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How can an institution support investigators in funding opportunity searches? | Background Noise

By SRAI News posted 06-14-2019 07:28 AM



Authored by Zoya Davis-Hamilton, Associate Vice Provost for Research Administration and Development

Sarah Marina, Assistant Director for Research Administration and Development, Tufts University

Conceptualized as the sister column to The Pulse, Background Noise is a new column devoted to less thoroughly investigated ideas of interest to the research administration community. It is written by Zoya Davis-Hamilton, Associate Vice Provost, and Sarah Marina, Assistant Director, both of Research Administration and Development at Tufts University. Look for a new column in The Catalyst whenever an idea pops into our heads, and feel free to send us ideas to feature in future columns at and

Finding the right funding opportunity fit for an investigator can feel a bit like finding a needle in a haystack. There are thousands of available opportunities, but finding the right fit can be daunting, especially if you’re not an expert in a given field of research. Below, we discuss several potential ways of providing researchers with funding opportunity support services, and the pros and cons of each approach.

Institution-Wide Funding Announcements: One option for sharing funding announcements is to send them to a broad audience. In this example, someone in a research development role publishes broad funding announcements that are of interest to large portions of investigators to the larger institutional community. While this method reaches the broadest possible number of investigators, reviewing, culling, and curating such funding opportunity digests is a time-consuming undertaking. Considerations of whether the benefits of this activity outweigh the investment in time and resources will be unique for each institution. If this service is provided, we recommend a partnership with the institution’s Corporate and Foundation Relations office or its equivalent to leverage knowledge of non-federal funding opportunities. 

Individualized Funding Plans: Another service that investigators may find beneficial is assistance with the development of an individualized funding plan, including an overview of the relevant funding landscape. The creation of a detailed funding plan is often very helpful to investigators, however it requires a great deal of time and knowledge among research administration and development staff. In order to offer such support, an institution must already have or be able to develop familiarity with both federal and nonfederal funding priorities and knowledge of specific missions of a variety of sponsors, as well as a broad view of expertise of investigators at the institution in order to advise them on the type of funders that support their work. Offering this type of support can pull staff from other necessary tasks, and at larger institutions is hard to scale up given the time each plan takes to develop.

Targeted Funding Searches: Lastly, those research administrators that have an understanding of research and scholarly interests of investigators that they support could perform targeted funding searches. Research administrators that work closely with investigators and have day-to-day exposure to their work often forward investigators specific funding opportunities that they come across. This isn’t a consistent service offered across research administrators, and also doesn’t reach the level of a targeted funding search. While a targeted funding search theoretically provides investigators with the best possible funding fit, opportunities to provide focused funding search support will be limited by research administrator bandwidth (proposal and award work will understandably take priority) as well by the skillsets of research administrator and preferences and work style of the investigator.

Offering funding search support is not one size fit all, for research administration and development professionals, for faculty, and for institutions. An argument can be made that because the investigator is most familiar with their research, they should perform funding searches themselves in order to for it to return the most useful results. While this argument is valid, many investigators ask for and hope to receive such assistance, and the three options above are ways to provide it. Let us know what other offices/positions or technology you are leveraging to provide funding search support in your institutions.