Monday, April 21, 2014

Money Matters: 6 Tips for Funding International Research

To anyone who would like to plan their international research trip, I’ll go ahead and state the obvious: money matters.  If you read my last post, you know that I was driving myself up a wall waiting to hear back from funders.  Well, fortunately, I was notified that I received an internal fellowship to fund my dissertation research in the Dominican Republic!  While I am incredibly relieved, I am also very aware that I am a student at an institution that has funding opportunities. Not all graduate students are in this position.  If you are in a program at an institution with limited funding, there are multiple avenues you can pursue as you search for funding.  It worked well for me to create a spreadsheet of funding sources in my first year of graduate school.  I have a tab for each year of my graduate school career and I regularly update information on due dates, application requirements, and award amounts.

1. External Fellowships: The U.S. Student Fulbright Program, National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant (NSF-DDRIG), and the Social Science Research Council are a few of the big name funding sources.  Notably, the Fulbright has extra allowances for dependents in some countries.  NSF-DDRIG is for research expenses and not living expenses, but if you know you’re interested in international research in your first couple of years of graduate school, you should apply for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (it would cover living expenses).  The application process for each of these funding sources is extensive.  I started 6 months or more before the deadlines.  If your school has an Office of Research Support, connect with them.

2. Internal Fellowships/Other Departments: Your institution may have funding sources for research on certain areas.  Think about your topic and decide how it might fit into different categories (i.e. global health, women/gender studies, a specific method, a particular ethnic group, a focus on a particular language or area).  You may be able to piece together a modest funding package. 

3. Foundations and National Organizations: Your discipline may have a national organization that funds dissertation research.  If your topic has a specific focus, find organizations that share your focus (i.e. human rights, gender, politics, language, law, etc.) even if they are outside your discipline. If you are not sure whether your research fits with the mission of a funder, email your abstract to the program officers and ask what they think (an excellent tip from a colleague who has been very successful seeking outside funding!).

4. Your personal income: This is less than ideal, but some researchers take out student loans to conduct their dissertation research.  If you have an employed partner, her/his income could support your family.  Some researchers have aggressively saved the year before the research trip.

5. Get Creative: If your funding is tied to a research assistantship, can you do the work while you’re abroad? If your funding is tied to a teaching assistantship, can you grade assignments online and send feedback digitally?  When you get to your host country, can you teach a course at a local university to earn extra money?

6. Procrastinate Productively: If you feel like a distraction from other work you could be doing, search for funding opportunities!

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