Thursday, 21 March 2013

Writing applications for

research grants is one of those time consuming activities that most of the academics I know loathe. Oh yes the applications must be written and seen to be written. It takes a great deal of time to write an application for a research grant. It might well be wasted time too. You are competing with many other requests for precious research money so that you can do the research which will help you publish and thus promote your career rather than perish through lack of publications. It helps to know people, the right people, and know what is likely to appeal to those with the power to hand out the grants. Indeed it may be that knowing people and knowing what to say to them is everything. How else can some of the following grants from the Australian Research Council be explained?

The cultural economy of Australian artist-run initiatives which develop an  understanding of a diverse range of artists’ practices, including in relation to the National Broadband Network which  will contribute to policy development for a more vibrant Australian arts landscape ($320,906.00)

The NBN is very much a political issue so I suppose the opinion of artists is important - or is it. I am sure I could do the same research for about a tenth of the cost and that artists could have used the remaining $290,000 on materials to work on actual projects..
And then there is this one
Sexing scholasticism: gender in medieval thought 1150-1520 which is apparently about “medieval theological debates about why it was necessary that Christ was born as a man” so that someone can have “access to ideas about  masculinity and femininity held by the elite ruling cultures of western Europe” ($357,630.00). 
It seems to me that this must involve a lot of first class travel to visit libraries in Europe. Apparently internet resources for academics do not exist but the topic is surely of vital importance?  Not sure about that but suspect I could do the research for considerably less than that.
And then we balance that one out with another gender based project
How Gender Shapes The World: A Linguistic Perspective. This project will seek to understand and explain gender roles in Australian society, and in nearby nations. Emphasis is placed on training researchers with an immigrant or minority background, working towards the empowerment of women researchers. This will enhance our nation’s capacity to interpret and manage gender roles in multicultural contexts. TOTAL COST: $2,416,141.00
Oh right I suppose that gives female researchers some hope for the future - but only those from an immigrant or minority background.They will presumably be required to do research in immigrant and minority issues. Note this is not about "equality" but about managing gender roles in multicultural contexts. I think the emphasis may be in the wrong place but what do I know? I am sure I could do something for useful for less money.
Now I am surprised that this next one managed to get as far as consideration. It is, given the government's latest efforts, quite naughty - or perhaps they are hoping it will give them cause to close down sites like The Punch, Conversation, Crikey, the Online Forum, Menzies House etc . (I have tried to suggest a broad range of Australian sites.)
‘Mediating the Conversation‘ is an international study of how public participation is facilitated and regulated in online  news and opinion sites. It will evaluate approaches to managing comments and interaction, and will produce best  practice guidelines for news media on promoting inclusive, productive online conversations” ($364,950.00),
Someone is going to have fun reading all those sites - but many online junkies do that anyway and the applicant must realise that each site has its own unique bias and flavour which is unlikely to change without political interference in the media. 
But perhaps all these grants (and the many others that received money) can be explained by this one:
Revisiting the foundations of mainstream economics: a cooperative account of wellbeing and moral improvement” which “presents a major theoretical challenge to the individualistic definition of wellbeing that defines mainstream economics ($371,931.00)
It seems that Marxism is still very much alive and well and in receipt of research grants to rehash and promote the old theories about communism and cooperation.
Oh yes, I would like a research grant but my interests have nothing to do with gender or politics. I just want to help people communicate. It really is very naughty of me.
My thanks to the Virtual Quilter for alerting me to the new round of grants. I have ignored all the environmental ones. Naturally they were mostly about global warming.


Helen Devries said...

In a humbler line of grants I still remember the British Arts Council grant enabling three chancers to walk round East Anglian villages balancing a pole on their heads.

Wonder what their grant application read like?

catdownunder said...

What excuse could they possibly have given for that???? That's an amazing one Helen!

the fly in the web said...

I remember it well! It roused fury but the Arts Council brushed off criticism with lofty was to bring culture to deprived rural areas.

Anonymous said...

What was cultural about that? Sounds almost as lunatic as some of our funding. Chris

Anonymous said...

Just as well to ignore the environmental ones! Glad other countries grant money for some weird things too, but it would make more sense to spend the money where it will make a real difference.