I've kept this blog, on and off, since 2006. In 2015 I used it to chart daily encounters, images, thoughts and feelings about volcanic basalt/bluestone in Melbourne and Victoria, especially in the first part of the year. I plan to write a book provisionally titled Bluestone: An Emotional History, about human uses of and feelings for bluestone. But I am also working on quite a few other projects and a big grant application, especially now I am on research leave. I'm working mostly from home, then, for six months, and will need online sociability for company!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Would You Like to Share Your Work with the Whole Class?

Two days ago we held a meeting of prospective grant applicants in my department; a mix of staff and graduate, or recently graduated students. The idea was to start workshopping ideas for grants. This is incredibly difficult to do. We are all so accustomed to sharing ideas only when we have mulled them over and written them up and polished our sentences. The group, too, was amazingly diverse. Three of the topics, for example, were children's literature; new media technologies; and a triangulation of Indonesian, Malaysian and Australian cultural relations.

In contexts like this, it's sometimes hard to understand, in the first instance, where the projects come from and where they might head, but as discussion proceeded it usually became clearer what the main lines of inquiry would be, and the group, diverse as it was, was often able to throw in suggestions about the kind of application it should be; whether it would work better as a collaborative project, whether it should have an industry component, whether it was too theoretical, too narrow, insufficiently 'national' in its priorities, and so on.

It will soon be time for people to start formulating these ideas into applications, using the very tight structural framework of the ARC application process. And to this end, and to provide a kind of model, I'm posting successive versions of my own application on my department home page, though not without considerable trepidation.

There is, I guess, the potential problem of plagiarism, though I'm trusting that the relative smallness of the field, and the very fact that the drafts are so very public, and that I'm writing about it in this blog, might be strong enough guarantees against someone 'stealing' my idea.

The second problem is that of feeling so dreadfully exposed, as drafts go public. But this is a point that Ken Gelder made yesterday: writing a grant application is no time for privacy or shyness. I'm hoping to get useful feedback from colleagues on my drafts, but principally also to demonstrate that showing people your work in progress doesn't actually kill you. The idea, too, is to show how applications get built up and refined gradually. Committing myself to making successive drafts available is also my best guarantee that I will keep to the Faculty's timetable, and have the whole thing finished before Christmas, minus the final GAMS entering and any refinements to the budget. This will give me most of January free for some other writing.

A third problem is that potential assessors might read the drafts and pre-judge the project or remember it in its underwear, as it were, before it turns up in their mail with its hat, coat, gloves, boots and sunglasses on. But on reflection, this seems quite ridiculous. The only readership I can see for my drafts is the group of first- or second-time applicants who might be interested to witness the process, not potential assessors in search of unfinished applications to read before the onslaught of finished ones.

When I do get a bit paralysed about this process, it helps to recall the pleasure I took in my last application, a truly collaborative team effort: the generous give and take of ideas and constructive criticism was a model of academic co-operation. This blog, too, along with others I sometimes read, shows me that we don't have to be in competition with each other, all the time, for every little thing, for every little piece of symbolic capital.

No comments: