Five Ways to Find Research Opportunities Outside Academia

Sheila A. Alexander, PhD, RN, FCCM

Research is vital to advancements in care and improving human health outcomes in all settings, including critical care. Academic medical centers often have considerable infrastructure to support research and especially to pilot studies that support larger, external research awards. For researchers in settings that are not focused on research, it is difficult to find financial support to conduct meaningful research. But there are ways to get involved in research and find research funding in settings outside academia:

  1. Volunteer your facility as a recruitment site. Many studies are conducted at multiple sites and are always looking for individuals or teams to recruit subjects. Discovery, the Critical Care Research Network, provides excellent opportunities for multisite studies. Other specialty organizations may have similar networks.
  2. Volunteer as a participant. Many studies require healthy control subjects, and they may be looking for someone just like you. Check with your local university or research center for ongoing studies for which you may be eligible.
  3. Conduct your own research study. There are many sources of financial support for clinical research. When looking for funding, consider the following sources:
    • Look at the research you want to do. When you see people conducting research in your institution or a similar setting, ask them how their work is funded. Look to your specialty organization for funding opportunities as well. Organizations such as the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM), American Thoracic Society, and Neurocritical Care Society offer great ways to learn about best practices, and they also fund small to mid-level grants to support research in their fields. Consider applying for the SCCM Discovery Research Grant and/or the SCCM-Weil Research Grant. These grants both support critical care research of a principal investigator of almost any level.
    • • Look within your discipline. Organizations specific to a given discipline, be it nursing, pharmacy, or respiratory therapy, often support the development of the discipline and the topics you are interested in studying. The American Association of CriticalCare Nurses, Canadian Association of Neuroscience Nurses, and American Nurses Foundation all fund research on a variety of topics relevant to critical care nursing. The American College of Clinical Pharmacy and the American Society of HealthSystem Pharmacists fund research grants on topics relevant to pharmacists. The American Respiratory Care Foundation supports research on respiratory health. Whatever your discipline, your professional organization probably funds research that will advance your science.
    • Look in the literature you read, specifically the acknowledgements section of research reports. The funding source should be cited and it might be right for you.
    • Look to your institution. While there may not be a lot of infrastructure, many facilities want to improve care and may provide support in a multitude of ways including release time for investigators, supplies and equipment, or other gifts in kind to advance the care provided.
    • Look at philanthropic organizations. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation funds research addressing specific global areas of interest, some of which may be relevant to critical care and your own research area.
    • Look under every rock. Many universities have research funds for students, and some offer alumni grants to fund equipment or support a small project. International work is eligible for funding through the Global Research Council and Science Europe.
    • • Finally, consider ways to get the work done without financial support. Staff members at your hospital or institution may be willing to serve as your mentors. Your colleagues and peers may be willing to collect data for your work. Some studies can use medical records to generate data and, while this can be a time-consuming way to extract data, it is often free.
  4. Find your own developmental support. None of us works in isolation. Look both within and beyond your facility for mentorship. Your workplace, an affiliated college or university, and organizations such as SCCM are full of experts who enjoy mentoring junior researchers in conducting relevant research. Certainly speakers at an event such as SCCM’s annual Critical Care Congress are experts who may be willing to mentor you, and the person sitting next to you during that presentation might be the expert you are looking for as well! Be creative and keep your eyes open for ideas, financial support opportunities, and people to guide you along the way!