Monday, 23 November 2009

Happiness Call Brings Unhappiness

An interesting story in the Times Higher about the 'Wellbeing' call the ESRC issued last month, and which I mentioned on the blog here. We looked into putting in a bid, but in the end decided that the odds were stacked against us, as it became apparent that the ESRC had a specific group already in mind for the funding; indeed, there was a strong suspicion that that group had had a hand in drafting the specification. I spoke to the ESRC on the phone and it was clear that they intended to fund just one group. Stitch up? Surely not...
Anyway, the Times Higher story is interesting as it's apparent that our unease has been shared by others. Quoting a prof from a Russell Group university, she had 'decided that bids by researchers interested in delivering a serious critique of the evidence base for "happiness initiatives" would not be well received.'
"For a supposedly independent research council, it's a disgracefully biased and loaded specification," she said of the ESRC call. She added that "a number of universities are bidding even though there is a widespread cynicism about it".
Elsewhere, another prof suggested that the ESRC was aiming to fund research that was about 'promoting self delusion'.
It's a shame the ESRC didn't answer these criticisms; we'll watch this story with interest.

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