I am interested in doing math research that will be fundable. I don't work on anything fancy or prestigious like the p-adic Langlands correspondence though. Should I try to move in a direction where my work will be trendy, and if so, how can I do that?

  • For a first approximation, only applied math research is fundable. Sep 30, 2023 at 17:49
  • What are the differences in funding between pure and applied math?
    – cgb5436
    Sep 30, 2023 at 17:54
  • 3
    Funding rates and amounts in applied math are much higher. If the application is health-related, even higher, as the NIH has 5 times the budget of the NSF for a much narrower range of subjects. Applied mathematicians in my department regularly get funded (and are expected to for tenure and promotion). Pure mathematicians (like me) do NOT get funded (and are not expected to for tenure and promotion). Sep 30, 2023 at 17:59
  • 1
    Link to the DFG project list Sep 30, 2023 at 19:22
  • 2
    @cgb5436 please add a country tag
    – Sursula
    Sep 30, 2023 at 23:20

1 Answer 1


The easiest approximation is to simply go and see what funding agencies are funding. The NSF and ERC (and most other government agencies) keep public records of previously funded projects. They list calls for proposals on their websites, which usually include a list of eligible topics.

Of course, you should ask yourself:

  1. Do any of these topics interest you? If you are going full-blown cynic, and doing research purely for getting funding, perhaps consider a switch to industry. You should do research because you enjoy it!
  2. Are you in a position to do better than others in this topic, so as to convince funding agencies to pick your project?
  3. How competitive is this topic? If a topic is heavily funded, it naturally attracts lots of researchers. This may mean that it’ll be harder for you to get your research funded. Going for a less popular angle but with less competition might actually be a better strategy.
  • The less popular topics attract less calls. It's the "dining street" phenomenon. If you are a lone restaurant, and out of the way, you better be excellent and survive the "word-of-mouth" phase to take off. If other restaurants join you in your location, this is apparent competition, but is actually good for you, as it attracts more people than otherwise would know about you. Once the whole street becomes a "dining street", the competition may, once again, work against you. There's a sweetspot. Similar with research topics. Oct 1, 2023 at 19:19

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