehensive.
Table 1: Details of funding agencies

Click here to view



   Application for the Research Grant Top


Applying for a research grant is a time-consuming but rewarding task. It not only provides an opportunity for designing a good study but also allows one to understand the administrative aspect of conducting research. In a publication, the peer review is done after the paper is submitted but in a research grant, peer review is done at the time of proposal, which helps the researcher to improve his study design even if the grant proposal is not successful. Funds which are available for research is generally limited; resulting in reviewing of a research grant on its merit by peer group before the proposal is approved. It is important to be on the lookout for call for proposal and deadlines for various grants. Ideally, the draft research proposal should be ready much before the call for proposal and every step should be meticulously planned to avoid rush just before the deadline. The steps of applying for a research grant are mentioned below and every step is essential but may not be conducted in a particular order.

  1. Idea: The most important aspect of research is the idea. After having the idea in mind, it is important to refine your idea by going through literature and finding out what has already been done in the subject and what are the gaps in the research. FINER framework should be used while framing research questions. FINER stands for feasibility, interesting, novel, ethical, and relevant
  2. Designing the study: Well-designed study is the first step of a well-executed research project. It is difficult to correct flawed study design when the project is advanced, hence it should be planned well and discussed with co-workers. The help of an expert epidemiologist can be sought while designing the study
  3. Collaboration: The facility to conduct the study within the department is often limited. Inter-departmental and inter-institutional collaboration is the key to perform good research. The quality of project improves by having a subject expert onboard and it also makes acceptance of grant easier. The availability of the facility for conduct of research in department and institution should be ascertained before planning the project
  4. Scientific and ethical committee approval: Most of the research grants require the project to be approved by the institutional ethical committee (IEC) before the project is submitted. IEC meeting usually happens once in a quarter; hence pre-planning the project is essential. Some institutes also conduct scientific committee meeting before the proposal can be submitted for funding. A project/study which is unscientific is not ethical, therefore it is a must that a research proposal should pass both the committees' scrutiny
  5. Writing research grant: Writing a good research grant decides whether research funding can be secured or not. So, we will discuss this part in detail.


How to write a research grant proposal[13],[14],[15] The steps in writing a research grant are as follows

  1. Identifying the idea and designing the study. Study design should include details about type of study, methodology, sampling, blinding, inclusion and exclusion criteria, outcome measurements, and statistical analysis
  2. Identifying the prospective grants—the timing of application, specific requirements of grant and budget available in the grant
  3. Discussing with collaborators (co-investigators) about the requirement of consumables and equipment
  4. Preparing a budget proposal—the two most important part of any research proposal is methodology and budget proposal. It will be discussed separately
  5. Preparing a specific proposal as outlined in the grant document. This should contain details about the study including brief review of literature, why do you want to conduct this study, and what are the implications of the study, budget requirement, and timeline of the study
  6. A timeline or Gantt chart should always accompany any research proposal. This gives an idea about the major milestones of the project and how the project will be executed
  7. The researcher should also be ready for revising the grant proposal. After going through the initial proposal, committee members may suggest some changes in methodology and budgetary outlay
  8. The committee which scrutinizes grant proposal may be composed of varied specialities. Hence, proposal should be written in a language which even layman can understand. It is also a good idea to get the proposal peer reviewed before submission.



   Budgeting for the Research Grant Top


Budgeting is as important as the methodology for grant proposal. The first step is to find out what is the monetary limit for grant proposal and what are the fund requirements for your project. If these do not match, even a good project may be rejected based on budgetary limitations. The budgetary layout should be prepared with prudence and only the amount necessary for the conduct of research should be asked. Administrative cost to conduct the research project should also be included in the proposal. The administrative cost varies depending on the type of research project.

Research fund can generally be used for the following requirement but not limited to these; it is helpful to know the subheads under which budgetary planning is done. The funds are generally allotted in a graded manner as per projected requirement and to the institution, not to the researcher.

  1. Purchase of equipment which is not available in an institution (some funding bodies do not allow equipment to be procured out of research funds). The equipment once procured out of any research fund is owned by the institute/department
  2. Consumables required for the conduct of research (consumables like medicines for the conduct of the investigator-initiated trials and laboratory consumables)
  3. The hiring of trained personnel—research assistant, data entry operator for smooth conduct of research. The remuneration details of trained personnel can be obtained from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) website and the same can be used while planning the budget
  4. Stationary—for the printing of forms and similar expense
  5. Travel expense—If the researcher has to travel to present his finding or for some other reason necessary for the conduct of research, travel grant can be part of the research grant
  6. Publication expense: Some research bodies provide publication expense which can help the author make his findings open access which allows wider visibility to research
  7. Contingency: Miscellaneous expenditure during the conduct of research can be included in this head
  8. Miscellaneous expenses may include expense toward auditing the fund account, and other essential expenses which may be included in this head.


Once the research funding is granted. The fund allotted has to be expended as planned under budgetary planning. Transparency, integrity, fairness, and competition are the cornerstones of public procurement and should be remembered while spending grant money. The hiring of trained staff on contract is also based on similar principles and details of procurement and hiring can be read at the ICMR website.[4] During the conduct of the study, many of grant guidelines mandate quarterly or half-yearly progress report of the project. This includes expense on budgetary layout and scientific progress of the project. These reports should be prepared and sent on time.


   Completion of a Research Project Top


Once the research project is completed, the completion report has to be sent to the funding agency. Most funding agencies also require period progress report and project should ideally progress as per Gantt chart. The completion report has two parts. The first part includes a scientific report which is like writing a research paper and should include all subheads (Review of literature, material and methods, results, conclusion including implications of research). The second part is an expense report including how money was spent, was it according to budgetary layout or there was any deviation, and reasons for the deviation. Any unutilized fund has to be returned to the funding agency. Ideally, the allotted fund should be post audited by a professional (chartered accountant) and an audit report along with original bills of expenditure should be preserved for future use in case of any discrepancy. This is an essential part of any funded project that prevents the researcher from getting embroiled in any accusations of impropriety.

Sharing of scientific findings and thus help in scientific advancement is the ultimate goal of any research project. Publication of findings is the part of any research grant and many funding agencies have certain restrictions on publications and presentation of the project completed out of research funds. For example, Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists (IADVL) research projects on completion have to be presented in a national conference and the same is true for most funding agencies. It is imperative that during presentation and publication, researcher mentions the source of funding.


   Conclusion Top


Research funding is an essential part of conducting research. To be able to secure a research grant is a matter of prestige for a researcher and it also helps in the advancement of career.

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
   References Top

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Grant Proposals (or Give me the money!) – The Writing Center • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill [Internet]. Available from: https://writingcenter.unc.edu/tips-and-tools/grant-proposals-or-give-me-the-money/. [Last cited on 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 1
    
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UGC: Major Research Project (MRP) [Internet]. Available from: https://www.ugc.ac.in/mrp/. [Last cited on 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 2
    
3.
IADVL - Indian Association of Dermatologists, Venereologists and Leprologists [Internet]. Available from:https://www.iadvl.org/. [Last cited 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 3
    
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Indian Council of Medical Research [Internet]. Available from: http://icmrextramural.in/ICMR/. [Last cited on 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 4
    
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Submission of Project Proposal | Defence Research and Development Organisation-DRDO | GoI [Internet]. Available from: https://www.drdo.gov.in/aeronautics-research-development/rules-grants-introductions. [Last cited on 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 8
    
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Council of Scientific & Industrial Research | CSIR | GoI [Internet]. Available from: https://www.csir.res.in/. [Last cited on 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 9
    
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Grants & Funding | National Institutes of Health (NIH) [Internet]. Available from: https://www.nih.gov/grants-funding. [Last cited on 2020 Jul 27].  Back to cited text no. 11
    
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Wescott L, Laskofski M, Senator D, Curran C. Grant writing tips for translational research. Methods Mol Biol 2017;1606:367-78.  Back to cited text no. 13
    
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