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Research Grants: A Dark Road With Funding Ahead?

This post is part of the series called Obstacles in Academia, which aims to highlight the many challenges young scientists face today.

Research demands funds, and typically very large sums. Securing funds for research is a laborious process often ending in failure. A stagnant federal research budget has fueled a hyper-competitive environment among scientists, often to the detriment of the research.

Funding Then and Now

The way scientific projects have been funded has changed over time. Back in the days of Galileo, many scientists were privately funded by influential people or institutions. On occasion, government funds would complement personal finances, allowing people like Darwin to take long, involved scientific journeys.  However, this was rare.   
Today, most research funding comes from the federal government.  This shift, from wealthy individuals/families to federal money, occurred during World War II as governments rushed to build and implement new technologies.  Vannevar Bush's document "Science the Endless Frontier", marked this shift and since then scientists have primarily relied upon the government to carry out their research.  Although, federal funding makes up most of the pie, private companies do still fund a significant amount of R&D and nearly 75% of U.S. clinical trials (