Funding Doctoral Study: Research Trips

By Sheena Bateman

The most common questions we get asked by students when they find out that we are Research Officers with the major responsibility of supporting funding applications is “how can I get funding for my fieldwork?”.  The response to this is often a flat “you can’t”, but there are some things that you can do which might help you to gather enough funding for you to complete your research.

If you don’t have funding in place for research trips when you start your PhD, you’ll need to get creative

“Why not?” you probably ask.  In my opinion, the reason for this is twofold. In the first instance you have probably not indicated in your original application for a PhD studentship or bursary that you have, as part of the programme of doctoral study, got fieldwork costs (sometimes overseas) or that you need specific materials, software, subscriptions, or other costs. When looking for a PhD, whether as a scholarship or self-funded, you are so busy writing the application and the project in a very competitive market, that you fail to signal in your application that in order to achieve your goals you may have additional expenses which are possibly beyond your own reach. In parallel, individual academics and interview panels will be looking for signs of excellent research within areas that are congruent with their or the departments expertise alongside the potential for you to complete the doctoral study. The result is that this important area has been ignored. That is until the reality hits home.

Once you have started your PhD, whatever route you get here, it is nigh on impossible to get funding for major fieldwork. In this area of University life, PGR has always suffered relative financial poverty. Institutional funding to support students is also in relative decline. Therefore what little money is available will be naturally part of an increasingly competitive process.

Internal funding for PhD Students

For the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, you will have been informed about the process for applying for internal funds and these largely cover the costs of attending a conference where you are giving a paper, but each tiny cost you request eats into the bigger pot, so what can you do? Here are a few thrifty ideas:

  • If your age/status allows, get a rail card, which offers substantial discounts on UK Travel.
  • Share accommodation with colleagues when at conference to cut costs, or where possible and practical look for Halls of residences to stay in instead of often-expensive conference Hotels.
  • Borrow equipment from the Faculty Research Office (Cameras. Ipads, digital voice recorders etc. rather than purchasing your own).
  • Timing – if you want help with funding any research activities/conferences then make sure you do this before you go onto to continuation or submit.

External funding for PhD students:

In a nutshell, there are no specific funders that support research activities of doctoral students whether this is for conference attendance, training events or fieldwork expenses. Depending on what subject you are studying and what you need, it is possible to try a direct approach to organizers of events, for support in exchange for you giving a paper, chairing a session, or helping out in some way at the event. Many smaller research groups will offer bursaries to attract students and early career researchers, so check these out, and also ask your supervisor to keep their eyes peeled as they are likely to have much wider networks than you currently do.

You could also try to secure some funding from one or more of these types of organisations (below) that would have a potential interest in your current research. It may require something in exchange (knowledge transfer) or they may offer you what we refer to as in kind support – use of space, access to materials or people which all helps.

  • Learned societies and subject associations
  • Charity organisations
  • Community organisations
  • Creative or commercial industries
  • Trade unions
  • Government departments – (particularly for overseas research)
  • Libraries, museums and archives

As ever, if you require any help with locating suitable funding sources get in touch with either myself or Richard and we’ll do our best to help you locate some viable funding sources.

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