How I win travel grants

Falstaff: “I will not lend thee a penny.”
Pistol: “Why, then the world’s mine oyster, which I with sword will open.”
W. Shakespeare, ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’

Ok, you have very interesting results and want to present it on the serious conference, congress, symposium, etc., but you need a financial support
It’s ideal time to apply for a travel grant. Let’s go.

0) A quality study.
Organization/scientific committees conduct assessment and selection of submitted abstracts.
Is it possible to attend a meeting without abstract? Yes, but in most cases you will not eligible for
travel grant (there are scarce exceptions).

1) The search for opportunity.
Of course, not all conferences offer funding. According to my personal observations, only 1 meeting out of 50-60 has relevant travel award. Well, I know specialized websites with announcements for grants, but they were not helpful for me.

The best approach is exhaustive search: visit many conferences’ pages and look for following words: travel grant, travel award, scholarship, fellowship, bursary… NB! Google query like “neuroscience + conference + grant” will not be so effective. In addition, various societies, organizations and foundations in your professional area provide grants to attend meetings and other great opportunities (see details below).
I had visited about 250 sites before I had found some good proposals.
== Use many different keywords.

For example, your research is devoted to protein with codename “My Precious” and this protein is very important for memory. Try to find conferences in following fields: biochemistry, molecular biology, physiology, proteins, neuroscience, brain, memory, your methods, etc. And if this protein is associated with some disease, you have even more variants.
== Pay attention to eligibility.

Typical strict criteria are: abstract acceptance, age, citizenship, low-income country, geographic region, student status, membership, etc.
== Estimate your budget.

Visa fee + accommodation + flight/train/bus + registration fee + living expenses (food, city transport…)
Award scheme varies depending on the conference. Grant may cover all your expenses (upon request, a limit exists), some items, registration fee only or consists of fixed amount.

Read the rules carefully, occasionally it’s needed to pay registration fee, often non-refundable, before applying for financial support.

NB! It will be harder to find any additional source of funding after meeting.
== Mind the gap date.

Usually deadlines for big events are 3-6 months before start.

2) The society is your power.
The societies offer you access to big network, many grants, professional journals, summer schools, and a lot of other opportunities. Professional associations often organize conferences and provide bursaries for members. Moreover, you may win a grant for other events and trainings.

In the world exist many societies to satisfy any taste – from large fields of knowledge to very specific topics. Remember about exhaustive search.
== Become a member!

Membership for students and early-career scientist usually costs 10-30 EUR per year. It’s worth a try.

3) Apply!
The abstract was submitted and now you are ready for a travel grant application.
Every conference has its own rules and the demands are very different: from abstract to a set of 3-5 documents.

You may be asked to provide something from the following list:
– proof of age – a scan of passport/ID card;
– proof of student status – a letter (reference) from the university;
– motivation letter;
– cover letter;
– CV;
– recommendation letter(s);
– list of publications – Harvard or Vancouver format;
– overview of the expenses – be moderate.

I have never seen IELTS, TOEFL, GRE or academic records among the requirements.
== Rewrite documents for each event.

It concerns motivation, recommendation, cover letter and CV.
Everybody knows that a conference is big, high-level, famous, and provides good opportunity for learning, networking and exchanging of experience. You should show specific interest to this meeting and explain concretely why it’s very useful for personal long-term goals. For example,

Prof. Levy will speak about your protein, Dr. Sheridan will present a new method, and 3D printing workshop can significantly improve your research.
== Be original.

Avoid clichés (when I was a child…) and too general statements (cancer is a global problem…).
Find some examples here.

4) The notification.
You will be waiting for the message like this: “we are pleased to inform you that you have been awarded a travel grant “.
== Ask for an invitation letter immediately.
NB! A number of embassies accept only original (with stamp and signature) invitation letters for the visa application. Moreover, if your expenses are covered by a travel award, it must be noted in the original invitation.

Write an e-mail to the organization committee and ask to send you this letter by postal service. The delivery may take up to 1-2 weeks.
== About the selection process.

There are different (and sometimes unexpected) criteria such as financial need, age, relevance of the research subject, previous experience, achievements and many others. I even saw the conference make selection for grants by a lottery (it was public information).
Don’t stop trying if your application for a bursary was not accepted.
== Have a few backup plans.

5) Enjoy your trip.
Perhaps you will have new views on life in generally.
Don’t forget to say thanks for the financial support. Put on your poster or last slide of presentation sponsor’s logo and phrase as this: “the authors would like to acknowledge [your sponsor] for a travel grant to attend this Meeting.”

Carpe diem!