Research Essentials

Perspectives on an academic environment: a collaborative blog by Gill Clough & Rebecca Ferguson

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Time Wasters

March 23rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

Almost a year ago, I was unsuccessful in a funding bid to the British Academy. I tried again with a different scheme this year and, again, was unsuccessful. Once again, there is no feedback. The notification email specifically says
“Please note that feedback is not a feature of the Small Research Grants scheme, and the Academy is, regretfully, unable to enter into correspondence regarding the decisions of the awarding Committee.”
Out of 996 applicants, around 70% were unsuccessful. That means around 825 researchers put time into a bid and received nothing in return. They called on support from other academics, from administrators, from the IT department, maybe from the legal department – and all that time and effort was wasted.
How much time and effort was wasted?
Well, say each bid took four days to write, submit and review. Say the average person working on it was earning £40,000 a year and was paid to work 225 days a year (five day week, excluding holidays). So altogether the writing and reviewing process took about 4000 days, or 17.8 working years. I make that £712,000.
The maximum grant available was £10,000, so the academy gave out maybe £1.4 million to the successful applicants.
The British Academy is a major research funder. I’d be interested to know how they review their grant allocation and bidding process. Why are they demanding so much effort to be made by researchers and institutions, and why are they providing such a poor return to the majority? Why do they not make this a learning process by providing feedback? Are the universities calling them to account?

Tags: Bidding for funding · Reflections · by Rebecca

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Jocelyn // Jan 16, 2014 at 9:54 am

    Heartily agree with sentiments expressed here, this year I have had bids which have been checked by senior colleagues & approved for submission rejected by Nuffield & Astra Zeneca without any feedback. How can we learn what to change or target? Giving feedback on bids was the aspect of my role working for the HEA Education subject Support Centre that I feel the sector on a whole now misses out on badly.

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