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May 20, 2004

Faculty grant. complete scam .NOT.

Posted by dogpossum on May 20, 2004 2:42 PM in the category academia

I’ve decided that a trip to Europe to spend some time at a lindy hop dance camp hanging out with swingers is essential to my thesis. Admittedly, I went into this thinking a university funded trip to Herrang would be a total scam. Complete rort.
But the whole application for funding and ethics process has changed my tune.

Firstly, taking this amount of time off is a big deal. Going to Europe for a month will take me away from my work (and The Squeeze and everything else), and that's a bit of a big thing. Can I justify it? Will it take time away from my work, therefore putting me behind in the writing? It’s also going to cost a lot. Will I be able to get enough money? Do I have enough money to cover the other costs I’ll no doubt find while I’m away?

Ok, so I figure yes, I can cope with all that.

Next thing.
The application process.

The ethics application:
To actually go out into the world and do research on real, live people, you need to have clearance from the ethics committee in your faculty (or uni, depending. I modified my research so I could go with the faculty – less stress, shorter delays, etc). So you need to fill in an ethics application form. Here’s the guideline for the form. That’s 39 pages of instructions. And here ’s the actual form. That’s 23 pages right there. And with that you have to provide copies of all the questions you want to ask people, the ads you’ll put up to get people to fill in surveys, how you found people to interview, why you want to interview, them, etc etc etc. It’s a big, long process, and you have to know exactly what you want to do, and why. You have to be clear in the topic and focus of your thesis, as well as the fieldworky bit.
Once you’re done (and have the thing signed by about 10 different people), you submit it, then sit on your date til you hear back. Then they send it back and ask you to clarify things. “why Sweden?” what a stupid question. Sheesh. Then you send it back to them (having secured the relevant signatures, copies of things, etc). Then they send it back to you, just because. So you fix it again. Yes, Sweden. I know it’s an American dance, but Sweden really is important. And you send it back again. And finally you get the tick.

Once you get clearance, you have to check out this form about insurance.

Then you start planning your trip – the mechanics of it all. Plane tickets, accommodation – the ordinary minutia of overseas travel (goddess bless my dual citizenship). And you have to fuss about planning your research – contact the interviewees. Get that video camera. Find out how to use the laptop. Etc etc etc.

The Grant Application:
And of course, to be able to actually go do this research, you have to have some money. So you apply for a faculty grant (and a Federation of Australian University Women grant, and whatever other grants you can find).
See the above list of shitjobs? The forms are shorter – less than ten pages – but the questions are harder. Budgets. How much will it cost to stay in Herrang? How much is a bus from Arlanda airport to Herrang? Go research skills, go.
And they send things back to you with queries: “why Sweden?” Aw, for fukk’s sake. Doesn’t matter how many times you explain, or draw diagrams, or write it down. No one can accept that a tiny town in rural Sweden is the centre of the lindy hop world for many swingers.

Eventually, you get the unofficial approval (ie, someone rings your supervisor, then they ring you). And then you wait for the official letter. And you wait. And you wait. And you wait. Meanwhile, the departure date creeps closer (30th June, thankyou very much), the airfares get more expensive, and you’ve got tasks that rely on the formal approval before you can complete them. Can’t book a flight without a confirmed amount of spending money. Can’t email for permission to do research in Herrang until you’re sure you’re actually going. Can’t confirm your accommodation in Herrang without being sure you can afford to pay for it. Can’t sort out a dress for the cousin’s wedding in Wales before you know for sure you’re going to Europe.

Any how, eventually you go off on your trip. Laden down with recorders and cameras and laptops and dance shoes and a backpack and a million tshirts for dancing. You go, you dance a very great lot, you work a lot. You get ill. You recover. You get broke, you email home for dosh. You take notes. You watch. You listen. You interview. And then you come home.

And you fill out the research grant report form . And you start writing the bugger up.

So it’s not much of a rort. You really have to work for the money. And hope it’s enough.

Posted by dogpossum on May 20, 2004 2:42 PM in the category academia