Northumbria Research Support

Open access grant proposals

US-based biology researcher Ethan White has compiled a list of publicly available grant proposals in the biological sciences (thanks to Phil Ward for highlighting this). Often university research offices make available successful bids to other staff within the same institution, but Ethan and several others have gone further and taken the brave step of making their bids (successful and unsuccessful) openly accessible on the web using Creative Commons licenses.

The list mainly consists of bids to US funders, such as NSF and NIH, but Casey Bergman, based in Life Sciences at Manchester University, has made available a few proposals to UK Research Councils BBSRC and NERC.

Discussing the reasons for making his grant proposals openly available on the web, Ethan White argues that openness is inherently beneficial for science and that giving early career researchers access to funded proposals can help them learn the art of good bid writing:

By sharing our proposals the cutting edge of scientific thought will no longer be hidden from view for several years and that will allow us to make more rapid progress … I think having examples of grants available to young scientists has the potential to help them learn how to write good proposals (and other folks seem to agree) and therefore decrease the importance of grantsmanship relative to cool science in the awarding of limited funds.

On a similar theme, Joss Winn’s LNCD team at the University of Lincoln has made available some successful JISC funded bids on Google Docs. For example, here’s the bid for their £330K funded Orbital project. Arguably this goes further still by making the proposals viewable and editable on Google Docs, meaning others can make comments and even add to the proposal. Joss takes a similar view on open bid writing to Ethan:

I see no benefit to writing bids such as this in private, other than hiding the process by which I write grant applications. The projects I propose and the outputs they generate are all open source and usually promote some variation of openness (open access/source/education/data), so why not start with the writing of the bid? Perhaps someone will be generous enough to contribute in some way or even learn something from being able to see the bids in their raw state. It also stakes a claim on the nature of the proposal, too and with a CC license, the idea is sufficiently ‘protected’.

This is a contentious issue and clearly not everyone is going to be happy to open up their research bids in this way – typical concerns relate to the possibility of ideas being “stolen” by competitors. What do you think? Is this something you’d consider doing with your bids?

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