The grant process is expensive, and often impossible to navigate. While there’s certainly a lot of room to improve the process, grant applications can be complex and time consuming, and the funding agencies often don’t have a lot of experience with grant recipients.
There are also limitations, such as no legal right to appeal the review, and the fact that applications take time. And this may not be an option for those with less budget.
Grants can also be expensive beyond a few thousand dollars. For an organization like the National Science Foundation’s Advanced Microscopy Program, it will cost over a million dollars to get grants into people’s bank accounts. That can mean lots of work and administrative headaches for the research community. It can also limit the ability to bring new ideas to life.
How do grants work?
In many cases, the grant process is a long-running bureaucratic process in which grants are requested by organizations hoping to apply for federal dollars. The applicant organization is given a predetermined deadline based on the budget of the federal agency granting funds. When the deadline passes, the organization is given the option of submitting new proposals, and the agency decides which proposals to fund.
Grants are approved by the agency’s granting agencies. All research grants are eligible for funding from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and, to a lesser extent, the Office of Medical Applications of Research (OMAR). In the case of NIH, each grant provides a fixed annual total amount and, as a small portion of the total budget, covers the costs for administering the program. The amount is determined by the specific application type, which is typically a medical research project or a clinical trial application (see illustration at right).
For OMA (which is comprised by various federal departments including the Commerce Department, EPA, and the Department of Transportation), the main function of the grant is to make sure that the research in question is being conducted within a budget cap. The grants are given on the basis of how much they will cost the applicant. The cost of the research is determined by a competitive peer review process and is typically less than the annual federal budget.
The first step in applying for grants is receiving the notice. This is often called the “formal notice to apply” or “formal application.” Once the application is received, each government agency decides where the new project or project research will be conducted in relation to other applicants’ proposed research. There are two kinds of projects funded using government money:
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