Noam Y. Harel of Yale University writes in Nature’s Correspondence page (Nature 452, 409; 2008):
Writing grant proposals is difficult enough; keeping track of different deadlines makes for an endless cycle of procrastination and frantic preparation. The added stack of bureaucratic forms, with arcane variations from agency to agency, can tip one over the edge as a deadline nears.
Is it almost too obvious to wish for a centralized proposal repository? Investigators could submit proposals at any time, in a common format that highlights the science rather than obliterates it with red tape. Funding agencies could search the repository for proposals matching their interests. A minimum of bureaucratic information would be required up front. Budget details could be worked out between funding agencies and investigators as necessary.
Ideally, all proposals would be publicly accessible. However, most of the scientific community has not yet accepted the inevitable dawn of truly open science. Submissions to a central repository could therefore be made accessible only to funding agencies that agree to keep proposals private (unless a submitting investigator indicates a willingness to share his or her proposal publicly).
The repository would make life easier for scientists by eliminating the hassle of searching for suitable grant mechanisms and the stress of meeting various deadlines. It would make life easier for funding agencies by expanding the pool of applications from which to choose. Of course, the best proposals could attract offers from multiple agencies. Rather than forcing investigators to choose non-overlapping sources of funding for each project, why not use the repository to mediate shared funding agreements that could benefit everyone involved? In effect, it would serve as the mediator between grant-seekers and grant-providers.
In a world where eBay, Facebook and Google powerfully demonstrate the communal nature of the Web, it is a pity that scientists and funding agencies don’t have a similarly modern forum for matching their interests and offers.