Research Dissemination and the Need for Grants: A Basic Overview of the Funding Process, Part 3

Part 3 of 4: Missed Part 1 or Part 2? Catch up now!

Funding and Open Access

It is common for Open Access publishers to charge authors APCs (Article Processing Charges) in order to make your work freely and openly accessible for others. APCs can be surprisingly expensive–they can get up to $5,000. Despite research showing increased engagement and citation potential for articles that are open access, APCs can be a big disincentive for a researcher to consider publishing Open Access.

As of a 2013 federal government decision, grants from federal agencies now almost entirely require public access to the completed work, including the data acquired to create the work. Each federal agency has an individual policy relating to this federal requirement. Though private foundations are not required to stipulate public access, some, such as the Gates Foundation, have chosen to enforce such a policy.

So, how to pay for the inevitably likely APC associated with making published work publicly available?

First, funders likely aren’t going to want to provide you a grant just for your APC. They want to be associated with sponsoring the work that is involved with research, so requesting a grant for research that is already completed and ready to be published is less enticing to them. If this is the type of grant need you have, however, there may be smaller pots of funds at the university level available to you to specifically pay for publication charges–for example, UNC’s Office of Research Development’s Publication Grants.

If you are preparing a grant proposal for your research to be supported financially, add publication fees in as a “Direct Cost.” This does require you to be already planning at the stage of your grant proposal to publish the conclusion of your research as Open Access, but it’s a good start to be thinking about, especially if you know the funding organizations expect this conclusion anyway.

There are free options for Open Access publication, though, if you want to avoid paying APCs. Publishing in institutional repositories, such as the Carolina Digital Repository (CDR) is a collection of scholarly content–publications, datasets, etc.–correlated with researchers at UNC and its contents can be findable even from a Google search. The UNC Dataverse can also be a free place to house your data (specifically) openly. If you want your work in a repository devoted to your discipline, you could deposit in an open access subject repository, such as these.

Just be sure before submission to any repository that your publisher will allow you to place your content in these free repositories. More information about how to check that is in the Author Rights library guide.

Open Access can be challenging for humanities researchers, whose primary dissemination type is in books. However, open access books can increase engagement, citations, and viewability–an incentive that non-profit scholarly publishers may support, even if they don’t currently know about the “TOME” initiative.

What grant writing support is available for me?

The listed offices below are some of the many available support options available for researchers at Carolina.

Departments generally have a small number of grant support staff housed within their department building. They may be known as “Contracts and Grants Officers” (mentioned earlier in the Cast of Characters in Part 1). They can help you with any aspect of the grant process you might need, and are a great resource for faculty since they are devoted to that department and not part of a centralized grants department. Pre- and post-grant award, they can help you in the following ways:

  • Answer grant proposal questions.
  • Review grant proposal.
  • Approve and submit grant proposal to the centralized grants office OSR at UNC. They are an authorized signatory for your department.
  • Keep track of financial reports.
  • Monitor whether you are on time with tasks and expenditures according to your grant schedule (in project management, this is known as monitoring the “burn rate”).
  • Add and pay personnel.
  • Reimburse for travel and pay bills.
  • Pay for computer equipment.

UNC’s centralized grants office, the Office for Sponsored Research, is responsible for checking compliance issues and for officially submitting the grant proposal to the grant funder. Everything in the grant proposal must be legal (aka “compliant”), for human or animal studies have regulated protections, which your proposal must show you have considered. Because you are affiliated with a university, you cannot individually submit your grant application directly to a funder–grants are awarded to UNC on behalf of its requesting faculty member. Only a few exceptions exist: for example, you as an individual can apply for the National Endowment for the Humanities’s Summer Stipend or Fellowship Program because these are funds specifically allocated for individual scholars. Any grant application submitted goes through a portal to the funder. The funder will then submit any money awarded back to the institution via the Office for Sponsored Research, who will disburse the grant funds.

Other centralized research support offices, such as the Office for Research Development. This office focuses primarily on the pre-award stage for faculty seeking to go after larger, federal grants. They encourage dissemination collaboration and co-authorship with others around the world, for this variety of expertise makes a larger project–and thus a larger grant needed–possible to advance the field. As the hit rate for large grants can be very competitive, the ORD strives to help make researchers’ grants more competitive and targeted to the funder’s expectations.

Other centralized research support offices, such as Corporate and Foundation Relations office. This office manages relations with the Gates Foundations and any smaller private foundations.

The Graduate Funding Information Center is an office supporting graduate students in their pursuits for grant funding. Besides providing scheduled workshops about how to use their online graduate student grant databases, they also offer individual consultations to help craft strong applications. The Office of Graduate Education offers grant writing support for School of Medicine graduate students.

Office of Postdoctoral Affairs has a consultant for funding and research development. They offer support for postdoctoral researchers by offering classes on finding funding and funding resources and consultations on research project development. They are keen to help develop researcher skills and translate research interests into appropriate funding opportunities.

NC TraCS (North Carolina Translational and Clinical Sciences) institute at UNC-CH School of Medicine offers help reviewing the grant proposal, identifying funding sources, and offering training on grant applications.

Other locations on campus at UNC-Chapel Hill are listed on the Funding Information Portal, in addition to various external training guides and successful UNC-CH proposal examples.

Data Management Team at the University Libraries offers consultation and plan review support on building and revising the data management plan which is required in grants.

The funder organization itself. In many cases, the funding organization has program officer staff whose job it is to help answer researchers’ questions, and even review grant applications, to make your interaction with grant services more accessible. If your application has been denied, they can provide comments that had been considered for determining what was lacking.

Stay tuned for Part 4: What happens after I’ve submitted my grant proposal – and resources!

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