BA answers and more questions 1

September 12, 2003

"Minister to reply to MP's letter" might be thought a more accurate if less colourful headline to your report ("Ministers to probe BA's 'old-boy bias'", THES, August 22), especially given the comment at its end by a Department for Education and Skills spokeswoman.

Since March, Richard Grove has made increasingly strident accusations about the failure of the British Academy to adopt his proposal as a centenary research project. There are constraints in replying because of our rule of not commenting on individual grant applications, but your report makes four charges that need to be answered.

The first is that a key criterion for the award was changed after applications were invited. It was not. All applications were considered and assessed in relation to the same criteria, which were published at the outset.

Second, BA fellows are said to have had access to competitors' proposals.

Fellows, who are part of the academy's governance, could have known the titles of applications but no more. It is difficult to see what significant advantage could be derived.

Third, complaints are made by Grove that an assessor had a conflict of interest. As you prudently note, they are strongly denied by the scholar in question.

As to the fourth charge, if Grove truly supposes that the academy, by drawing his attention to alternative sources of funding, is trying to buy him off, he is seriously in error. All research funds are awarded in open competition.

It is regrettable that he continues to denigrate the successful project, which is an exciting and path-breaking interdisciplinary venture of the very highest academic quality.

P. W. H. Brown
Secretary, British Academy

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