The advancement of science is grounded in research. While anyone can come up with a theory, it is through experimentation and testing that scientists actually prove (or disprove) their theories and move science forward to the next theory. Funding that research, coming up with money for the experiments and prototypes and tests after test is just as crucial as coming up with the theories in the first place.
- Grants require a detailed application covering all aspects of the research and testing to be funded.
- Grants are usually competitive, with multiple applicants vying for a set amount of money.
- Grants are usually constrained by time, such as a three-year grant or a five-year grant. If no results are achieved during the grant, the application process has to be repeated.
In the US, most funding comes from one of two sources: Government or Corporations. A small number of grants come from non-profit or charitable organizations, but those tend to be specializes, such as finding a cure for a specific disease.
Research funded by government grants may be carried out by government agencies and entities or by universities and other research labs that receive government funds. The main advantage to government funded research is that the results of the research are shared publicly. This allows for collaborative projects between researchers and for researchers in related fields to build on those results. Much of the government-funded research is focused on military research & development and space exploration.
Only 10% of scientific research is carried out by the government directly with an additional 20% being done by universities. The remaining two-thirds is done by industry.
Corporate funded research, which may be done in universities or think tanks, not just within the corporation itself, is usually targeted toward a profit-making result – developing a new product, process, or technology that can advance their industry and make money. The results of corporate research are usually privately owned, unless there has been a special grant agreement between an independent researcher or university and the corporate funder.
Some of the major sources of research grants in the US include the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and 26 government agencies, including the Department of Energy.