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This is an illustration of a sad man thinking about money flying away.

Research Communication When You Need to “Use It or Lose It”

Managing research budgets is tricky. Sometimes you spend too much at the beginning of a study and have to pinch pennies at the end. Or sometimes things cost less than you expected, or you managed your budget conservatively, and you find yourself nearing the end of a research study with a lot of funds remaining.

Running out of money is tough. (I’ve been there.) But surplus funds can also be stressful. (I’ve also been there.)

If your research is funded by a grant or contract, you usually don’t get to keep unspent resources; the funder retains them. You don’t get to roll them forward to your next study or pre-pay next year’s salaries or go on a cruise. You must use the funds or you lose them.

Here’s the other tricky thing about being near the end of a research grant or contract: Because there’s usually a big lag (months, if not a year or two) between a funding application and award (if you get one), you often need to spend the last year, or more, of a funded project applying for your next round of funding. That doesn’t leave you with a lot of extra time to spend on your current project.

Because a lot of research communication happens near the end of a project, unspent funds often represent lost opportunities to share your findings. There are people out there who could be using your insights to do good in the world, but they never learn about them.

This is a photo of the Saturday Night Live character, Debbie Downer, played by Rachel Dracht.

One way to avoid this tragic outcome? Hire a research communication specialist as a subcontractor or consultant!* We can take all kinds of planning, writing, and design tasks off your plate:

  • Conceptualizing and outlining a report
  • Designing graphs and other data visualizations to accompany your writing
  • Developing a presentation slide deck and script
  • Providing thoughtful and constructive feedback on draft products
  • Reworking existing products for new audiences
  • Creating a graphical abstract, infographic, blog post, or press release based on a peer-reviewed journal article

Don’t lose your unspent research funds! Data Soapbox can keep communication tasks moving along while you’re busy with other things. Contact us!

*If you’re short on time for research communication, you’re probably also short on time to hire people. Although it depends somewhat on your institution’s policies and your project’s complexity, contracting with Data Soapbox has the potential to be quick and easy. Usually, all Data Soapbox needs to get started is a signed, brief (often about 3-page) agreement that specifies the work to be done and payment terms.

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