I heard yesterday from the British Academy that I hadn’t been successful in gaining a postdoctoral fellowship from them this year. I wasn’t too surprised, they don’t ever seem to fund anything to do with education on this scheme. Besides, they had 900 applications, and a maximum of 45 awards to make.
I think I put together a strong proposal, and I shall revamp it for use elsewhere. So feedback from the British Academy would be very useful. I was about to contact them and ask for feedback, when I noticed at the bottom of their email: ‘Please note that, as explained in the scheme notes, feedback is not a feature of the Postdoctoral Fellowship scheme, and the Academy is, regretfully, unable to enter into correspondence regarding the decisions of the awarding Committee.’
Hmm. 900 applicants. I didn’t see the entire process but it went something like this. I wrote it, my mentor reviewed it, I revised it. The director of the Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology reviewed it and approved it, the Research School reviewed it and approved it. Both my referees read it in some detail and supplied comments. The British Academy logged it on their website, sent me some emails and found someone higher than me in the pecking order to review it. Maybe they even found two people to do this.
It’s a long, complex document. I guess that’s about a week’s work overall – some of it by me (research fellow) but other aspects by lecturers, senior lecturers, administrators and a professor. That’s maybe £700 of staff time (well over £1000 if you go for full economic costing!) That’s repeated around the country 900 times. Nine hundred working weeks. About 20 years. £630,000 (I’ll leave you to work that out with full economic costing).
If the British Academy organised universities across the country to club together and spend £630,000 on training 900 early-career researchers to produce better research funding proposals then that would be expensive, but would have some merit. But that would involve feedback. Without feedback, the British Academy has devoted approximately £630,000 of university funding to making 855 early-career researchers feel depressed.
I wonder if that’s what they’ll put in the Impact section of their annual report?