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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Blowing your own trumpet

There was a time when I often got asked to referee Research Council grant applications. Then for a few years I didn't get asked at all. I assumed that too much of the time I had made the "wrong" recommendation. Recently I was asked again and things have changed. Firstly one now does these things on line which is no big deal, but more surprisingly, at least to me, is that referees are required not only to evaluate the research proposal, but also evaluate themselves as evaluators! First you must rate yourself on several pro-forma criteria and then give a longer justification for your own self-rating. My immediate reaction to this invitation to waste even more of my time was: why would you ask me to evaluate a research proposal if you were unsure as to whether I would be any good at evaluating it? Moreover, why would I choose to evaluate it unless I had some relevant expertise? Referees give their time free and gratis, why would you make their job more onerous by requiring them to particpate in what amounts to a demeaning exercise in self-aggrandisement? Those with skill in blowing their own trumpets (and believe me there are many of these) will no doubt love it, but do we really want science to be controlled by people like that? This is what happens when academics are too pusillanimous or venal to resist the managerial takeover of British higher education.

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