I volunteered for a new university committee and, gods help me, they accepted me.
Here's what it is: the "University Research Advisory Council." They've put out a call for two faculty members (for all I know, we are
the council), and I felt strongly that the Humanities needed to be represented. So I volunteered.
Here's my backstory: when I went to apply for my big fellowships, I had to go through this process that involved, among many other offices, the Office of University Research, and I quickly discovered that that office had no freakin' clue when it came to Humanities grants. I first had to convince them that, as a medievalist, I probably didn't need to go through the Human Subjects paperwork. Once that was done, there was the process of the grants themselves. I was told that the university probably wouldn't support anything but "high-dollar" grants. Again, fifteen minutes spent convincing them that they shouldn't hold their breath for me to find some mythical $100K grant for Humanities research. It was then suggested that I only apply for "high-profile" fellowships. An actual quote: "If you got a Guggenheim, we'd support it," followed not two minutes later by, "So... What does 'ACLS' stand for?"
Now, if you're not a Humanities person, I don't expect that you'd know what all these things mean, nor should you. But if you are the designated person to help faculty navigate the grants process, here are some randomly-selected things you might be aware of:
- Guggenheim fellowships are not something that a junior scholar working on their very first book just goes out and gets. They tend to go to people working on second or (more often) third books, and to scholars who already have an established record of grant-getting.
- ACLS is kind of a big deal.
- $30-40K for a junior-level humanities fellowship is a lot of money, and you should please not tell faculty members that they are "wasting their time" in applying for these.
If these are foreign concepts to our university's research office, then what other potentially damaging areas of ignorance might be lurking out there? I decided that I needed to actually see if I could do something about this.
So here I am, half of a faculty advisory council, and here's my preliminary mission:
- Increase awareness among University Research Office personnel about the research money available, and about what constitutes a good investment, and most importantly, about why scholars in the humanities (especially those with high teaching loads) need to be supported when they apply for time to research and write.
- Get someone in the office who knows Humanities funding, and who can help faculty identify and apply for funding -- and not just NEH funding.
- Make the application process more transparent and easy to navigate: if you want us to fill out a form, don't just e-mail us a spreadsheet with no instructions or guidelines and then tell us you are doing it to "empower" faculty.
- Finally: Eradicate, once and for all, the odious term "grantswinsmanship" from all university materials.
There's probably more to do, and I'm sure I'll figure it out. But dammit, this is important.