The U.S. government is the largest funder of research scientists. In Fiscal Year 2005, for example, NIH —part of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) — awarded more than $20 billion in research grants and $644 million in traineeships.
NIH, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and other agencies such as the Education and Defense departments and an increasingly well-funded Department of Homeland Security, publicize their research priorities, program goals and specific awards through Funding Opportunity Announcements (FOAs). The government's primary Web portal for grants, www.grants.gov, posts FOAs from 26 federal agencies.
For NIH funding opportunities, search the NIH Guide for Grants and Contracts. The NIH Office of Extramural Research also offers weekly e-mail updates, that broadcast new grant opportunities and guidelines.
Predoctoral students can apply directly for individual National Research Service Awards (F31s) provided by several NIH institutes that fund behavioral science. These awards can support up to five years of dissertation research if it serves a granting institute's scientific mission. Applicants must have successfully completed their comprehensive exams or the equivalent by the time of the award.
Postdoctoral students can apply for a new $390 million NIH fellowship program called Pathway to Independence. The NIH developed this program to help up to 200 junior scientists per year quickly launch productive careers.
Apart from NIH, the National Science Foundation (NSF) funds one fifth of all federally supported basic research in non-medical science and engineering. For example, the Cognitive Neurosciences unit expects to award between 15 and 40 interdisciplinary grants per year, pending fund availability (interested? see Program Solicitation NSF 06-557).
NSF also offers highly competitive Graduate Research Fellowships for to research-based master's or doctoral degrees graduate study in mathematics, engineering and the physical, behavioral and social sciences leading to research-based master's or doctoral degrees.
Don't forget newer funders such as Homeland Security, whose 2007 grant program expects to award more than $1.6 billion. For examples, says Breckler, social psychologists can investigate the social forces that foster the development of terrorism.