This blog began in part to keep track of a grant application to the Australian Research Council. In the end, I didn't work on that application after I became ill, but in February I did re-submit a collaborative application that had come close to success the previous year. It is often said that one's best chance of ensuring success is any given year is to re-submit; we made quite a few changes to our scope and method, sharpened the application generally, and updated our track records, of course.
Today, the reports are supposed to be available on line. Actually, they were supposed to be on the ARC site last Friday, but a delay was announced; and at 1.30 this morning (according to the collaborative team member with by far the youngest children), they were still uploading them. And this morning it is so jammed I can't log on to the site at all.
Last year we had four reports (you can get up to six, or as few as none, if you are incredibly unlucky). Two were strong, but brief; two were more mixed but longer, so the rejoinder was difficult to write. Still, we made it into the top 10% of unfunded grants.
The system is a bit odd. We apply in March to one of several panels; the applications are then farmed out to both Ozreaders and "International" assessors. The former are paid ($30 per application!), and read up to 20 applications in their own area, or fields adjacent to their own; the latter aren't paid, and read fewer in their own specialist area. Most of them are Australians, too. The panel, or the "College of Experts" then divide them up and each has about a hundred to read and rank. The reports go to the applicants in June, but we don't get to see the percentage scores or rankings given to the various parts of the application, just the comments. We then write a "rejoinder" rebutting any criticism, offering further information and quoting the best parts of the best reports back to the panel (which is why it's nice if the good reports are long); and then the panel member may or may not adjust his or her ranking according to the reports and rejoinders. The panel then integrates its rankings, and then goes down the list adjusting the budget requested. In the end, these "Discovery" grants have about a 25% success rate.
So my day today, in between reading Hobsbawm and Ranger, The Invention of Tradition, and marking an honours thesis on Chekhov and Woolf, will be a series of attempts to log on to the ARC site and download the reports.
I'll also be thinking of the family of the courageous Brendan Keilar, who was shot and killed on the streets of Melbourne yesterday after going to the aid of a woman attacked by a bikie. And of a new aquaintance I've met so far only on email through my article in the Age, who's just last week learned that the tumour was cancerous, and who this week has just learned that there are shadows on the bone, too. A reminder that some reports are more devastating than others.