Grants are funds given to tax-exempt nonprofit organizations or local governments by foundations, corporations, governments, small business and individuals. Most grants are made to fund a specific project and require some level of reporting. The process involves an applicant submitting a proposal to a potential funder, either on the applicant's own initiative or in response to a Request for Proposals from the funder. Other grants can be given to individuals, such as victims of natural disasters or individuals who seek to open a small business.
Other grants include intergovernmental grants which are used to correct fiscal imbalances between different levels of government. Many federations use these grants to correct imbalances between taxing and spending across different levels of government. Examples include the US, Australia and Kenya.
Most often, grants are issued by the government to students through attending post-secondary education institutions. In certain cases, a part of a government loan is issued as a grant, particularly pertaining to promising students seeking financial support for continuing their educations.
In a federal system of government, a block grant is a large sum of money granted by the national government to a regional government with only general provisions as to the way it is to be spent. This can be contrasted with a categorical grant which has more strict and specific provisions on the way it is to be spent.
An advantage of block grants is that they allow regional governments to experiment with different ways of spending money with the same goal in mind, though it is very difficult to compare the results of such spending and reach a conclusion. A disadvantage is that the regional governments might be able to use the money if they collected it through their own taxation systems and spent it without any restrictions from above.
Since the 1980s, the United States government has provided vast sums of money through block grants, under a policy that has come to be known as "devolutionary" or "new federalism."
According to the General Accounting Office, from 1980 to 2001 the number of federal block grant programs went from 450 to 700. The grants are aimed at a wide range of activities from education, to healthcare, to transportation, to housing, to counterterrorism.
In the United States, the formulas for how much money states receive favor small states. Most grant programs have a minimum amount per state - usually 0.5 % or 0.75 %.
For instance, in 2003, under the State Homeland Security Grant Programs and Critical Infrastructure Protection Grants, Wyoming, the least populous state, received $17.5 million and California, the most populous state, received $164 million. In 2004 FY2004 Wyoming is guaranteed to receive a minimum of $15 million and California, the most populated state, $133 million. Wyoming receives $35.3 per person, California receives $ 4.7 per person.
Similar patterns exist for other block grant formulas. An analysis exists in the book Sizing Up the Senate.
Major criticisms of block grants are that:
- the award process can be manipulated so that grants can be distributed to reward the federal administration's own party (by favoring states with governors of that party, for example);
- at the local level, the same sort of partisan favoritism may occur when the state distributes the funds to local government units;
- dispersing the funds through state or local governments makes federal oversight of their proper use very difficult.
During the development of the interstate highway system, congressional grants provided roughly 90% of the funding. These types of federal grants are called categorical grants because the national government determines the purposes, or categories, for which the money should be used. Categorical grants may be spent only for narrowly defined purposes and recipients often must match a portion of the federal funds. 33% of categorical grants are considered to be formula grants. See: Head Start, Urban Forestry Assistance, Asbestos School Hazards Abatement. About 90% of federal aid dollars are spent for categorical grants.
Categorical grants in the 1960s were meant to help the states perform their traditional functions.
Project grants required state and local governments to submit proposals to federal agencies. Project grants encourage competition between groups that want the grant. There is also an emphasis on merit, as in the case of grants obtained by university professors.
Formula grants used a formula, composed of such elements as need and state and local capacities, to distribute funds.
In the United States Federal grants are economic aid issued by the United States government out of the general federal revenue. Grants may also be issued by private non-profit organizations such as foundations, not-for-profit corporations or charitable trusts which are all collectively referred to as charities. Outside the United States grants, subventions or subsidies are used to in similar fashion by government or private charities to subsidize programs and projects that fit within the funding criteria of the grant-giving entity or donor. Grants can be unrestricted, to be used by the recipient in any fashion within the perimeter of the recipient organization's activities or they may be restricted to a specific purpose by the benefactor.
Research is an active, diligent, and systematic process of inquiry aimed at discovering, interpreting, and revising facts. This intellectual investigation produces a greater knowledge of events, behaviors, theories, and laws and makes practical applications possible. The term research is also used to describe an entire collection of information about a particular subject, and is usually associated with the output of science and the scientific method. The word research derives from the French recherche, from rechercher, to search closely where "chercher" means "to search" (see French language); its literal meaning is 'to investigate thoroughly'. Research is funded by public authorities, by charitable organisations and by private groups, including many companies.
Basic research (also called fundamental or pure research) has as its primary objective the advancement of knowledge and the theoretical understanding of the relations among variables (see statistics). It is exploratory and often driven by the researcher’s curiosity, interest, or hunch. It is conducted without any practical end in mind, although it may have unexpected results pointing to practical applications. The terms “basic” or “fundamental” indicate that, through theory generation, basic research provides the foundation for further, sometimes applied research. As there is no guarantee of short-term practical gain, researchers may find it difficult to obtain funding for basic research. Research is a subset of invention.
Examples of questions asked in basic research:
- Does string theory provide physics with a grand unification theory?
- Which aspects of genomes explain organismal complexity?
- Is it possible to prove or disprove Goldbach's conjecture? (i.e. that every even integer greater than 2 can be written as the sum of two, not necessarily distinct primes)
Traditionally, basic research was considered as an activity that preceded applied research, which in turn preceded development into practical applications. Recently, these distinctions have become much less clear-cut, and it is sometimes the case that all stages will intermix. This is particularly the case in fields such as biotechnology and electronics, where fundamental discoveries may be made alongside work intended to develop new products, and in areas where public and private sector partners collaborate in order to develop greater insight into key areas of interest. For this reason, some now prefer the term frontier research.
Academic publishing describes a system that is necessary in order for academic scholars to peer review the work and make it available for a wider audience. The 'system', which is probably disorganised enough not to merit the title, varies widely by field, and is also always changing, if often slowly. Most academic work is published in journal article or book form. In publishing, STM publishing is an abbreviation for academic publications in science, technology, and medicine.
Most established academic fields have their own journals and other outlets for publication, though many academic journals are somewhat interdisciplinary, and publish work from several distinct fields or subfields. The kinds of publications that are accepted as contributions of knowledge or research vary greatly between fields.
Academic publishing is undergoing major changes, emerging from the transition from the print to the electronic format. Business models are different in the electronic environment. Since about the early 1990s, licensing of electronic resources, particularly journals, was very common. Presently, a major trend, particularly with respect to scholarly journals, is open access. There are two main forms of open access: open access publishing, in which the articles or the whole journal is freely available from the time of publication, and self-archiving, where the author makes a copy of their own work freely available on the web.
Most funding for scientific research comes from two major sources, corporations (through research and development departments) and government (primarily through universities and in some cases through military contractors). Many senior researchers (such as group leaders) spend more than a trivial amount of their time applying for grants for research funds. These grants are necessary not only for researchers to carry out their research, but also as a source of merit. Some faculty positions require that the holder has received grants from certain institutions, such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH). Government-sponsored grants (e.g. from the NIH, the National Health Service in Britain or any of the European research councils) generally have a high status.
Research funding is a term generally covering any funding for scientific research, in the areas of both "hard" science and technology, and social science. The term often connotes funding obtained through a competitive process, in which potential research projects are evaluated and only the most promising receive funding. Such processes, which are run by government, corporations or foundations, allocate scarce funds. Total research funding in most developed countries is between 1.5% and 3% of GDP; Sweden is the only country to exceed 4%. 
Most research funding comes from two major sources, corporations (through research and development departments) and government (primarily carried out through universities and specialised government agencies). Some small amounts of scientific research are carried out (or funded) by charitable foundations, especially in relation to developing cures for diseases such as cancer, malaria and AIDS.
Government funding for medical research amounts to approximately 36% in the U.S. The government funding proportion in certain industries is higher, and it dominates research in social science and humanities. Similarly, with some exceptions (e.g. biotechnology) government provides the bulk of the funds for basic scientific research. In commercial research and development, all but the most research-oriented corporations focus more heavily on near-term commercialisation possibilities than "blue-sky" ideas or technologies (such as nuclear fusion). One of the most famous exceptions is the innovation-favouring environment of the 1970s at Xerox Parc, where various ideas including the computer mouse were developed. Similarly, IBM's research into quantum computing has been going on for some years, and it will likely be some years more before it yields commercialisable technology.
Many governments of developed countries provide considerable funds (primarily to universities) for scientific research (in fields such as physics and geology) as well as social science research (in fields such as economics and history). Much of this is not intended to provide concrete results that may be commercialisable, although research in scientific fields may lead to results that have such potential. Most university research is aimed at gaining publication in peer reviewed academic journals.
Government funding for research into defense-related technological research has historically been significant. Some of this takes place in public research institutions such as DARPA, whilst much else is carried out by major defense contractors in expectation of being able to sell the results to the government (so is funded privately, but on the basis of implicit or explicit agreement of costs being recouped from the government).
Inventions "conceived or actually reduced to practice" in the performance of government-funded research may be subject to the Bayh-Dole Act.
In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, as the pace of technological progress increased before and during the industrial revolution, most scientific and technological research was carried out by individual inventors using their own funds. A system of patents was developed to allow inventors a period of time (often twenty years) to commercialise their inventions and recoup a profit, although in practice many found this difficult. The talents of an inventor are not those of a businessman, and there are many examples of inventors (e.g. Charles Goodyear) making rather little money from their work whilst others were able to market it.
In the twentieth century, scientific and technological research became increasingly systematised, as corporations developed, and discovered that continuous investment in research and development could be a key element of success in a competitive strategy. It remained the case, however, that imitation by competitors - circumventing or simply flouting patents, especially those registered abroad - was often just as successful a strategy for companies focused on innovation in matters of organisation and production technique, or even in marketing. A classic example is that of Wilkinson Sword and Gillette in the disposable razor market, where the former has typically had the technological edge, and the latter the commercial one.
Government-funded research into such matters as the nature of quantum mechanics, the existence of water on Mars, or the mechanics of the interaction between milk and cornflakes, is considered by some to be a waste of money which might be better spent elsewhere (for example on education), or even on tax cuts.
Since the value of such knowledge is often difficult or impossible to judge, and no commercial benefit (at least on any relevant time horizon) can be derived, a frequent apparently common-sense position is that therefore such knowledge should not be pursued at public expense. However, even in the most theoretical of fields, it is often difficult to determine in advance where research may lead.
For example, decades of research into quantum mechanics have made possible work on quantum computing, which is now expected to be an even greater leap forward in computing technology than the development of the microchip, which in some areas is beginning to reach the limits of what is physically possible with this technology. It remains to be seen whether the inherent technical difficulties in quantum computing actually allow for a widespread application of this technology.
A characteristic of privately funded research is that it is almost always profit-oriented. In other words, private corporations tend to devote a relatively small investment to fund research into a field that shows little prospect of being profitable in the near future, even if such research could lead to highly beneficial results (for example, drug companies may not want to invest in finding the cure for a disease if most of the people affected by that disease are too poor to be able to afford such a cure). Some protest that cures and treatments for rare diseases are not pursued due to the lack of profit potential. Supporters of commercially funded research make a utilitarian argument, saying that the fact that profit potential directs investment in treatment for diseases that afflict the many individuals rather than few individuals is a good thing, since it results in alleviating the greater amount of human suffering.
An often-quoted example used to illustrate the difference in efficiency between government-funded and privately funded research projects is the quest of mapping the human genome. The U.S. government was funding such a mission, called the Human Genome Project, while at the same time the quest was being pursued separately with private venture capital by Celera Genomics. Celera Genomics used a newer, albeit riskier technique and proceeded at a faster pace and at a fraction of the cost of the tax-funded project (approximately $3 billion of taxpayer dollars versus about $300 million of private funding). Some HGP researchers claimed Celera's method of genome sequencing "would not work," however that project eventually adopted some of Celera's methods.
Occasionally some research is politically controversial; in the US, there have been cases of controversy over research into sexually transmitted disease, and restrictions on federally funded research into stem cells.
A 2005 study in the journal Nature surveyed 3247 US researchers who were all publicly funded (by the National Institutes of Health). Out of the scientists questioned, 15.5% admitted to altering design, methodology or results of their studies due to pressure of an external funding source. In a contemporary study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a similar proportion of the 107 medical research institutions questioned were willing to allow pharmaceutical companies sponsoring research to alter manuscripts according to their interests before they were submitted for publication.