Thursday, 19 April 2012


Posted by Jean Adams

A couple of weeks ago I was all set with an all-but-finished grant application sitting on my hard drive just waiting to be submitted when I got back from holidays. Yep, I was feeling pretty damn smug with my ‘done three weeks ahead of the deadline’ situation.

The submit button by Johannes P Osterhoff

The plan was that I would head off on holiday for 10 days. Whilst I was away, the university would do its thing, checking that I had included enough money for light bulbs and that I wasn’t planning on setting up a nuclear war head factory in the basement. Then I would come back and pack up my application, complete with university stamp of approval, and send the whole lot off to the Economic and Social Research Council for their consideration.

As it turns out, this was holiday spent destroying Leyland Cypresses at home, rather than traversing mountain ranges. [Wow– did you click that Leyland link? Turns out they were developed in Northumberland. Makes me feel slightly dirty by association.] I was, in a casual not really paying attention way, checking my email every day or so just to see what was going down. Generally, nothing much. But then on Friday I got an automated message saying my application had been rejected by the university.

Smug superiority extinguished. Serious panic situation ignited.

What am I supposed to do? What does rejected mean? Does that mean three months of work out of the window? I should probably go in to work to sort this out. But I can’t – my clothes are filthy, I stink of bonfire, I at least need to take a shower before I can go in to work. But it’s an emergency. I think I need to go.

Then I noticed the email from our finance assistant explaining that she had needed to make some minor changes and the only way to do it was to formally reject the application and re-submit for university approval.

Ok. Deep breath. We’re fine.

Tuesday rolls around. I’m all cleaned up and back at work. We have been through two more rejections and I’m starting to get used to them. But my grant still hasn’t been approved for submission. My co-applicant is starting to ask questions about what’s happening. I’m embarrassed that what was such a regimented enterprise has gradually collapsed into a dysfunctional blancmange.

And what are all these rejections about? Oh just little things like should the software licence be listed under directly allocated or directly incurred costs. Don’t ask – I have no idea and just do what I’m told. But the upshot is that I have spent a lot of nervous energy on things that I really want to say don’t matter. Although I guess they must do or else people wouldn’t be worrying about them.

All I want is a little bit of money to do a little bit of research that will hopefully be at least a little bit interesting and a little bit useful.

1 comment:

  1. No wonder work-life balance is just a cliche to us.