Magazine article ASEE Prism

Tapping Uncle Sam's Coffers

Magazine article ASEE Prism

Tapping Uncle Sam's Coffers

Article excerpt

THOSE OF US WHO ARE GRIZZLED VETERANS OF THE research grant game may have forgotten how daunting the maze of federal agencies can be for professors in the early stages of their academic careers. It's a labyrinth well worth learning to navigate, however, because the federal government is the single largest source of research dollars for universities.

The primary funding sources for academic engineering research are the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Defense (DOD). Between them, they provide nearly 80 percent of all federal support. DOD funding is provided through a variety of agencies, the most notable of which are the Army Research Office, the Air Force Office of Scientific Research, the Office of Naval Research, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

Before you approach any of these agencies, be sure to visit their Web sites to determine what their current funding priorities are, which program manager is responsible for the area most closely aligned with your research interests, and what the process is for submitting a proposal.

Once you have a research idea, you might want to give the program manager a call to introduce yourself and to get her or his reaction. In the case of most of the defense agencies, this initial contact is required and should be followed with a brief "white paper" proposal before a full proposal is prepared.

Of course, NSF and DOD are not the only sources of federal research dollars. The next largest federal sources of funding for academic engineering research in descending order are: the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Energy, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Department of Agriculture. The NIH, by far the largest federal research agency, has been increasing its funding of academic engineering research in recent years and is projected to increase it substantially in the future. …

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