Grants-in-Aid of Research Supports Emerging Scientists

September 20, 2017

Peter Harries

Apply by October 1, 2017


Since its inception in 1922, the Grants-in-Aid of Research program (GIAR) has funded graduate and undergraduate students in support of their research efforts. These are funded not only from Sigma Xi’s endowment, but we also administer funds for the National Academy of Sciences. Currently, the maximum amount of support granted to a successful applicant is $1000, although some fields, such as astronomy and vision research, have additional funding which allows grants of up to $5,000. GIAR has two deadlines: March 15 and October 1.

Although the funding levels are relatively modest, this belies the impact that these grants are having not only on the development of future scientist as well as on significant advancements across the broad spectrum of scientific disciplines the grants cover. As a GIAR awardee myself (although from many moons ago), I can certainly attest to the importance of the financial assistance to defray some of the travel costs associated with my PhD research—it involved collecting literally tons of rock from localities across several states in the Rocky Mountain region to examine the nature of recovery and repopulation following a mass extinction event—as well as the long-standing impact of the award as a ‘feather in my cap’ signifying my ability to write compelling proposals as well as the discipline’s view of the research I was doing, and continue to do.

 As one of the flagship programs with the panoply of elements offered by Sigma Xi, one of the goals of the GIAR committee has been to constantly refine its elements so that it continues to be of value to current members as well as a means of attracting future members. From that perspective, over the past decade or so, one of the biggest changes has been the transition to an online application. That process continues to evolve and has led to several important changes ranging from allowing applicants to include graphics with their proposals to improving the review process to giving students feedback generated as the reviewers respond to their proposals.

In addition, for the first time, undergraduate and graduate students studying climate science can apply for funding through GIAR. Sigma Xi recognizes that climate change is a critical, interdisciplinary issue that has important scientific, as well as societal, implications. By adding this new category to the grants program, we aim to promote the continued development of this growing field. 

This increased accessibility has also led to a substantial increase in the number of international applicants. Furthermore, the GIAR committee has been involved in various outreach efforts, including having an online forum to outline the qualities of a strong proposal as well as to answer questions generated by the attendees. We hope to continue to strengthen the GIAR process, to continue to attract proposals that change our perceptions of various aspects of science, and to use the program as a platform to promote the benefits of Sigma Xi membership to scientists in North America and across the globe.

Peter Harries
Chair, Committee on Grants-in-Aid of Research

More About Sigma Xi: Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society is the world’s largest multidisciplinary honor society for scientists and engineers. Its mission is to enhance the health of the research enterprise, foster integrity in science and engineering, and promote the public understanding of science for the purpose of improving the human condition. Sigma Xi chapters can be found at colleges and universities, government laboratories, and industry research centers around the world. More than 200 Nobel Prize winners have been members. The Society is based in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. On Twitter: @SigmaXiSociety