Where Can I Get Basic Information on Funding in the U.S.? What's With NIH's Budget and Funding Opportunities This Year?


Where Can I Get Basic Information on Funding in the U.S.?

What's With NIH's Budget and Funding Opportunities This Year?

Dear GrantDoctor,

I am in my interns of medical school in Amsterdam. After my interns (in May 2000) I will leave for 2 years to do research in Boston, the United States, at the Shriners Burns Institute. The project is about treatment of burn wounds using techniques involving genetic engineering in human skin cells. My purpose is to get a Ph.D. in medicine (surgery) in the Netherlands at Utrecht University. I have received a letter of confirmation from Boston, but a problem is that my personal financial income is not arranged.

After looking at the Dutch funding possibilities, so far I have no results in the form of financial support. Now I am trying to find out about the way things are arranged in the United States. Do you know of any grants or Internet sites you could recommend? Any place where I can find basic information about the world of grants and funding in the U.S.? I thank you very much for your help, time, and effort.

Yours sincerely,Dutch Intern

Dear Dutch Intern,

You have a great opportunity to combine bench research with bedside healthcare: The treatment and recovery of burn patients have improved tremendously since the 1970s, especially with genetic research paving the way for possible large-scale culturing of healthy human skin cells for transplants. But your personal funding situation could prove to be a sticky problem. The Royal Netherlands Embassy told me there are a few major organizations that fund collaborative U.S.-Netherlands research programs. The Netherlands-America Commission for Educational Exchange (NACEE) for example is a nonprofit organization that "carries out grant programs for study, teaching, and research and provides information on study and research in the U.S." They provide a wealth of information for citizens of the Netherlands who want to study or do research in the States, such as a description of the American education system and entry tests. Information on funding opportunities, scholarships, and exchanges can also be found through their home page. You can e-mail them at nacee@nacee.nl or give them a call (+31--20--6275426) and explain your situation. The Science, Education, and Culture section of the Royal Netherlands Embassy's Web site provides a number of useful links to other organizations that are worth investigating.

The U.S. Information Agency (USIA, also known as the United States Information Service abroad) administers the Fulbright Program around the world providing grants for overseas study. There is a Foreign Student Program that processes graduate grants that can be applied for through the NACEE. Check out USIA's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs Web page for a comprehensive breakdown of funding opportunities. They also provide information on "Education in the USA" with more links.

The Netherland-America Foundation, based in New York City, is another provider of grants for Dutch students wishing to study in the U.S. They offer fellowships but also an interest-free study loan for Dutch (and American) students "without limitation on areas of study." It is another source of information, but applications are still routed through the NACEE.

You are not alone: Your current advisor and your prospective supervisor should help explain how such funding and travel grants can be obtained. Have you also checked with your university's or medical school's grants office? Visas and work permits are necessary for non-U.S. citizens to work in the States: The USIA put together "Fourteen Steps to Study in the United States," which includes information on student and exchange visitor visas.

Best of luck finishing up your internship and in securing funding! Good luck, or "Zet 'm op en veel succes!" as my Dutch friends say.

-- The GrantDoctor

Dear GrantDoctor,

Can you enlighten me as to what's happening with the National Institutes for Health (NIH) budget this year and the prospects for funding given my situation? I submitted a grant proposal to the NIH AREA (R15) program in January 1999. The proposal was reviewed in June and received a priority score. According to NIH's timetable, decisions on funding were originally to have been made in September-October 1999. Unfortunately, a late and convoluted budget by the Congress and Administration apparently intervened in the normal process. I was told that NIH's budget was so complex that it was going to take weeks to figure it out, making further delays.

Now, a year after submission, as far as I can tell, my grant proposal is indefinitely in limbo, not disapproved but not funded. Furthermore, officials at NIH can provide no information even about when we might find out about funding decisions. I am outraged that during all this time NIH has been completely silent--the only information I have received has been when I have made a direct inquiry. In such a situation, NIH should have the courtesy to provide reports on proposal status--even if only by e-mail, and even if only to state, "we can't tell you anything now." Being left completely in the dark has been terrible--and unnecessary. Help!

Dear In-the-Dark Applicant,

Hold on to your pipette: Enlightenment ensues! You are indeed correct--funding "did get delayed" according to Marie Willet, NIH's Academic Research Enhancement Award (AREA) program coordinator because of congressional setbacks while completing NIH's budget. Toward the end of last week when I spoke with officials at NIH and its Office of Extramural Affairs about your concerns, decisions as to how the congressional money was to be distributed among the various institutes were being finalized. But now that those allocations have been made, "awardees will be notified by the institute as soon as possible." For AREA awards, there are three cycles of review each year. Because of the delay in passing the budget, two rounds of AREA applications--roughly 100 applications--will be dealt with in the coming weeks, says the Office of Extramural Affairs. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) deals with many of the AREA applications, and even though the budget allocations could be settled before the end of January, there are still the normal funding decisions that have to be made by the various institutes, forewarns Jean Chin, a program director at NIGMS. "We will be calling the people who make the pay list," she says.

You have to realize that NIH receives a staggering number of applications every year--it's a very dynamic process with grant applications flooding in all the time--so contacting investigators (even by e-mail!) can be impractical. It is frustrating to wait for funding decisions to be made, but Chin encourages applicants to pick up the phone and call their program officer--"Wondering is worse than knowing," she says. Make routine phone calls and simply ask about the status of your application.

Bear in mind that when it comes to Congress, research dollars, budgets, and allocations, many officials themselves are also often left in the dark! I'll keep my fingers crossed. Good luck!

--The GrantDoctor

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