Using political-campaign tactics to secure grant awards threatens to oversimplify the science, overwhelm the independent peer-review process, and disregard intellectual-property and confidentiality issues.

Take the European Commission's Future and Emerging Technologies 'flagship' programme, which in January selected two projects to receive about €1 billion (US$1.3 billion) each over 10 years (see Nature 493, 585–586; 2013). Six projects were shortlisted after a year-long competition on the basis of scientific review — but also on the success of presentations to the European Parliament and political representatives, promotional videos and television interviews.

Substantial media exposure of the US Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative is inducing speculation on research outcomes well ahead of hard experimental evidence.

Securing broad political consensus for large-scale projects is understandable. Yet applicants for some low-budget grants are now also using social media, promoting proposals by requesting support letters through mass e-mailings and Twitter communications. However tempting, this could outweigh reasoned peer review.