Thursday, 6 December 2012

The 'T' Factor

Plimsole, Doomberger and O'Leary
The ESRC recently launched a radical new scheme for funding 'transformative research'. Not only will the projects they fund be groundbreaking; the way they assess the applications will be too. Applicants will put in a  bare bones outline to the ESRC by 24 Jan, and those who tickle their fancy will be shortlisted and invited to an - if you will  - 'pitch to peers' workshop.

What exactly is a 'pitch to peers' workshop? I'm glad you asked me that. Imagine the X Factor for social science academics, with the other competitors as the judges. 

What could possibly go wrong? 

Dermot O'Leary: 'So, Prof Plimsole, what did you think of Dr Doomberger's project?'
Prof Plimsole (sniffily): 'To be honest, Dermot, it lacked cohesion. I admire her bravery in exploring the sociology of Lego, but her research questions were all over the place, her objectives were unrealistic, and her outputs were frankly negligible.' 
(boos from the audience)
Dermot O'Leary: 'Hmm, I'm not sure the audience agrees with you, Prof Plimsole...' (squeals from the audience. O'Leary turns to Doomberger) And Dr Doomberger: what do you think of Prof Plimsole's project?'
Dr Doomberger (angrily): 'I've never seen such routine, dull... incremental research (gasps of horror from the audience) masquerading as transformative in my life! His project couldn't transform its way out of a paper bag!' 
(the audience explodes)

Yes, we're all very much looking forward to the televising of this innovation in peer review. We've invested in  a widescreen plasma TV to watch the spectacle, and will be ready to vote for our favourites, frittering away our block grant on premium rate phone calls. Put your feet up, crack open the popcorn and let the spectacle begin!

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