The GrantDoctor: Special Neapolitan Edition


1: Feedback from a former program officer

2: How can I fund my Italy-based international collaboration?

3: I'm from Brazil and I want to work in Italy. Where can I find the dough?

Dear GrantDoctor,I enjoy reading your column. You provide a valuable service.When speaking about grant-craft, I often expand on the question that program people always get: "Are you interested in [my area]?" This is not exactly the wrong question, but perhaps it is not the most meaningful question. By this, I mean that there really are three questions that the investigator is trying to ask:

1) Will my application be assigned to your

    institute or center (IC)?

2) Will NIH go out of its way to pay my grant?

3) Is there a special pot of money just for what

    I am doing?

This is exactly what you addressed in your column of 13 February, with the partial exception of #2. As someone who spent 13 years in NIH program work, I'd like to add a gloss on use of the program announcement (PA): Even though applications under a PA do compete in the general pool, PAs are an indication of topics the IC considers to be high priority. This can help if your score is close to the pay line. At times like this, when the IC [and not the study section-assigned score] is able to make funding choices, applications in response to a PA, like those from new investigators, are likely to get a second look.--Former Program Officer

Dear Former,

It's always good to get an insider's view. Thanks very much for your feedback! Keep in touch.

The GrantDoctor

Dear GrantDoctor,I am an Italian geneticist at University of Naples. Six months ago I started an exciting collaboration with three research groups in the U.S.Given the situation of the research funding in Italy, I was wondering if any international funding program exist which could support this type of collaboration. I noticed the Fogarty international grants on biomedical research, but they are specific for developing countries. (Is Italy a developing country? It seems it isn't.)Best Regards,Ennio Giordano

Dear Ennio,

I contacted Daphne van de Sande of the Agency for the Promotion of European Research. She is the national contact point for the Marie Curie Actions in Italy. If you are early in your career, she recommends you take a close look at the Human Frontier Science Program ( HFSP) Young Investigator grants. If you don't qualify as early-career, its Program Grants might be just the thing. HFSP is one of the few programs that specialize in funding international collaborative science. In order for your work to be HFSP fundable, it must be not just international but interdisciplinary as well. If your program (and career stage) fits its mandate, HFSP is an excellent choice. HFSP awards are, of course, highly competitive, but this fact should not keep you from applying.

You should also check out the European Researcher's Mobility Portal. This site will allow you to search for Italian funding programs that might include collaborative components. But it's slim pickings in cash-strapped Italy, as I'm sure you know.

If you're fairly well along in your career, van de Sande recommends contacting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inquire about its bilateral scientific agreements. The U.S.-Italy agreement has a genetic--specifically, a genomic--component; it reads, in part:

The two countries agreed that cooperation in the development of paradigm shift technologies like nanotechnologies, microbial, plant and animal functional genomics, and advanced computing networks was of fundamental economic importance to the future of the United States and Italy. Projects linking the education of researchers, the continuing education of technical employees, and mechanisms to shorten the time between invention and innovation were designated as key objectives to be discussed in a future workshop on science and innovation strategies.

If your collaboration fits the bill, give the ministry a call. It will check to see what, if any, money is available and whether it is earmarked for certain organizations or is open to anyone.

Let's talk about American money. In principle, any qualified investigator--or, more precisely, any institution hosting a qualified investigator--is free to apply for an NIH grant. That means that you are free to apply for your own NIH grant. However, as a foreign investigator, you would have to clear several hurdles that American investigators don't have to clear. Your chances for funding, then, would be better if one of your American collaborators served as PI on the grant, with you as co-PI. But even listing a foreign lab as a collaborator might weaken the application, unless that foreign lab is strategically located to advance the science. A collaboration with an AIDS lab located in an area where the disease is especially widespread, for instance, might even work to the applicant's advantage. Regrettably, I don't see why your Naples address would give a geneticist an advantage.

There's a way around this, although it has its disadvantages. If you are listed as a subcontractor on the application of your American colleague, instead of as a co-investigator, the fact that your lab is overseas would matter less. The proposal would succeed or fail mostly on its merits. If successful, you would then have some cash to do your work, but the professional advantages would be much less than if the grant was awarded to your lab. Furthermore, American funders rarely pay facilities and administration charges--overhead--to foreign laboratories.

Best of Luck,

The GrantDoctor

Hi,Please, I need to know what I have to do to get a grant to go work at Italy (Naples, Istituto Federico II). I'm from Brazil, and my adviser in Italy said I should look at Marie Curie program, but I couldn't find how to apply. Please, tell me what to do.Grazie,Giuliano Marchi

Dear Giuliano,

Since I still had Daphne van de Sande on the horn, I posed your question to her. Her reply:

If you are a postdoc researcher or have at least 4 years of postgraduate research experience, you can apply for a Marie Curie International Incoming Fellowship. The latest call just closed in February. However, the next call is to be published before the summer, and the presumed deadline will be early in 2005. You will be able to start your project at the earliest 9 months after the deadline. You can find more information on the Sixth Framework Programme Web site.

If you are an early-stage researcher, or also if you have more than 4 years research experience or a PhD, you can check the vacancies in Marie Curie host fellowships. These are not currently published yet but will be available from the Marie Curie Actions Web site, hopefully within a few weeks. Look under "opportunities."

You can also check the European Researcher's Mobility Portal for other opportunities in Italy.

Be Well,

The GrantDoctor

Due to the high volume of questions received, The GrantDoctor cannot answer all queries on an individual basis. Look for an answer to your question published in this column soon! Thank you!

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