Surely you’re joking, Mr Darwin?

Frank Gannon imagines a modern response to Darwin’s research grant application (EMBO Reports 10, 1; 2009):

“We were a bit puzzled by your handwritten application for funding as it shows a staggering disregard for our practices and rules relating to requests for research support. We usually receive applications by electronic submission, and they must be received before 5 pm on the closing date. However, we realize that our current instructions do not formally preclude non-electronic communication and therefore we had little choice but to consider your application.

We sent your proposal to a panel of international expert referees who have not worked or published with you during the past 10 years. Their comments are summarized below and we hope that you will find them helpful should you choose to resubmit in the future. Although your project departs from the routine—a refreshing change from modern research projects that tend to be merely incremental steps with no real impact on the universe of relevant knowledge—I am afraid that your application for funding has been rejected.”

Read on for the details of the three reviewers’ reports, and why the potential funder concludes: “There are unusual and therefore intriguing aspects to your idea and the scale of your ambition is impressive. In the final analysis, however, our decision is based on a simple test of whether the work will have a major scientific impact—in other words, will people consider it to be an important piece of knowledge in a hundred years’ time? Regretfully, we do not think that your proposed work will yield sufficient insight to meet this requirement.”

Nature‘s special set of articles to celebrate Darwin’s achievements is available here.


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