Open Grant Proposals · Business of Knowing, summer 2021

“One of those informal frontiers is crowdfunding for scientific research. For the past year, I’ve worked on Experiment, helping hundreds of scientists design and launch crowdfunding campaigns for their research questions. Experiment has been doing this for almost a decade, with more than 1,000 successfully funded projects on the platform. The process is very different than the grant funding mechanisms set up by agencies and foundations. It’s not big money yet, as the average fundraise is still ~$5,000. But in many ways, the process is better: faster, transparent, and more encouraging to early-career scientists. Of all the lessons learned, one stands out for broader consideration: grant proposals and processes should be open by default.

Grant proposals that meet basic requirements for scientific merit and rigor should be posted online, ideally in a standardized format, in a centralized (or several) database or clearinghouse. They should include more detail than just the abstract and dollar amount totals that are currently shown now on federal databases, especially in terms of budgets and costs. The proposals should include a DOI number so that future work can point back to the original question, thinking, and scope. A link to these open grant proposals should be broadly accepted as sufficient for submission to requests from agencies or foundations….

Open proposals would make research funding project-centric, rather than funder-centric….

Open proposals would promote more accurate budgets….

Open proposals would increase the surface area of collaboration….

Open proposals would improve citation metrics….

Open proposals would create an opportunity to reward the best question-askers in addition to the best question-answerers….

Open proposals would give us a view into the whole of science, including the unfunded proposals and the experiments with null results….”

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