Feedback cutback

July 9, 2009

It is that time of year again when those of us with pending funding applications make the trip to the office post room a little more often. I have been waiting on several responses, in common with many of my colleagues. We're waiting more in hope than expectation, not because we think our work is of an inferior standard, but because we are realistic about the number of applications that will be accepted and the reduction in available funding.

Realistically, we generally expect at least one or two of our multiple applications to be unsuccessful, and this is the case again this year. However, there was one (very small) consolation: receiving useful feedback from experienced peers.

Most research funding bodies (public or private) provide some comment on the work that we spend weeks preparing. However, public funders are beginning to falter in this regard. By far the worst culprit is the British Academy: no feedback, and an abrupt two-line letter that ends by falling back on guidelines designed to allow it to do what it pleases. Such responses are hugely disrespectful.

If the British Academy wishes to be the kind of fellowship that it claims to be, it must stop stamping on the feelings of those who turn to it for support.

Martin Willis, Reader in English literature, University of Glamorgan.

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