“Guided tours of researchers’ ideas” – How to acquire research funds with videos

In the scientific journal Nature’s career column five scientists and future scientists vote for the production of audio-visual grant proposals. The future of grant proposals is video (February 5, 2021), the article states in its title. According to the authors (and the scientific literature) review processes are neither very efficient nor very reliable. Among the many problems: While the number of independent reviewers is critical for the reliability of the grant’s overall assessment, there aren’t enough researchers available for reviewing. Video, however, is a time-efficient medium and could make reviewing more attractive.

The authors suggest “that all technical aspects of a project proposal should be communicated in a 20-minute video; the budget and applicant biographies should remain text-based.” To create a video instead of text would reduce proposal preparation time, and could improve proposal quality. Even “modest videos” – like a recorded PowerPoint presentation – “are likely to be more effective communication tools than static text and images.” Ideally, videos can become “guided tours of researchers’ ideas”.

As one of the underlying causes for the authors’ advance they mention the known fact that funding agencies tend to favour low risk and incremental science while interdisciplinary approaches are less successful in acquiring money. Videos have the potential to change this situation. After all, “today’s funding decisions influence tomorrow’s discoveries.”

(Declaration of interest: The author of this blogpost, Thilo Körkel, is an employee of Springer Nature, the publisher of Nature.)

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