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!

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Less than a week to go

We just heard today that the ARC grants for 2007 will be announced next Wednesday. This is rather earlier than previous years, for which we are all very grateful. It means we have a chance to moan and complain about the bias against our fields; to pour enviously and scornfully over the list of successful applications; and to rehearse the statistics and the uncertainties that make the whole process seem a bit like a lottery (modestly, if we are successful; cheerfully or sardonically, if we are not), before we have to pick ourselves up and do it all again over the summer holidays. Those of us responsible not just for our own grants but for the submission and success rates of our departments, faculties or schools will have to help in the picking up of the unlucky ones who miss out this year, encouraging them to re-submit, or to re-formulate their proposals.

These will be the public faces of our responses. Privately, of course, the emotional extremes will be greater. The first few years I was unsuccessful, with two different projects, I moved between feeling philosophical, angry and simply downhearted. The first year my Order of the Garter project was unsuccessful, it seemed that everyone I knew had been successful, in single or joint applications, or for post-doctoral candidates linked to their own research. I was quite downcast, feeling how very long would be the year between that day and the chance of better news the next round. When that good news came, a year later, I was in the US at a conference, and picked up a fax in the hotel, and could hardly explain to my friends what an extraordinary thing this was. It was partly the money, of course, but also the inevitable sense of validation and approval it bestowed, in spite of the lottery-like aspect of the process (given that a "peer" for the ARC doesn't mean an expert in your field, but rather another academic in some adjacent field).

There is no doubt that this is a difficult and time-consuming process. It is also very public, since it is a national scheme in a small nation. As an assessor, I will know next week which of the applications from "rival" universities I read were unsuccessful. Locally, too, at the departmental level, we will know exactly who has made it, and who has not. It will also be the first topic of conversation among my Headstart counterparts when we meet for our penultimate day workout on Friday.

The conspiracy theorists among us will also want to personalise the enmity of our assessors and the panel members who have denied us. It seems that this year, so far, at least, there are no rumours of interference in the approval process that cast such a pall over last year's results, when it seems the minister was advised by his kitchen cabinet that several applications smacked of political correctness or might attract opprobrium as the misuse of government funds by certain (conservative) wings of the media.

This year I await the fate of a collaborative application submitted in February with some friends and colleagues from New South Wales, Western Australia and California. If we are successful, I'll name them gladly! Having this joint application in means somehow that the emotional pain is, if not lessened, at least shared. Our reports were mixed; I felt that if the panel members responsible for ranking it were well disposed to it, they could find enough in the reports to support it. But also vice versa.... Perhaps once the results are known I'll talk a bit more about this here.

Fingers crossed, everyone...


The Minister for Education, Science and Training, The Hon Ms Julie Bishop MP, will be announcing the selection outcomes for proposals submitted for funding commencing in 2007 for the following ARC schemes next week: Discovery Projects; Discovery Indigenous Researchers Development; Linkage Projects Round 1 2007; Linkage Infrastructure, Equipment and Facilities; and Linkage International Awards Rounds 2 and ARC International Fellowships.

The announcement will take place on Wednesday, 11 October 2006 at Parliament House, Canberra.

Early next week we will send you further notification regarding what information we will be providing you with on the day of the announcement.

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