Strange creatures, those researchers

It must be so much fun, working at a research funding agency.

You can create calls for research money one day and say submissions are due in only a few weeks, and researcher creatures will still apply. If you are in Hungary, you can even tell researchers that the call will only stay open until the sum of money applied for has reached the sum they are looking to distribute (!), and get away with it.

There is all kinds of fun you can have with researcher creatures, who have invested in PhD students and difficult projects that take long time to create results, because they are desperate. You can come up with any criteria and a combination thereof: you may choose to mock around with requirements regarding geography of participants, disciplines, or non-researcher parties that must be involved. You can introduce fun keywords in the call and watch the nerds make hexagons out of themselves trying to fit them.

You also have to have a very dysfunctional website: it should never save any drafts or remember earlier entries. You can make the researcher creatures cut and paste every single post of their CVs; in fact, you can make them manually enter everything they have ever done, written, or lectured about. You can make them translate English titles to non-English ones and the other way around – for no reason at all. And throwing people out at regular intervals is a must, the incidence of which must increase the closer the deadline gets.

And the researcher creatures will still treat you respectfully, keep your deadlines, and be eternally thankful if you award them grants.

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But how have we come to this?

How come that a whole room of highly accomplished researchers only hiss under their breaths when the new call with its ultra-short deadline using a brand new web tool that requires “just a bit of work, first off” is introduced? How come these researchers then spend days, nights, and weekends swearing at the web-tool, but still completing the entries as required and on deadline?

While competition is generally a good thing, forcing researchers to spend a significant proportion of their brain capacity and time on writing grants is a waste of resources. Especially when they need to spend another significant proportion of their time reading other peoples’ grants for peer review…

So what’s the solution?

There does not need to be one, as long as the researcher creature stays up late, gives up social and family activities, and dutifully bends over its computer to fight the Evil Websites of research funding agencies. You would think that smart people who have integrity enough to take on scientific challenges would manage to say no to humiliating processes in the application for research money.

Luckily for the research financing agencies, the researcher creature does not do revolution. Not administrative anyway. So next time you’re looking for a new job and want to have some fun – you know where to go!

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