Early-career researchers worldwide are availing themselves of an important but formerly obscure resource: three downloadable databases of hundreds of global funding opportunities and fellowships.
The databases — one for graduate students, one for postdoctoral researchers and one for junior faculty members — are produced and posted by Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore, Maryland. They were originally conceived as a career resource for JHU students and staff members, says Denis Wirtz, an engineer and the university’s vice-provost for research. “We had a choice to reserve the information or make it available to everyone,” he says. “I reminded myself that the university’s mission is knowledge for the world.”
The first version of the postdoc fellowship database had been online since 2015, but few people outside JHU knew about it. Until recently, Wirtz says, only about 100 people would download it in a given month, and he suspects that most of those downloads were by people on campus.
He had tried in the past to publicize the databases, but finally succeeded with a tweet on 9 February. The post, which reads “Our gift to the entire research community: a downloadable database of 314 different types of postdoc fellowships,” has now been retweeted more than 1,000 times. Within a couple of weeks, the database had been downloaded more than 5,000 times, says Wirtz, who adds that similar tweets about the other databases have led to a surge of interest.
The sheer number of fellowship and funding opportunities for postdoctoral researchers and other early-career researchers caught Wirtz by surprise. “I thought we would maybe find a few and be done with the project,” he says. “A myriad of private foundations, companies and philanthropies had created funding opportunities that weren’t widely known. I’m a professional research-development officer, so I figured that if I didn’t know about these fellowships, few in academia would know about them.”
The databases, updated monthly, are checked thoroughly for accuracy and are designed to be easy to search, Wirtz says. “You can quickly identify what’s relevant for you,” he says. “You don’t want to spend hours on this. You want to spend a couple of minutes.”
Barbara Natalizio, interim executive director of the US National Postdoctoral Association, an advocacy group based in Rockville, Maryland, praises the effort. “Given the intricacies of navigating the wide array of federal and private funding opportunities and the time needed to do intensive exploration of these opportunities, this is a welcome resource for early-career researchers,” she says.