Now that our Discovery applications have been fed into the gaping maw of the Australian Research Council (ARC) competition, I thought I’d take my 2-part series of posts about assessing funding applications out for a spin. Part 1 focuses on track-records and the research team. Part 2 will address an application’s overall feasibility.
“It’s all a lottery!”
“You need to game the system or you haven’t got a hope.”
“Only those who’ve had them before will get one.”
Sea of Wisdom temple (Beijing) by Jonathan O’Donnell (on Flickr)
The urban myths circulating about grant rounds are as tenacious as those about waking up in ice-filled bathtubs and realising you’ve had your kidney harvested.
No doubt, spending so much time and investing intellectual resources in a major application makes the lack of success bite that much deeper.
Having been around the traps as a supplicant, awardee, assessor, and now advisor, I’d have to say that most funding assessment processes do end up giving money to the strongest teams and most compelling projects. This isn’t to say that the processes or choices are always perfect, or that rogue results (in good and bad ways) don’t pop up. There’s always that story of the ARC Discovery that was written over a weekend and got up.
This post is about how I assess funding applications and, in particular, the track-record components. Over my academic career, I’ve:
- Been part of judging panels for niche academic association committees that gave out travel and small grants,
- Been invited onto a university’s fellowship selection panel, and
- Assessed for a bunch of international funding bodies (in Australia, Canada, and Hong Kong).
I’m not claiming that my process is necessarily best practice, but I thought it might be useful for you to gain insight into one assessor’s valuations (and, it has to be said, biases).
Each funding scheme’s selection criteria may differ in detail but the two basic elements of track-record and project idea are always there.
The role of the assessor, for me, is in gauging the quality and feasibility of the overall proposition. The fact that the ARC now gives ‘feasibility’ an overt weighting in the Discovery scheme gives rise to interesting conversation (but that’s for another post!).
What do I look for when assessing the track-records of researchers on grant applicants?