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06/30/2014

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Enzo Rossi

Thanks for this post. I've done OK with grants so far, but I never get funded for the stuff I actually want to work on. And the 'social utility' aspect is particularly bad for political philosophers: all 'they' ever want to hear is how to tweak capitalist liberal democracy to make it even better.

Aaron Garrett

This is terrible. On the bright side at least you aren't in Finland.

Eric SChliesser

I love Finland, Aaron, especially swimming in frozen lakes (after sauna); I can recommend that to lift one's spirits

Aaron Garrett

Me too -- although we have an ongoing dispute about what constitutes a frozen Finnish lake.

I meant the great many extremely talented Finnish historians of philosophy and the lack of funding and jobs.

Constantina Katsari

This is not an exclusively European problem. The situation is worse in the States. Cutting edge research is seriously undervalued and in most cases actively undermined. Seriously, the only way to pursue it is outside academia

Helen De Cruz

Hi Eric: Like you I've been successful in the grant game (within the limits of what is possible to get by a postdoc). I got an FWO postdoc grant, three Templeton small grants that were extremely competitive in a world-wide competition, and a British Academy postdoc grant (which has a 5% acceptance rate). I have developed a feeling for what a good grant proposal looks like, and learnt to integrate my research within the context of larger overarching projects I'm passionate about, which are doable and writeable within the constraints that you stipulate for grants (e.g., ambitious but not too ambitious, detailed timetables - drawn up to the best of my abilities).
But like you, I worry that this culture creates a deep divide between professors who end up as teachers ("lesboeren") and professors who do research (who are also in an unenviable position of having to dream up grants so that their postdocs etc stay afloat.) In all, this is an assault on academic freedom and especially on our capacity to come up with daring, original research that does not fit within a typical 3-5 year framework of the research grant, with its measurable output.
What can one do against this as an individual researcher in the Low Countries? One could become cynical and try to game the grantmaking system(s) (each of these have their peculiarities and buzzwords). One could direct and tweak one's research to fit a grantmaking culture (which is what I'm doing. I'm not unequivocally happy with this, but it allows me more academic freedom to work on my own grants, so I am happy to compromise). Or one could try to go for collective action to lessen the pressure. For one thing, the teaching/research/service dimensions have changed significantly in The Netherlands, from 40/40/20, to - in places like Utrecht and Maastricht - 70 (teaching)/20 research/10 service. How did Dutch academics let this happen? Is there any way to change this tide? If we do nothing, I can see it evolve to 80 teaching/ 10 research / 10 service. A university professor who devotes only 10% (or as it's now 20%) of her time to research?
Hans Radder diagnoses some problems in his farewell speech at the VU. It is a very sobering read.
http://platform-hnu.nl/waartoe-wetenschap-afscheidsrede-hans-radder/

Julie Klein

As astute as always, Eric. US academia is under very similar pressures.

Mark Lance

Thanks eric. These problems have been predicted of course. In some ways the whole model of tenure at a research university was designed to avoid thismsort of power. Not that there aren't downsides to that model, but it remains the best in my view. The US is not there yet, but many powerful forces are pushing in this direction, as you know.

Jackie Taylor

Helen and Eric -- Would you consider holding a workshop to help colleagues learn how to write a successful proposal? It's a real skill, and it took me quite a few years to learn how to do it well. I think this could be an enormous help to your colleagues in the Low Countries.

Helen De Cruz

Jackie: I learned a lot from the Oxford research facilitators, who regularly hold one-day and two-day workshops on how to write grants (for specific funding bodies like the British Academy and in general. Research facilitators often used to be researchers themselves, and have had first-hand experience with writing grants.
When I wrote my BA grant proposal (which is my current position), it was vetted by a research facilitator, and also by several scholars in my field and outside of it. By the time I submitted I thought, "The odds are only 5% but at least I feel I've given it my best shot, and it looks like a great proposal now". So if you have research facilitators at your department, they can be a tremendous help.
I've written a blogpost on how to win grants here: http://www.newappsblog.com/2013/09/tips-for-writing-a-successful-philosophy-grant-proposal.html

Enzo Rossi

^ Seconded (fwiw).

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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