fredag 30 mars 2012

Yet another research grant application

Besides the VR application I wrote about in the previous blog post, I have also in a short amount of time whipped together yet another application that I just sent off to a smaller foundation with a more technical orientation. They promote research on "environmental conservation, energy, urban development and transportation" [miljövård, energi, samhällsbyggnad och transportteknik]. This foundation typically hands out two dozen or so yearly research grants for a few 100k SEK and I applied for money to spend 20% of my time during a year doing research on a project that I named "Beyond ecological modernization: crisis-proofed lifestyles for a sustainable society". Here is the summary:

"There are different opinions about what a "sustainable society" constitutes and how to reach that goal. The politically most established idea assumes that it is possible to combine economic growth and sustainable development. Against this stands the idea that a transition has to encompass more comprehensive changes that also include decreased energy use and decreased resource throughput.

I am in this project interested in persons who 1) live their lives based on a belief that our society is heading towards one or several concurrent crises (economy, ecology, energy) and who 2) practically prepare themselves by concretely changing their lifestyles. The purpose of the project is to map and describe "sustainable", "crisis-proofed" and/or "resilient" lifestyles in Sweden today."

I refer to work done on future (threat) scenarios by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) in the application. The problem is that these scenarios (for the year 2032) are only referred to as "possible" (rather than for example "probable" or "likely"), and I presume no special arrangements are made to handle the "accelerating climate change and rising oil prices" scenario beyond perhaps drawing up some (more or less realistic) plans. In the application I thus propose that the people I am interest in (above) can be seen as pioneers who already today prepare themselves for "the same" scenarios, but who actually go beyond words to actions. Perhaps we have something to learn from them? At least we should try to get to know them a little better and learn what more specifically they worry about and what they do about it (as apart from MSB who are more "cerebral" and exclusively-plan-oriented). The project has a computer networks/Internet/Social media part too.

I will get to know if I get this research grant before the end of June and I applied for money for 344 hours, but I now realize that the money I applied for (20% of my work time during a year) will cover only 340 hours of my time (i.e. I work 1700 hours per year excluding my 35 days of paid vacation). I hope that is ok, and, it's anyway very hard to in detail account for how you spend 340 (or 344) hours...

I asked for some same-day last-minute feedback to the seven pages long (plus four pages of references) application and got some useful feedback from a few friends/colleagues; Per-Anders Forstorp, Jorge Zapico but especially from Division of Environmental Strategies Research currently-finalizing-and-writing-up-her-Ph.D. thesis Josefin Wangel.

I now very much hope that one of this spring's crop of applications will "pay dividends" - it would be so nice to once again be able to say that I'm a researcher and not only a university teacher (which has been closer to the truth during the last few years). While it now seems clear that I and my colleague Björn Hedin will get money for our internal (department) pedagogical project - a small study on students' study/procrastination habits - the amount of time and money is a pittance (a few percent for each of us during the next academic year).

While I very much look forward to the project and to working with Björn in a research project (something we have never done before), the project itself is a "detour" and perhaps even a "distraction" compared to the direction I really want to head in. What I really want to do is much more in line with the application above! The project above would also be a great foundation for further studies and for writing further research applications in the area - despite being relatively small, it would still allow me to start reading literature and to collect material that I will have further use of far beyond this specific project.

Getting one of the grant applications to VR or RJ accepted would be like winning a jackpot on a slot machine in a casino. Great if you get it, but the competition is very hard and the chances are slim. This smaller application would instead allow me to spend 1/5 of a year on research right away (i.e. around 50% from mid-Oct to mid-March). The other/bigger applications would allow me to spend between between 1 - 1.5 years on research during the coming three years (2013-2015). That would be great - but the money is also sought after by a great multitudes of starving (?) wanna-be researchers.

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