You may or may not know this but the average reviewer for the NSF National Science Foundation and NIH National Institute of Health will often review up to 20 proposals per week, and this often has them spending less than 30-minutes per proposal due to all their other responsibilities. Some of these proposals take the PI or Principal Investigator months to prepare, I ask you how can anyone consider this fair? If the introduction isn’t catchy or compelling, little attention is paid to trying to ascertain if the rest of the proposal is worth reading, the reviewer in their minds are now looking for reasons ‘not to fund the project’ or toss the proposal out entirely.
With more and more colleges and universities vying for the same money and as science domains grow on the proverbial “tree of science” the odds of getting funded become less and less as time goes on. Thus, the offices of “Sponsored Programs and Research Grants” need more and more staff to better the odds or submit more proposals to make up for the deteriorating award percentages. Larger and more established universities with large staff and a good track record of completing breakthrough research have an advantage, new colleges and universities have a temporary advantage just because they are new.
It seems we have a bottleneck problem and we also know that politics and Federal Budget cuts can severely impact the amount of funding in any given year. Not good, but certainly not unexpected – take the Federal Budget sequester or annual Congressional Budget Wars, we are just about to enter another cycle of those as I write this piece on research science and grants here.
We need to seriously lighten the load of staff at these colleges and universities doing the research, as well as lighten the load of the cumbersome process for the reviewers at places like the NIH and NSF, and therefore our think tank is recommending a moratorium on the number of pages in these proposals and an optional video submission replacement to speed up the process and save everyone time. We definitely must continue the basic research if we are to continue to forge into our future. I propose we fund a pilot study using videos as the basis for research proposals and the back-up paperwork (electronically submitted) along with the video.
Perhaps we can practice and show examples of the types of videos that explain proposal projects and then put these examples on the NIH and NSF websites. It’s time to take this entire process to the next level – into the future. Think on this.