Wednesday, 15 August 2012

A 'Brillig' Idea

I wanted to write a quick post highlighting the excellent 'Jabberwocky Ecology' blog, written by Ethan White and Morgan Ernest. In the spirit of Open Access Ethan is taking things a step further, and offering up his grant proposals to all. Others have joined him in this, and he has compiled the beginnings of a list of 'publicly available grant proposals in the biological sciences'. There's also one for the mathematical sciences, too.

I think this is a great initiative. Here at Kent we do have a 'successful proposals bank' for applicants to dip into to see what has worked in the past for others. But I think it's both brave and laudable for academics to share their proposals more widely. There is a natural reticence to do so, perhaps because of a fear that others might steal your ideas. However, new applicants aren't wanting to steal your research so much as get generic help with how a good proposal is formatted, set out and structured. Their proposal will still sink or swim on the quality of the science they're proposing. Helping them with the basics is just making sure the playing field is level.

So I'd encourage you all to engage with Ethan and Morgan's idea, to use some of the proposals they've posted, but also to consider posting yours if - when - you're successful.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

'Almost Everybody Can Score Well in Something'

Alex Miles alerted me to the wonderful University Ranking Watch, a blog that feverishly follows the various league tables for universities around the world. It makes fascinating but, frankly, bewildering reading. After only a few minutes you begin to realise that there is a league table for everyone, and if you're bottom of one and want to bolster your ego, you just need to find another methodology/data set/satisfaction survey.

So, if you're not making the cut in terms of teaching or research quality, you can always have a look instead at 'university sustainability', or 'productivity', or even 'student sex'. As the blog admits (about 'subject rankings'), 'the methodology and weighting varies...so that almost everybody can score well in something.'

However, he seems to have overlooked the latest league table, recently highlighted by Phil Baty: 'the UK Olympian University Ranking'. If you've been waiting for the day when you'd see St Mary's University College Twickenham in the top 10, your time has come.