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Many good projects fall by the wayside for want of funds. Conversely, just because a project has been externally funded does not guarantee its excellence. Researchers with a track record of successful applications, completed projects and publications are much more likely to attract new funding. Finding such a person who will endorse your proposal or enter into some kind of collaboration will boost your chances considerably. Most funding applications will require a detailed study protocol to accompany them and ethical approval (if appropriate) to follow on.
Possible sources of funding (UK)
Many small projects suitable for practitioners will have virtually no costs other than your time in carrying them out. You should estimate realistically how much time you can devote to it. Subjects specifically recruited for clinical trials would not usually expect to pay for their treatment. As a practitioner-researcher you will either lose income or time if you treat such patients. However, case series, outcome studies and clinical audits can often be accomplished within your normal practice routines.
Acupuncture professional bodies e.g. BAcC, AACP, BMAS, ATCM
Most professional bodies have small amounts of funding available for research projects, usually only for their own members. The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has made available £5,000 - 7,500 per annum in recent years. Small amounts may go to help a student publish their dissertation or to help a budding researcher produce a protocol. The lion's share is for members' projects that are ready to run over the next year or two. Details are on their website.
Foundation for Integrated Health (www.fihealth.org.uk)
They do not usually fund research projects themselves but may be able to give advice on where to look.
Websites with funding directories
In the UK the government supports the RDFunding website (http://rdfunding.org.uk), which has a comprehensive list of health-related funding organisations and details about their grants.
Increasing numbers of universities in Western countries are running, or accrediting, acupuncture courses and/or carrying out acupuncture-related research. To be involved in such programmes would usually require that you enrol as a Masters or Doctoral student, or become employed for post-doctoral work. In the UK in recent years the Department of Health has awarded a number of substantial grants for CAM projects, including acupuncture, at a number of universities. These have not always been widely advertised so it is worth looking regularly through the websites of the most likely universities.
Government and other large institutions
Most large scale acupuncture studies in Western countries are funded by the government or quasi-government bodies or charitable trusts. Examples in the UK are:
The King's Fund is a charitable foundation that that funds projects working towards better health for Londoners. Amongst these it is presently looking at research studies in integrated health that may promote patient self-care.
Note: the whole process of obtaining major funding is usually a lengthy one. You should apply at least a year before you plan to begin the research.
If your research relates to a specific medical condition then it is well worth approaching any associated charities. Funding is usually for small to medium projects. Again, most of the relevant bodies can be located via RDFunding.
Acupuncture equipment suppliers
The major equipment suppliers in your home country may sometimes put small amounts of money into research.
A few large publishing companies with an interest in CAM have the resources to fund research work but they are unlikely to sponsor individual, unaffiliated projects or indeed anything for which there is no obvious payback for them.
Local Health Service collaboration
Doctors, especially consultants, may have access to research money that is not yet specifically allocated. It does occasionally happen that they can be persuaded to channel this into a CAM project that lies in their area of interest. Existing, or newly developed, cordial relations with such a person are obviously crucial. The doctor may or may not want to be actively involved in the work but they would probably expect to have some influence on the methodology. Be aware though, it cannot be assumed that expression of interest in your research ideas, or even a joint project or one that they instigated, will bring any money with it. However, such endorsement may be useful in looking for funding elsewhere.
Other local sources
You should make use of whatever useful contacts you have and, if necessary, try to develop new ones. Local newspapers, directories and libraries may supply leads. There may be individuals, businesses, charities or societies that could be won over to support you. Local or regional authorities sometimes invite applications for integrated health projects.