Some Useful Advice About the Warcollier Prize Competition

by Paul H. Smith, Ph.D.

Rene Warcollier

IRVA is almost ready to release the call for proposals for this year's Warcollier Prize competition. In advance of that, I wanted to give some advice concerning proposals. My first suggestion is, "It doesn't have to be fancy!" I think there is a perception out there that Warcollier proposals have to have lots of bells and whistles - in other words, be some kind of paradigm-shattering experiment to have a chance of winning. Not so! In fact, complexity and overly-ambitious attempts at novelty could actually work against your proposal being picked.

Two of the most important criteria on which a proposal is judged are "relevance" and "potential to advance the field." The relevance criterion has to do with how directly an experiment relates to remote viewing. If judges have to choose between two equally sound research proposals, the one that has the most to do with remote viewing is the one that will be picked. So "relevance" can be answered by even the simplest experiment that is most closely involved with remote viewing.

When it comes to potential to advance the field there is more to think about. "Advancing the field" is where novelty is important-just not in the way people sometimes think. What we're aiming for here is research that either breaks new ground (this is the "big sense" of advancing the field), or that fills in a gap in our understanding of remote viewing (this is the less ambitious sense). Either one can win the prize if the proposal for it is well-designed and feasible to do.

For example, the first winning Warcollier proposal involved remote viewing bacteriophages (tiny creatures that eat bacteria) to see what new things might be discovered about both remote viewing and bacteriophages. As Lance Beem and Debra Katz, the researchers for this project discovered, this turned out to be a very ambitious and challenging experiment. And it produced some interesting, even provocative results. But an equally interesting - and much less complex experiment - might be something as simple as, for example, testing how important feedback is in associative remote viewing (ARV). We have always assumed that feedback to the viewer is essential to the process. But that assumption has never been fully tested; nor, if that assumption is correct, do we know how essential feedback might be. There are any number of these kinds of experiments that might be designed that, while not particularly elaborate or showy in their design and goals, can be just as important in expanding our knowledge and understanding of remote viewing and how and why it works.

Another judging criteria that pertains to what I just said is feasibility. Often the more elaborate and ambitious proposals turn out to be harder to do, more expensive, or simply not manageable. Some of them test too many variables, which can make it hard in the end to draw any clear conclusions. In scientific research simpler is often better - and it is certainly easier.

One thing that Warcollier Prize proposals are not judged on, and that is the qualifications of the researcher or researchers. This is one scientific research competition in which amateurs are very much welcome to apply. As long as a proposal is well-thought out, properly designed, and embraces all the correct scientific principles, it stands equal chance whether the researchers are only high school graduates or physics professors. The Prize is awarded based on the value and quality of the proposed experiment, not on who the authors are. While it does so happen that experienced scientists have the edge in already knowing how to put together a sound experiment, there is no reason why a competent amateur can't learn the ropes well enough to submit a winning entry. Believe it or not, scientific research doesn't always have to be rocket science!

Of course, you do have to do your homework first. You can't come up with a unique contribution that fills in gaps in our knowledge of remote viewing if you are not aware of what is already known about remote viewing. But that, too, is not dependent on whether you are a lay person or an expert. Anyone can do that homework - it takes reading and asking, but ultimately it is in reach of anyone who wants to put out the effort. There are numerous useful references in the library, and a good example (though relatively complex) of a remote viewing research project undertaken by amateurs at

So stay tuned for the call for proposals for the 2015 Warcollier Prize competition, but start thinking now about what you would like to propose for your own chance at the Prize.