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How do I find money for an after-school astronomy program?

Who will fund Israeli diabetes genetics research?


Dear GrantDoctor,I am writing to see if I can receive an application for the Astronomy Grant. I would like to start an after-school project for the students in our small, low- income school. I would like to see student and community members get together and learn what astronomy is about. This may also strike a career interest in a student that may not have known that he/she was interested in astronomy without this program. If you could please help me out I would really appreciate it.Thank you,-- Michelle


Dear Michelle,

You are most definitely asking the right question at the right time. The past decade has brought many changes in funding for K-12 science education, including an increase in support for instructional programs. So I think you have a good chance of finding money for a program such as the one you would like to start.

The best place to begin searching for grant opportunities would be the National Science Foundation ( NSF), which is committed to improving elementary and secondary school science education and which has specific grant programs to support this goal. One possibility might be the NSF GK-12 program, which encourages graduate students and advanced undergraduates to bring their expertise to secondary schools. These programs are based at colleges and universities, so check with the astronomy departments of your local institutions of higher learning to see if they have a GK-12 grant that might lend support to your group. Another good place to look would be a new NSF program that is designed to promote interactions between physical scientists and schools.

In searching for money to make your dreams come true, however, it is best not to put all of your eggs in one basket. So your next step should be to get in touch with national professional organizations committed to improving astronomy education. One such organization is the Astronomy Society of the Pacific, which provides information on astronomy education grants available within the United States. You might also try the American Astronomical Society's education page.

Astronomy is a subject that usually attracts amateurs, so I'll bet there is a local astronomy group in your town or at a nearby college or planetarium. I would definitely look around for local stargazers; you might have an easier time convincing them to support your project, because they will be able to see, or even participate, in the results of your effort.

As always in looking for funding, it is important to identify your needs and then look carefully at whether they match the specific topics or areas that the granting agency wants to fund. Doing a careful pre-submission review of the match and speaking with a program manager can save you much time and effort--you won't end up barking up the wrong tree. Newcomers to the funding game would do well to get some advice and help on how to navigate the process, such as is available in Next Wave's series on grant writing. You might also want to have an experienced grant-writer, from a university or nonprofit organization for example, read the proposal before you submit it. Another set of eyes could help to make your proposal into a winner.

Good luck in finding funds, Michelle. You seem committed to the cause and that often turns out to be most of the battle.

--The GrantDoctor

I am working for a professor/scientist in Israel and her topic of interest is diabetes and its relationship to genetics. Could you tell us which granting agencies would be interested in her research? Thank you.-- Mery


Dear Mery,

It sounds like the best place for you to start would be the Israel Ministry of Health, especially if you are interested in doing your research within the country. There are a number of programs available to both new researchers and established scientists that might suit your needs. At the very least you will be able to survey your options for state-funded research. You might also look for community diabetes support groups in your area or nationally; they are often privy to information about sources of research money.

But I would also take a careful look at international organizations interested in research on the genetics of diabetes. One good source of information about possible funding would be the Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics. Because you are seeking a specialized type of funding, I would also get in touch with the genetics group at the Diabetes Research Laboratories, University of Oxford; you may be able to get some helpful hints from others who have sought similar funding.

And if you want to start collaborating with scientists in the United States, the National Institutes of Health would be a good place to look for funds to support your work.

Best of luck in your search for research support, and remember that it often comes from the most unlikely places.

-- The GrantDoctor

Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!