Smarter Searching: Grants for the Health Sciences

I recently had the pleasure of attending a brown bag session with MLibrary’s grants guru, Karen Downing, which focused on medical education and seeking funding (outside your traditional realm of government grants). We looked at 2 tools to help us in these endeavors, COS Pivot and Foundation Directory Online (please note, these links work if you’re on campus, otherwise go through the library catalog for Pivot here and Foundation Directory here).

In this post I’ll highlight a couple of useful tips to help you navigate COS Pivot effectively.

This tool is really geared toward an academic (grant searching) audience. Two things from the main page, use the Advanced Search feature to construct your searches, and create an account (I know, I know, another set of log ins/passwords, but trust me this one will be worth it in the effort it will save you). Use your @umich email to register but not your Kerberos or level 2 password(s).

COS Pivot © 2013, ProQuest, LLC.
COS Pivot © 2013, ProQuest, LLC.

Now to actually construct your searches! The best part about creating a profile here is that once you build a well-formed search, you can save it, and have updates emailed to you rather than having you go back to Pivot and rerun your search each time. You can also share your searches with colleagues or collaborators!

The trick with your searches is to familiarize yourself with the language used in COS Pivot and what it means. You can get definitions by clicking on the “i” icon next to search fields on the advanced search page:

cc something or other
COS Pivot (c), ProQuest, LLC.

Karen mentioned that limiting by citizenship requirements was a good way to filter out inapplicable funding options.

The keyword section is another that will help you hone your search onto your field, but again, you need to be familiar with the terminology to effectively use it. Think of keywords as your PubMed MeSH terms. COS Pivot has them nested in folders (see image below), so I could search for anything indexed with “health and medicine” AND “education or instruction” to create a narrow search.

COS Pivot (c), ProQuest, LLC.
COS Pivot (c), ProQuest, LLC.

For a visual breakdown of a search and how Boolean operators (OR, AND) affect your search, I’m stealing an absolutely fantastic slide from my colleague Mark MacEachern. Think of fields as buckets that hold the same type of criteria. Then everything you select within that field/bucket should be a type of that larger bucket. For example, if as an American citizen I were looking for a scholarship, travel stipend, or research funding to support my teaching activities centered on biomedical engineering, my search would look like this:


Go forth, explore COS Pivot – save searches and email alerts and save yourself that one additional hassle. And don’t forget! For all your health sciences funding needs, we have the Health Sciences Grant Information Portal! You can also reach us with funding-related questions at:


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