To get a look at what their rivals are doing, some researchers are turning to Freedom of Information Act requests, Buzzfeed News reports.
Some 30 percent of FOIA requests for copies of National Institute of Health grant proposals come from other academic institutions, while about half of requests for copies of National Science Foundation requests are from other research institutions, it says.
Buzzfeed News notes that some of these requests by other institutions are to obtain copies of successful grant applications to help their own researchers hone their grantsmanship skills. But others, it says, are to get a peek at what their competitors are up to. It notes that while sensitive information that's proprietary may be redacted from copies of grants given to others, information like research plans likely won't be.
This, Buzzfeed News says, concerns the subject of some FOIA requests. However, some those making such requests argue that taxpayer-funded research can't be expected to remain private.
The subjects of requests also tell the news site that those seeking their grants often could've contacted them first. "It seemed like a lack of collegiality to go through the FOIA mechanism," Walt Jesteadt from Boys Town National Research Hospital. One of his proposals was the subject of a request by a former postdoc. "She could have just called and asked for it."