Increase Your Funding via International Partnerships

In my own career, I recall a very wealthy donor from Asia, who funded a major program at a leading university department where I was the director. He asked me what I believed would be an important funding area if he were to donate $1 million to my department. I told him that international research would be crucial for our university faculty in order to expand their horizons and infuse new and needed ideas into their research. And so it happened. We began cooperating with researchers throughout the world. We ultimately were recognized by many international organizations for the publications that resulted from our mutual efforts and the international collaboration that ensued.

Given the impact of international research in my own experience, I will dedicate this blog to U.S. federal funding, and the one that will follow to foundation funding.

Where to Look for International Funding

  • lists all current discretionary funding opportunities from the 26 agencies of the United States government. This includes the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Department of Energy (DOE), and many others — in other words, all the most important public funders of research in the United States.

  • Websites of each of the 26 U.S. federal agencies list their international funding opportunities. For more in-depth descriptions, I would highly recommend that you visit their sites.

  • Newton’s List is a free resource open to individuals searching for international funding and organizations looking to market their grants to an international audience. Established in 2013 and co-sponsored by CRDF Global (originally named the U.S. Civilian and Research Foundation) and the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), Newton’s List is a user-driven aggregate of current international funding opportunities for researchers working in natural and social science fields.

  • Databases to which many agencies subscribe, such as: Pivot, GrantForward, and SPIN, are available for a fee.

Examples of International Funders

Although there are more international funding agencies than the ones I am listing below, these will give you an insight into what is currently being funded:

Department of Energy (DOE)

The DOE budget of $6.6B includes grants and contracts supporting over 25,000 researchers, including students, located at over 300 institutions and all 17 DOE national laboratories. The budget also supports a suite of 27 open-access scientific user facilities that provide tools and resources to over 35,000 users each year from universities, national laboratories, industry, and international research partners. The Office of International Affairs has primary responsibility at the Department of Energy for international cooperation in energy, science, and technology.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA carries out bilateral cooperative programs with many countries around the world. These programs allow other countries, especially emerging economies, to benefit from U.S. experience in developing appropriate and effective environmental programs. The EPA, in collaboration with a wide variety of multilateral organizations and institutions, makes funding available to protect human health and the environment.

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

The NIH and its Fogarty International Center invest in research on a variety of topics vital to global health. These include, but are not limited to, chronic noncommunicable diseases (cancer and diabetes), infectious diseases (Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Zika, malaria, tuberculosis), maternal and child health, neurological and mental disorders and diseases, oral and dental health, trauma and injury, tobacco control, global health security, and mentorship training. Various NIH institutes fund collaborative international research. Additionally, the NIH and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) partner on infectious disease research in the U.S. and abroad.

National Science Foundation (NSF)

The National Science Foundation’s transformative integrative approaches fill the most substantial gaps in the understanding of the diversity of life on Earth. Their research funding emphasizes novel ways to understand the synergistic roles of critical ecological and evolutionary processes. Funding reflects the mechanisms driving the origin, maintenance, and functional roles of biodiversity. Other areas include, but are not limited to, Collaborative Research in Computational Neuroscience, Cyber Infrastructure Training, Graduate Research Opportunities Worldwide, and Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research.

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

USAID, a bilateral agency, fosters partnerships between experts in the U.S. and developing countries in order to build capacity, tackle global challenges ranging from the environment to health, and drive innovation that supports new endeavors in science and technology. In many cases, USAID coordinates programs with NGOs, multilateral organizations, and with funding agencies in the U.S. such as NSF, NIH, EPA, and USDA. One of the best ways to get funding from USAID is to initiate a strong collaboration with in-country institutions and/or communities in need of assistance.

National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)

NIFA, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes the daunting challenge of meeting the world’s future food security needs. NIFA’s Center for International Programs (CIP) strives to advance global engagement by partnering with universities, among other agencies. The benefits derived from international cooperation in agriculture advance competitive grant programs that harness a myriad of research and education resources. Some examples of the programs CIP sponsors, often in coordination with NGOs, include agriculture development programs, food and nutrition, and international science and education projects.

Many other programs fund and support international cooperation and research, such as the U.S. Department of Education, Title VI Projects; the Fulbright Scholars Program; the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs; and the Department of Defense.

Global cooperation is of major importance, and because of the increasing critical issues facing all of us, it is destined to become of even greater significance. What is certain, as demonstrated by the agencies mentioned in this article, is that global health, security, environment, sustainability, and infrastructure development are urgent issues that are being addressed by funding innovative and transformative research.


Mathilda Harris

Over the past 18 years, she has written grants, conducted capital campaigns, developed strategic plans for grant procurement, and assisted individuals and institutions to write winning proposals for various donors.

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