Proposal for a centralized grant repository

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.


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    Noam Y. Harel said:


    I’d just like to add that a more detailed version of this proposal is available on my website,

    This site is devoted to promoting a more open collaborative approach to conducting science. One feature of this philosophy is the ability to use Wiki technology to cooperatively refine/improve research proposals. My site is linked to a companion Wiki site for further comments and suggestions.

    The goal is to eventually grant funds to groups that collaboratively produce the best research proposals and execution plans. Thanks and please let me know what you think,

    Noam Harel

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    Clinton Jenkins said:

    I think this is a fabulous idea!

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    Rotem Karni said:

    I think its a must for the future of science, and I agree with the letter. In many cases we are “selling” the same proposal with different covers to different agencies and this is a big waste of time

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    Noam Harel said:

    Great idea. My only concern is with who will have access to the proposals. Under the current setup, the investigator has the freedom to choose to which agency and funding source he/she would like to submit the proposal with the understanding that the agency will keep it confidential. However, since financial support from industry sources are becoming more widespread it’s just obvious that such organizations will like to have access to the database. Since in the academic world you first have the idea and only then you chase after the money — in the industry, once the idea is there — it’s a much shorter way to do the research. A mechanism to prevent such a scenario will have to be in place before anyone will deposit his ideas in any public domain.

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