It seems our grant appplication to the Australian Research Council came close. I had an email from our research office yesterday to say that although we fell below the cut-off point for funding, we were ranked within the top 10% of the unfunded applications, nationally. This is a pretty good result, given that many applications go forward two or three, or even four years, in a row, before they are successful. It means that the project was "fundable", and not so widely off the mark as we feared. It means that we should certainly work on it over the summer and re-submit it in February. It also means, because we submitted it through a well-resourced (in Australian terms) university, we can apply for and will receive a "near-miss" grant of up to $25,000 for 2007, so we can start the project. If we move quickly, we could use some of these funds over January to do a little more research to strengthen some aspects of the application. Our chief challenge is to show that a significant strand of colonial and post-colonial culture in Australia is inflected by medievalism. The Cultural Translations conference this week should help us crystallise some of these formulations.
I'll consult with my collaborators before writing about this in more detail on this blog. People have sometimes been burned by airing ideas prior to publication, and while I am myself not concerned about this, it is one of the beauties of teamwork that we can balance my idealism with my colleagues' pragmatism.
I am increasingly thinking I will be unable to go ahead with my own new project in time to submit a second application in this round. My health is making me re-focus my priorities, and I think whatever time and energy I have for research over the next few months should go into tackling the Garter project and getting the second half of that book drafted. Tempting as it is to run ahead with the new project, because there's so much I don't know and haven't yet thought about, it's also important to finish the other one. And while I feel pretty confident of how this book is going to pan out, I'm sure there will sufficient mental and bodily challenges over the next year to keep me going. I'm hoping, for example, the swelling in my arm will subside sooner rather than later (and this is with only two lymph nodes removed, not the 10-25 most of us have in the space between breast and arm).
This missing the cut-off for the grant is odd, though. I'm pleased, because it means we were able to make a plausible case for funding an international collaborative project that would have articulated some interesting relationships between medievalism and Australian cultural history. I'm disappointed, of course, that we came so close, but must still go through the arduous process of applying again. And what does it mean that so few grants get funded? What an enormous amount of effort this represents, nationally, in the preparation and assessment of these applications. My university did well, but not as well as we would have liked, and the various research offices are agonising about how to improve our results. Part of the problem, though, is that the line between success and failure, or even between the top 10% and the top 20% of the unfunded grants is both very fine, and very brutal.