Since being awarded a grant from NSF (my first!) I have received a few requests from strangers at other universities, who are themselves seeking funding, to see a copy of my funded proposal. Initially I reacted negatively to these requests, thinking that somehow the "secret sauce" of the successful proposal would be weakened by sharing it. However, I now feel that sharing a funded proposal has the following benefits:

  1. It increases my work's exposure and may lead to complementary research by another group;

  2. It may lead to an opportunity for collaboration.

The major downside is the prospect of plagiarism-- that the stranger would use my text in a publication. Of course I am planning to do that, but they should not since I would probably find out sooner or later.

If it is appropriate to share funded proposals, then the next logical step is to make the entire proposal entirely public. Here it seems like there is significant opportunity to weaken my chances of getting future funding-- but I can't say exactly why I feel that way.

What do other SE readers think of this? This may be appropriate for community-wiki.

(Some related reading: http://jabberwocky.weecology.org/2012/08/10/a-list-of-publicly-available-grant-proposals-in-the-biological-sciences/ )

1 Answer 1


Funded NSF proposals are requestable directly from NSF through the Freedom of Information Act. Proposal authors are given the opportunity to suggest redactions to NSF of proprietary or other information that should not be disclosed generally, but their FOIA office has final say on what gets sent. This kind of information might include not yet released product specs that would be bought with the grant funding or salaries of non-public employees. I suspect that all non-classified US federal agency grants are FOIAable through a similar process, but I only have FOIA experience with NSF.

Some people put their successful grants online, some people keep them secret. Your special sauce, in the end, is probably not that special, but good writing and good organization may be informative to weaker writers in the world. We don't publish our grant application texts online, but they're definitely out there due to FOIA.

  • 7
    That being said, I think it'd be rude to tell someone to ask NSF for it if you don't care about releasing it. I just wanted to point out that you don't get the final say in who can see the text of your winning proposals.
    – Bill Barth
    Jan 13, 2015 at 22:41
  • There was a question here earlier in which it was pointed out that while FOIA is a path toward obtaining the information to identify where taxpayer money is being spent, it is frowned upon to use it for other purposes.
    – user541686
    Jan 14, 2015 at 8:42
  • All government agencies, even defense related are 'FOIAable' (nice word!), but requests may be denied or (heavily) redacted for any number of reasons. Jan 14, 2015 at 12:02

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