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Recently I watched a series of video talks that greatly helped me understand a topic I am researching. I wanted to help the author create more such videos by making a Patreon donation. This made me wonder whether such donation can be done using money from a research grant? I looked at guidelines of some local grants. They usually allow to pay for professional courses related to the research, but do not say anything about donating to free such courses. Do other funding bodies have an explicit policy about this?

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    I think the most you can do for the author of the videos is: acknowledge the videos in any publications that arise from your grant. – GEdgar Aug 2 at 14:30
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    Whether this is allowed or not will vary by country and your contract with the grant funder. – indigochild Aug 3 at 1:49
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    I would look first at your prof dev funds, if any. – Azor Ahai -him- Aug 3 at 15:39
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    Since we are talking about original content creators that help active research, one possibility is to reach out to the creator and find a way for him to get involved for a compensation and the possibility for new content to be created. It might be easier to actually justify the money if something is done for that. – bracco23 Aug 3 at 15:49
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    @Mast I referred to this playlist: youtube.com/watch?v=Ap2c1dPyIVo&list=PL6763F57A61FE6FE8 that teaches algebraic topology in a way that even non-mathematicians can easily understand. – Erel Segal-Halevi Aug 4 at 6:30
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I'd argue that you're not funding them for the work they've already done, but to produce more of the lectures you found useful. So, why not enter into a conversation with the person making the talks directly about this? Ask them if there are upcoming talks they'd like to make, and then see if you can help fund the making of those.

This would then be very similar to, for example, paying for changes to a piece of software (even if those changes are then freely released)*, and should be possible to get past finance/the funding body.

You probably can't use grant money to pay for the existing ones though.

(*I'm a developer in UK academia, and paying open source developers for the changes we need is something we've had approved before, and it's simply been billed as "software development" on the grant)

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  • This sounds like a good practical advice, especially for funds that explicitly encourage putting the products in the public domain. – Erel Segal-Halevi Aug 3 at 15:48
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    Yeah, I'm a big fan of open source things, and part of that is being a good citizen around this stuff. It's not always easy with grant money, even if the piece of software/lecture/method is pivotal to your entire project. Sometimes the best you can do is reach out to the creator, and offer something else. In academia, letters of support can be helpful, but generally we do a really poor job of supporting the open source stuff we depend on. – lupe Aug 3 at 17:18
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I have to guess on this one, but can imagine that they haven't mentioned it because they haven't thought of it. I also imagine that they would be somewhat upset to learn of it unless you make provision for it in the grant application.

The reason for my speculation is that few grantors are so rich that they don't much care how their, perhaps, limited funds are spent.

But if you use something that is explicitly funded by donations, then you may be able to make a case that you should donate. Your suggestion of Patreon's involvement suggest that you may be in this situation.

But not all "donations" are prohibited or discouraged. Putting grant funded software in public repositories and making it open source or giving generous licenses to it is often encouraged. Another possible form of donation is the funding of a person so that they can donate their time and efforts to worthy public projects that can't afford their own funding.

I would ask the grant administrator before doing this, and suspect that different people will give different answers. And if the donations are a minuscule part of the grant, it is less likely to be forbidden. But that, too, is speculation.

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    "Putting grant funded software in public repositories and making it open source or giving generous licenses to it is often encouraged" - Indeed, the grants I looked at explicitly mention that datasets collected using fund money should be made available freely online. But donating money is something else. – Erel Segal-Halevi Aug 2 at 12:49
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The answer to this question will vary significantly based on the laws of your country, policies of your institution, and your contract with the grant funder. Although your profile specifies that you are not in the United States, some readers may find value in an answer specific to U.S. law and practice. I recognize this won't directly apply to you.

Mea culpa aside, for U.S. federal grants under Uniform Guidance the answer is definitely "no". To be an allowable cost, the expense must:

Be necessary and reasonable for the performance of the Federal award and be allocable thereto under these principles. (2 CFR § 200.403)

Since the video content would have been available to you even without a donation, the donation is not necessary or reasonable for your grant-funded project.

For projects that are non-federal, or otherwise not under Uniform Guidance, the details will likely be found in your specific contract with the funder. Research institutions typically have sponsored projects offices with trained staff who are able to assist you with answering these kinds of questions.

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