I reached the point in my PhD where, besides focusing on performing and analyzing the last experiments and starting to write the thesis, I should also start thinking about the next step - what to do once I finish it?

Since I would like to have some more research time to publish as many papers as I can from my PhD work, I think the obvious next step would be a post-doc position.

I am an international student in the US and I could apply for fundings both from my native country and from US agencies.

The big question here is: is there anything unethical in submitting the same research proposal to two (or even more) agencies? Will I be committing some kind of academic crime if by any chance one same reviewer is called to judge the same proposal submitted to different funding agencies and realizes it?

I should highlight here that I would never accept both fundings. The goal would be purely to maximize the odds of getting research funded. In the unlikely event I would have the proposal granted by both agencies, I would choose the most beneficial or convenient to me and my advisor.

Two reasons I can think of NOT to do this would be:

  • a) wasting time of a larger number of reviewers (who could be reviewing someone else's proposal);
  • b) preventing more people from getting funded.

But is this cheating or just part of the business?

I appreciate any input - specially criticism.

  • This question is similar to the one here: academia.stackexchange.com/questions/52368/… Nov 24 '15 at 6:19
  • 3
    To write a good proposal from scratch you'll probably be looking at spending one full month of your time or more. The trade off is to have about one in a hundred to one in ten chances of being successful for competitive calls. Let me put it this way: if you don't reuse your application your full time job will become just writing applications. I think that, as you say, as long as you don't get paid twice for the same thing you are not doing anything unethical.
    – Miguel
    Nov 24 '15 at 6:23
  • 1
    See also academia.stackexchange.com/questions/15772
    – adipro
    Aug 1 '16 at 14:47

It is not only unethical, but often illegal to actually be funded for the same work twice---in the United States, this would typically be considered double billing and looked on very poorly indeed by most funders.

As such, it is poor form to propose the same work to two different places simultaneously, because if more than one funder wishes to fund it, then you will have to turn one down. Even if this isn't against the rules, it will piss people off for wasting their time and burn bridges.

That said, there are certain circumstances where overlapping proposals are reasonable, as long as they are appropriately declared. For example, one might submit two proposals to the same call, each of which share a critical task, but the rest of which go in different directions. The proposals can then explicitly declare this fact and note that if the funder chooses to fund both proposals, that the overall cost will be reduced because only one instance of the critical task need be funded.

In short, here, as in many other places in academia, the key to ethical behavior is transparency and avoiding wasting peoples' time.

  • 5
    Perhaps the point to emphasize is simultaneous submission. Really good proposals have often failed a time or two, particularly the first time you approach an agency, because you don't know quite what they want the first time around.
    – Jon Custer
    Nov 24 '15 at 14:36
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    The OP is not proposing to accept funding more than once. With the same logic as you propose, it would be unethical to apply for more than one job at a time - committees spend time reading application materials, and if you get more than one offer, one will have to be turned down. Nov 24 '15 at 19:26
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    @PadraigÓCatháin The situations are not analogous: it is a matter of expectations, and in the scientific communities in which I have operated, program managers typically look rather poorly on simultaneous proposal to multiple different programs.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 24 '15 at 19:56
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    @jakebeal Understood. Out of interest, how would you see submitting the same proposal for multiple research fellowships simultaneously? Nov 24 '15 at 20:15
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    @PadraigÓCatháin I haven't been involved in enough fellowship applications to have a clear sense of whether those are typically treated more like funding proposals or job applications.
    – jakebeal
    Nov 24 '15 at 20:23

Ask your program manager(s). NSF for example specifically asks you to list any simultaneous submission on the cover page.

  • 4
    This gets it right. There are actual published rules for this kind of question, and your ethical obligation is to follow the rules. Nov 25 '15 at 16:43
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    For example, I'm pretty sure you're allowed to apply for a math NSA standard grant and a math NSF standard grant in math proposing the exact same research (but if you get the NSF you have to withdraw from NSA). Whereas for the CAREER and standard NSF grants they're supposed to be somewhat different from each other. Nov 25 '15 at 16:50

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