Nowadays to obtain a PhD or a postdoc one needs to conduct independent research and present new results. However, at the frontiers of science there are many non-research related things that could still be done which are not being done by the professors since it would take a lot of time - examples include writing textbooks, translating a classical reference from one language to another (in some areas the classical reference is not available in English, for example), writing websites or programs which could assist one in learning the material.

I was wondering if there are any funding opportunities or academic grants available to hire a student/PhD/postdoc for those sort of projects. To me it would make sense to give such a job to a student rather than a researcher, as a student is learning that material anyway (and so can on his way adapt it so that the next generation can benefit from it) and it doesn't force the researcher to abandon research in favour of writing a textbook for a couple of years.

Paragraph removed by Dirk's suggestion

  • I would suggest to remove the last paragraph as it makes the question feel like a rhetorical question (and I think it is not one).
    – Dirk
    Dec 8, 2015 at 8:42
  • Some popular open source libraries also get funding from private and public entities because they are useful for many people.
    – Davidmh
    Dec 8, 2015 at 10:29

1 Answer 1



  • The DFG in Germany awards grants for projects to organize digital libraries.
  • The ministry of education and research in Germany funds large projects on higher education (one of them is the Qualitätspakt Lehre - you hire people (often at the PhD or postdoc level) to organize or develop new courses, course concepts or course material).
  • There are grants for projects on history of science.
  • Universities offer reduction of teaching load or sabbaticals for writing books (which is really some kind of a grant, you get paid with time not money).
  • In books you often see acknowledgements for some funding.

Granted, in many of these grants the money or time does not go to PhD students or postdocs but at least the first three things fit the bill.

Note however, that as soon there is no research involved, you can not get a research degree for this work. So these kind of positions are not attractive to some students.

  • Thank you! Do you know anything about the situation outside Germany?
    – user45688
    Dec 8, 2015 at 10:34
  • @user45688: Note for future questions: It can be beneficial to wait for a while before accepting an answer in order to encourage other users to add possibly even more helpful answers. This is especially true if even your own (as the asker) desire for information has not yet been met. Dec 8, 2015 at 11:17

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