Video Grant Proposals
Grand Challenges Canada is a nonprofit organization that strives to improve health care in developing countries. The organization funds research in a rather innovative manner: they lay down challenges and require that PIs not only submit written proposals, but also two-minute video summaries. The videos get posted to the Web where visitors can vote on them to assist the program in awarding funds.
I love this experiment in grant “writing”. While this specific program is driven by a private organization, I see no reason why public agencies wouldn’t at least consider something similar. I think that scientists need to be cognizant of the fact that most of our funding originates from the public, and we should feel a responsibility to keep the people informed of what we’re doing with their money and why it is important. The value of this endeavor is magnified in times where budgets are tight; in politics, it is much better to be on offense than defense.
And just to be clear, I am *not* saying we should allocate grant money based solely on an online ballot open to the general public. That is not what is going on here, anyway. Rather, the willingness of the PI to engage the public (and her effectiveness is doing so) is important to the funding organization, so the organization has made this aspect a part of the scoring. That makes perfect sense to me.
You can view the videos for the first challenge here. Ratmir, an old labmate of mine, and the JACS Twitter feed, @J_A_C_S, brought this competition to my attention. Ratmir’s video proposal on the use of paper as a platform for cell-based diagnostic assays can be viewed and voted on here. It’s pretty well produced. I hope you like progressive house music.
So far, the most popular video seems to belong to Krishna Khairnar, who is developing a field-based rectal swab collection system for diagnosing parasites. I think his success might be something akin to Sanjaya Malakar’s on American Idol. At one point in the video, Dr. Khairnar holds up his fecal-collection device. It looks scary, and the fact that he doesn’t explain how it’s used makes it even scarier. Also, I think he didn’t pay attention to the rules—the organizers cut him off mid-sentence at the two-minute mark. I’d say “FAIL”, but he’s winning…