Finding travel funding is often the limiting factor for young researchers in attending conferences. Thankfully the number of opportunities for early career folks these days is on the rise.
Here are a few tips for you to remember when looking for funding – many are common sense, but good to keep in mind:
- Be sure you really want/need to go to the conference. Many many times people just apply for anything because they want a free trip, this is not advisable because, especially in the Polar World, many of the same people review applications for lots of different conferences so if they continually see your name for every conference, they will remember that and not in a good way.
- When you find a conference you are interested in, check their website, sometimes they have funding available, but be sure to watch the deadlines and requirements as you will probably have to submit an abstract.
- Check your University or Institute, they often have small pots of funding you can apply for.
- Check the APECS Funding Resources Database and if you know of other funding sources that are not there, let us know.
- When you find a potential funding source, be sure to really read their requirements and who/what they will fund. This will save them time and you. Some organizations have time limits on how often you can receive funding from them – pay attention to these.
- When you fill out a travel application be sure to spend some time on it. You may even want to read a little about the mission of the organization as this can give you insights on how to word your responses.
- Remember your application may be the first thing people will see/read about you – impress them, but don't exaggerate... reviewers will see right through that and not look favorably on you or your application.
- If they ask for cost estimates, be reasonable – don't expect them to pay for every little thing that you will need, you can always grab some bread and cheese at the local supermarket or take the bus instead of a taxi from the airport... and as much as we would all love to stay at a 5-star hotel, a youth hostel is often a good option. If you give a lower cost estimate, reviewers are more likely to fund you, especially if they only have a small amount of funding to give, but be sure to ask for what you really need.
- After you submit your application, don't bother the organizers too much, only ask them questions if you need to. If the date they listed to notify you by has passed, wait a couple extra days before emailing them... often times the selection process takes a little longer than planned and if you bother someone who is already stressed about being behind, they might not be so eager to help you. Also be very clear in your message to them about what you need and why – but don't make it too long as they are probably receiving lots of messages from people just like you.
- If you are not selected, do not complain – there was a reason that you were not funded. Sometimes there can be an oversight, so if you feel this is the case, you can contact the organizers, but be nice about it, do not complain, just simply state your case and ask to be reconsidered. If they say no again, let it go. Always be nice when you have a 'complaint' – there is a saying "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" meaning you can often get further with your requests when being sweet, nice and courteous than if you are demanding and mean or sour.
- At the conference, try to meet the people that you were emailing with or that are in charge of the funding program, or the conference in general. Introduce yourself and thank them for your funding. But remember they are probably busy with lots of other things so don't take too much of their time. People remember, at least your face, and also appreciate that you are grateful for all the work they put in to get you there.
- This might sound like a silly one, but if you get funding, make sure you go to the conference and actively participate. If people on the selection committee know you and don't see you in the various sessions, they will remember that and not in a good way.
- After the conference, be sure to send a thank you note – not just with your receipts. A postcard from the conference or an old fashioned letter or thank you note when you get home is always very much appreciated, and really makes a person's day... and they will remember you in a good way. You may even want to include some of your highlights from the event, to show that you really participated and got a lot out of it or a photo of you and your new friends. These things also help them when they apply for more money from some other organization to fund people for the next conference.
- Follow the reimbursement guidelines and procedures VERY closely. If they need you to fill out a form, fill it out as completely as possible and return it as soon as you can. The people that process your reimbursements are probably processing a lot of them at the same time and if your information is not in order, it will delay the process for everyone else... then they will email to complain and that just makes the process even longer.
- Keep all your receipts and boarding passes, even if they don't ask for it – they may be useful later. You should also try to scan them and keep them for your records. Be sure to write out details for each thing to help you remember later. The times you left the airport in to the time you arrived at the hotel, the name of the taxi company you used, the location you got in the taxi, the names of people you had dinner with - these things may all be required for reimbursement.
- Be patient about your reimbursement. Sometimes there are a lot of procedures that need to be processed before they can even submit your form, and sometimes the systems they operate under take a month or two before funding can be sent across national boarders.