By Jonas Waldenström
This is an awful week to work in the Ivory Tower. Outside the office window the November rain forms puddles on the tarmac. It is dark, and with each passing day the sun climbs even lower on the horizon and the nights become longer. This dark and wet week is also when the Swedish research councils VR and FORMAS decide who is going to get funded in the next coming years.
The announced day is a dreadful day for all whom have long waited to hear back on their applications. Will it be funded or turned down? Who got, and who did not? The problem, of course, it not so much the fact that we compete for funding, but that so few can be awarded. Most do not pass the cut. In fact, this Monday when VR posted their list, 333 of 2700 projects were funded in natural sciences. That’s a staggering 84% of very disappointed grant-writing researchers. And a happy 16%…
It is a long process: applications were submitted in April, then perused by different advisory boards over summer and autumn, before finally the sums are set and the decisions become public.
This year my hope lies with FORMAS, where I have submitted a proposal on Campylobacter ecology and evolution based on full genome sequencing and infection experiments. It is a nice application, with great collaborators, and I have a good track record in the field. But it is nerve-racking nonetheless. The cut at FORMAS is roughly the same as for VR (though both seems to fund slightly more proposals than last year), so it will be a though call. When the decision is taken, the cut cross ruthlessly through a heap of very good proposals.
I will know on Friday. Until then: the pain.
Finally, a suggestion: dear funding agency, couldn’t we flip the academic fiscal year so that we apply in November and get the results in spring? That way even a grim decision can be carried, the loss lessened by the arrival of songbirds and flowering trees. Please.
(I realize I have covered this topic before; I guess it is some sort of therapy)