About two years ago I was invited up to London to take part in a focus group run by the ESRC. They recognised that their website was not ideal, they said, and they wanted to get the views of the users as to how it could be improved. Well, as you can imagine if you've ever had to use the ESRC's website, we all let rip. That should give them enough to be getting on with, we thought.
Well, two years later, and the new website's been unveiled. It's sleek, with plenty of white background. It's less crowded and busy, which is good. However, it's still got an awful, awful search function. Try searching for 'Research Grants'. And this is what you get. Which is fine if you want to read a lot of end of award reports, but not otherwise.
The problem the site has always had is it's trying to do too much. It wants to be a repository and an advocate for Social Science research, as well as a source of information and guidance on those who want funding. And it ends up doing both badly, and choking up the search function with lists of previous research.
If you look for 'Research Grants' via the 'Funding and Guidance' tab at the top instead of via the search function, you're taken to a sub menu of 'funding opportunities' and 'guidance'. What? Surely there's a huge amount of overlap here? If you're looking for pportunities, what you're really looking for is guidance on how to apply? Aren't you?
Or am I being obtuse? Still, having a separate tab for 'funding opportunities' does give them the opportunity to list all the schemes which they're closing...