What a glorious day when you get to know you have money to fund your lab! I remember clearly every single word on the notification letter I received the first time and the heavyweight lifting off my shoulders that wonderful day! I think I am not the only one.
It is very difficult to do science in Mexico, my home country, however, this scarcity develops the most ingenious way to do things with less. Also, it makes us appreciate what we have. I have been a Professor at a Mexican University for nearly four years, getting tenured in my second year. The system in my University works this way: they look for potential candidates from abroad and send invitations to apply for jobs that “can be open on their behalf”. Then the successful candidate applies to a Federal Program that supports the first year of salary and funds to set up the lab. I have to highlight that it is not comparable to the amount of money American institutions offer to newly hired Assistant Professors, neither the salary is as competitive, but it is good enough to make you feel you start with a bang.
After favorable evaluation of this only one-year performance, the Professor gets tenured or not. Yes, it is extremely stressful, the system pushes the candidate to be productive enough this only one year to be able to continue in Academia and, most importantly, the University is compromised to give all support and facilities for the candidate to be successful. I think this strategy works because since the beginning, both parts are compromised to do their best; in addition, it is well known that science support in Latin America is very scarce and that Professors are not getting the salary and funds that they deserve. In my case, I had the support of senior Faculty during my first year and my relationships have strengthened and continue to grow, in addition to the list of my collaborators abroad (former and new).
This support circle is very important when you are trying to get money to keep your lab funded. I think that nowadays, based on the different global economic problems we face, the support for science is decreasing everywhere not only in our specific countries, therefore we are putting our gray cells to work more than ever. There are many sources that we can apply to, outside of the traditional list of Federal agencies, foundations, industry partners, etc. We can even be our own funders. Now it is very important to make money with our own ideas or basically, we must become “entrepreneurs”.
On the internet, it is very easy to find sites where there is the slogan: “How to make money with your skills and knowledge”. Pretty interesting, is not it? Basically, it is identifying what others want to pay for and finding ways to deliver products or services. At my University, we have tried to raise funds using Crowdfunding with very positive results. We think that it could be the future because we use transparent platforms where our funders can follow our advances and in addition, we can be more active science communicators. Opinions?