Open grant proposals and sharing in science

My research is not a secret. In fact, I want everyone to know what I’m working on! I worked hard to get a grant to support my research and to pursue additional training in teaching science. In fact, you can read all about what I’m doing for the next 3 years here. My NSF Math Bio Postdoc Fellowship proposal is public.

Why would I share a grant proposal for work that I just began 2 months ago?* There are several good reasons for my optimism:

I believe that sharing my research plans, progress, and workflow, as well as the final published papers, are part of my duty as a scientist. Especially when my research and my salary rely on taxpayer funds, such as the National Science Foundation. Being open about my research gives me new opportunities to discuss –  ideas, papers, and approaches – with other scientists, who might be outside of my current collaborative networks. This is fun and exciting, and it sometimes leads to new collaborative opportunities!

Because so few grants are openly shared, even ones that are long-finished, it can difficult for early career researchers to know how to put together their first grants – and with low funding rates, there may not be a lot of time for trial and error. It was extremely helpful to be able to see several funded NSF Postdoctoral proposals (some open access and some shared privately) to learn how to write a good proposal, and I want to pass that on to other applicants! I don’t feel like I know much more about grantsmanship than others at my career stage, but I’m happy to offer my funded proposal as one example for others applying for grants.

In a broader context, openness benefits science by speeding up the rate at which we can all communicate and check out each other’s cutting edge ideas. If scientists can discover early on that their research questions are similar or related to another group, instead of waiting (often a few years) for the results to finally be published, we can actually discuss new findings in real time! In this way, our scientific fields and recommendations to practitioners can progress more rapidly. Finally, grant writing is difficult and time consuming, and scientists (especially early career folks on the job market) face rejection all the time. We need to share and celebrate the milestones along the way.

There are a growing number of scientists that are sharing their grant proposals – check out a list for Ecology here. Openly sharing grant proposals has been discussed recently in some great posts by other ecologists including Ethan White, Carl Boettinger, and Titus Brown. These discussions, and subsequent decisions by many others to start sharing their proposals, greatly helped my submission process, and I know of a least a few other recent fellowship awardees who also used these resources. If you now search for “grant proposal” in figshare, you can find a growing list of research grant proposals.

Is there a possibility I could be scooped because of sharing my ideas? Sure, but for the above reasons, the benefits far outstrip the (relatively low) risk of theft. Besides, sharing my proposal gives provenance to my research ideas, a small “seedling” planted in my area of ecology, and a platform for moving forward. By taking your research out of secrecy, what doors will open for you?


*Actually, I posted my proposal on figshare several months before I officially began my new postdoc position.

2 thoughts on “Open grant proposals and sharing in science

  1. Pingback: Open grant proposals and sharing in science: Part II | Sarah R. Supp

  2. Pingback: Open grant proposals and sharing in science: Part II | Supplementary Materials

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