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Accepting Multiple Grant Offers?


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So I have a bit of an odd question, and please forgive me if this question is answered elsewhere or does not necessarily belong to this forum of Grad Cafe, or even if it seems a bit pretentious!

I recently applied for three grants, all to travel and do work at my advisor's excavation overseas, for the express benefit of my MA thesis. He's wonderful and always optimistic, but told me that out of the three, 1 and 2 were improbable and number 3, originating from the international center here, was the most likely. I told him that I just wanted to demonstrate that I can apply to grants, to get the practice in for writing proposals. Additionally, that I wanted to demonstrate to the department that I had attempted to apply to other sources before applying to some smaller, more competitive & department-specific funding that's for MA students in my program.

Well, as I was mall-walking my way to the bus today, running late, I got an email that I had won the full amount requested from the least probable source (#1)!!! Regarding this grant, my advisor said he's never had anyone win it before, and that they usually pass MAs right over. Obviously I'm intensely excited, but I'm still waiting to hear back about the other two funding sources I applied to. Number 3 in particular, as it seemed the most likely for me to win, the one from the international center. Additionally, number 2 is from a very well-known institution, and it would look the best on a resume (though still highly improbable). 

My question is, then; what's the etiquette for accepting funding? If I do end up wining two grants (which sounds so silly to say, believe me), I don't want to be guilty of 'double-dipping' despite all of the sources being from separate places. I also don't want to take funds away from people who would really need them. I went to an info session for Grant 3 and they said that they don't expect any portion of funds to be returned if some are unused. Grant 1 & 2 I am unsure.

The grant I won (#1) covers travel, food, and local transportation; Grant 2 (from fancy institution) covers anything, no budget required; Grant 3 (international center) covers international transportation ONLY. Before you ask, housing is covered by the project I'll be on.

All advice and suggestions are welcomed!

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You should seek advice from your advisor to be sure. But from my experience in my own field, it's okay to accept more than one grant at a time provided that:

1. The terms and conditions of the grant do not preclude you from taking money from another source for the same project (even if they are not covering the same expenses).

2. The policies at your department do not preclude you from accepting more than one grant (unlikely, but good to check).

3. You are not charging the same expense to multiple grants (this would be fraud!)

So, from your description here, it sounds like it's actually possible for you to take all three grants if you win all 3 and if the above conditions apply. You can use Grant #1 for food, local transportation and all other transportation not covered by Grant #3. You can use Grant #3 for the international transportation part. Then, just use Grant #2 for whatever gaps that Grants #1 and #3 does not cover. 

Out of the 3 grants, because Grant #2 doesn't require a budget, this might mean that it might be the grant that is most likely to not allow you to accept other sources of money (or other sources of money more than X dollars). But maybe not, just check the fine print if/when you get the award. In that case, then you might have to decide between Grant #2 or both Grant #1 and #3. 

By the way, it's not uncommon to combine multiple grants to meet research expenses. Right now, I have a fellowship that pays most of my salary plus some money for research expenses such as travel. But I'm going to an international conference that would cost much more than this research expense budget, so I applied for and got a grant that covers international travel only (like your Grant #3). I'm also applying for financial support from the conference organization itself---if successful, it would cover the cost of registration and some local expenses. Then my advisor will pay for any remaining costs (e.g. ground transportation, food etc.), which is covered by another research grant. So, if it all works out, this trip will be paid by 4 different grants (however, only 3 of them, at most, would be things that I personally applied for).

Finally, I would say that you should not worry about taking money away from other grant applicants, if the grant is merit-based rather than needs-based. For example, if you know that you cannot have both Grant #2 and Grant #3, the norm in my field would be to wait for decisions from both granting agencies, then confirm that you cannot have both, then decline one of the grants (you can still list a grant declined this way on your CV). But in my field, declined grants are always re-awarded to the next person. However, if you are awarded $1000 but only use $800 then that doesn't necessarily free up a $200 award, it just goes back into the pot and eventually all of this will add up to another award in the future (so it's not like it's wasted money). On the other hand, if the grant is needs-based, then my opinion is that as soon as the need goes away (i.e. you win another grant that covers everything), you should withdraw your application to need-based funding agencies.

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After you talk with your advisor, as Takeruk recommends, I would angle to try to accept as many of the grants as possible, assuming you can do so in an honest way— even if it means adjusting your budget according to the first grant you won and accepting a smaller amount than what you originally applied for from the other two. Thinking less about finances and more in terms of your long-term career, potentially having all three awards on your CV would be great, and may also be an opportunity to make new contacts, connect with major funders in your field, etc.— so even if you don't need the money, if there's a way to pursue whatever is offered to you, I'd do that.

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  • 1 month later...

A bit late, but I wanted to thank everyone for their responses! I ended up winning #1 AND #3, so it's been exciting! I've reached out to the international center to see if I need to return unused funds, but no response so far. I re-read the application info, and it even encourages individuals to apply to multiple grants as it's competitive (I believe they awarded ~80 this round), so I think I'm in the clear. I'm going to schedule an appointment with one of my advisors as soon as I can, just to be sure, but I think it'll all work out! I'm still of course waiting to hear back from the prestigious one (#2), but more out of curiosity than need at this point. 

Thank you all again! I really appreciate it.

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