söndag 29 april 2012

Career planning, career coaching

KTH has a deal with a Starck & Partner, a company specializing in career development (leadership development, career change, rehab, outplacement etc.). I was invited to an information meeting in the beginning of March about "Life and career planning". The invitation was accompanied by a cheerful and bombastic text:

"KTH encourages both internal and external professional mobility. [...] KTH finds it important that employees have the opportunity to develop their competence and consequently retain their employability. Working at KTH is to be an active choice."

I went to the information meeting and also read the information material. It didn't tell me that much. I know for a fact and from my own experiences that it's pretty easy to get something to sound fine on paper:

"Career inventory is all about pausing to reflect about one's career, looking at it from the current situation towards a vision. What are my strengths and how can I best use them? Am I using my greatest attributes and skills in my career? [...] The goal of this program is that the client acquires a realistic strategy for his/her future planning thus allowing them to make their own conscious, active choices as co-workers according to their own situation and what is important in [their] working life."

Such a text doesn't necessarily say that much about the quality of the "product" (course) beyond the sales skills of crafting a good sales pitch. A colleague of mine had however gone through this course two years ago and he thought it was excellent. And I trust him.

And so I applied by writing a personal letter. I spent some time myself crafting that letter (three pages) and parts of it was indeed personal (not fit for publishing it on the web). I was accepted to the program and met my personal "coach"(or HR - Human Resources - consultant) for the first time at the end of last week. I will meet him every third of fourth week for a total of 5-7 meeting or so. My employer pays for the activity and I get credit for the time spent in these meeting - but I have to do the course "homework" (exercises) in my free time.

I got a binder full of exercises and material with me from the first meeting. It is divided into three parts; "What can I do", "Who am I" and "What do I want". Each of these parts are divided further and the basic idea is that I should spend time reflecting on myself, my abilities, skills, strengths, weaknesses, values, interests, wants and needs by engaging in the materials/exercises. I will then meet my coach regularly to analyze and discuss the outcome of these exercises. That's the idea and here are my reflections after the first meeting:

- My coach Jakob seems like a nice enough guy. At the end of the session, when he asked a follow-up question, I suddenly felt like I was meeting my psychologist. Not that I have one, but me and my wife have lately been watching the HBO drama series "In treatment" so I know what it's like to go to a psychologist. He should let me talk, sit and listen and then ask piercing, gnomic questions that makes me think about this-and-that. Sort of like Yoda. Ah, and I've also seen the "The Sopranos" so my second-hand experiences of going to a psychologist are thus extensive ;-)  I even mentioned the déjà-vu-"In treatment"-feeling to Jacob.

- I was a little disappointed by the fact that it didn't seem like Jacob had read my three-page application. I got these vibes during our (two-hour) chat, but it felt like the issue was closed with I asked about the process of matching up persons/application with coaches/HR consultants. I got a bland answer without any references to me and my application at all. The talk was pretty good otherwise, but that was a disappointment. I should do my homework, but they don't need to?

- I have no idea of what will, or what is supposed to come out of this course (or exercise, or "product"). We talked about this during our meeting as I was supposed to have thought about this specific question in preparation for our meeting; "what do you want to get out of this?". I get the concept of a mentor (that would be someone senior to me at KTH who know the ropes at KTH and in the academic world), but I was (and still am) a little bit unsure about the role of, and my personal use of meeting a personal coach/HR consultant. But that's fine. I can live with the insecurity, I think what has happened this far is "good enough" or perhaps actually better than that, i.e. "interesting"and perhaps even "promising".

I might post something again about this course in career inventory and career planning at some later point in time (perhaps after it is finished). I have thought some of my own about "career planning" and will also write some blog posts during the spring about what (research) I want to do in the future.

tisdag 24 april 2012

On different ways of solving the very same problem

In this spring's bachelor's thesis course, I gave a seminar in the beginning of the term where we looked closer at two theses from last year's crop in order to analyze their strengths and weaknesses. In one of these two theses, the students in question took on the task of creating a system for other students to review eligible KTH courses, i.e. courses that they can choose to take or not to take. Part of the inspiration for their system came from "Rate my professors" and from other systems that are used at Swedish universities to evaluate courses online.

Because there are different "stakeholders" and I'm a teacher rather than a student, I have interests that are systematically different from students' interests. I'd for example like not to get negative reviews on my courses - even if (some) students don't like them. I'd also like to not encourage students to specifically and instrumentally search for "easy credits" ("this course is easy, but that one is difficult - stay away from it"). And so on.

As a consequence and from a teacher's perspective I can thus see lots of "problems" ("challenges", "complications") with the proposed system. What exactly is being graded, the course or the teacher? If the teacher is being graded, does that pose a problem in terms of integrity? Does that improve courses - on behalf of all stakeholders; university, teachers, students (i.e. is the fact that a teacher/course "doesn't work" enough information to help said teacher improve the course)? If students can rate teachers, should teachers then be allowed to rate students (rather than just their knowledge)? If it is the course that is being graded, what happens with the ratings if a course is taken oven by a new teacher, or if the old teacher changes the course? What if teachers and departments "protect" themselves against bad reviews by systematically discontinuing courses but creating "similar" (i.e. the same) courses each year (so as to dodge bad reviews)? Who exactly can read the reviews and who exactly can write them? Can everyone read and write, or only KTH students who have actually taken (passed?) a course? How then should students' identities be handled? Should the system differ between students who got a good grade (more ambitious? more credible?) and those who got a crappy grade on the course (slackers?)? I presume there is a correlation between liking a course and getting a good grade, but we also know that people who are discontent with something are more likely to answer surveys and evaluations (to "get back at") than people who are satisfied (who instead "move on"). Finally, here's a great question that the students can empathize with; what if a prospective employer looks at (all) the reviews written by a particular student and draws the conclusion that this is someone who whines too much and is not suitable to hire or even call to an interview? Would students' be aware of such possible uses (misuses) of the system and adapt to them in advance? By the way, what if the system is "hacked" and I write bad, whiny reviews and sign them with your name? And so on. The concept is interesting to explore, but also raises a lot of questions as can be seen.

But this is not a blog post about that specific proposed system. It's not about design decision and intended or realized functionality and interface issues (some of the problems raised above where actually answered in the thesis). I'm just warming up here with some of the questions that such a system raises and that I thought about when I read the proposal and then later the finished thesis (I was the examiner). However, apart from this particular (proposed) system, the underlaying question is of course valid; how can students be supported in making informed choices about what courses to read - instead of finding out that a particular course wasn't their cup of tea some weeks after the course has started ("sunk costs" and all that)?

What struck me at the seminar in the beginning of the term was that this is the exact same question that a project group tried to answer last autumn in another course of mine - but they came up with a radically different solution. I wrote a blog post about their propsed solution to the same problem - Storycast - half a year ago, but this is a second look at the system and from a slightly different angle. Short summary:

Someone (students, teacher or some other "producer") interviews a teacher and edits the interview down to a short downloadable podcast. Instead of reading a boring, bland, official and perhaps outdated description about a course, why not listen to a podcast where the teacher talks about the topic (rather than about the course, the examination, prerequisites etc)? Stuff like why I as a teacher am interested in the topic(s) to be treated in the course, where my interest come from, some anecdotes or stories about the topic or my own forays into it, my favorite books or stuff that has happened in the area lately, why I as a teacher think this topic is fascinating, and, in short, why students should take the course. In other words information/a radio program (perhaps bordering on entertainment) that can give students a feel for both the teacher, the topic and perhaps the course itself. A customized "radio show" (podcast) that could be as lively and entertaining as the interviewer and the teacher can make it (like a studio TV program). Heaven is the limit. Instead of sifting through course descriptions, why not spend an hour listening to some professors present their courses and topics and themselves?

What is interesting here though is that this is a radically different approach to solve the very same problem; how can students make informed choices about what courses to choose. To be exhaustive, I guess that I should also mention a third and a fourth way to fix the same problem:

Another way is to make sure that course descriptions are not boring and bland. But such texts are by their very nature "official", and there are conflicts of interest involved. As a teacher I want to write a text that is "open" and flexible enough for me not to have to rewrite the text every year or every time I change something in the course. Taking into account that such texts have to written far in advance, I don't want to be bound by a text that is all too specific far in advance of having done the detailed planning for the course (which of course is made right up until the last moment). The course description, by being "official", is not to be tampered with right before or during the course and I naturally prefer to be restricted as little as possible. If I change my mind about something (perhaps even during the course), I don't want a restrictive, pesky, outdated text to stand in the way. All of this encourages me as a teacher to write non-binding, non-restricting descriptions that then turn out to become boring and bland. They tend to be "fluffy" and unspecific and I imagine it must (always, or often) be hard for students to get an understanding of the inner workings of courses through these texts.

I know that writing good, informative course descriptions is an ability that teachers can improve upon, but my argument here is that there are inherent forces pulling such a text in different directions, creating "tensions" or perhaps even "contradictions" as regards to the form and the content or such texts. In short, I think course descriptions will never (or seldom) be good enough for students to make informed choices.

Yet another way to fix the same problem is to encourage students to talk to each other so that students who have taken a course can tell other, younger students about it and whether and why the liked it (or not). We help facilitate such processes by mixing students from the first three years in our program-integrating course. Hopefully every students in our program knows at least a few older students (and perhaps their friends) and can learn informally about courses they can choose later on in their education from them.

This "solution" is interesting since it is the exact opposite of creating a computer system (or working on a radio/podcast "production"). You do nothing except help people get in touch with and talk to each other - but alas, anything can come out of such a process and nothing is guaranteed. You don't know for sure that information about courses will be disseminated "effectively" - but other things can on the other hand come out of such a process - like for example friendship... And really, what could be simpler? No need for expensive and time-consuming (technical) solutions with set-up costs and maintenance costs (in time and/or money). Except of course for the maintenance costs of setting up and running a program-integrating course...

To summarize, I've written about no less than four very different ways of solving the same problem. And there is most probably also a fifth and sixth way that I haven't thought of... It is important to realize that there will always be trade-offs between these different solutions in terms of effort and effects.

It's good that I got around to writing this blog post. I can already now imagine that I might direct students to this particular blog post later - to help them break out of the self-imposed illusion that the first impulse about how to solve a particular problem is the best (or the only) way it can be solved! "To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail". And to a student with programming skills, every solution will tend to look like a computer program. And to the student with radio production skills, every solution will tend to look like radio program. And so on.

Do you have yet another suggestion for how to solve the problem of informing students about courses and help them make informed choices?

fredag 20 april 2012

The future of magazines / Magazines of the future

I've written about the 5th year project course "The future of media" before. We choose a different theme for the course every year and last year's theme was "radio". We've bounced around some ideas for this year's theme and have now settled for "magazines", i.e. The future of magazines / Magazines of the future.

As an interesting aside, I've previously kept the theme a secret right up until the course starts, but have lately felt increasingly less "possessive" of the theme and of keeping it a secret. Now I instead think that it's a good idea for students to know about (and being able to ponder) the theme in advance. (Not that I expect many students to know about the choice of theme in advance as I presume that while some media technology students might read this blog, few will belong to the specific group that will take the course when it starts after the summer...)

Anyway, we have our Monday morning meetings with wildly varying topics at the department and I have written blog posts about some of them before (here and here for example). I claimed one of these meetings and presented the course and this year's theme - and then sat back and listened to my colleagues' suggestions for interesting topics and guests. Here is the invitation that went out by mail before the meeting:


On Monday 16 April, Daniel Pargman and Åke Walldius will present the project course "The future of magazines / Magazines of the future":

The master's level (fifth year) project course "Future of media" is given for the 10th time during the autumn of 2012. Around 70 students take the course (primarily students from the media technology engineering program and students from the international masters in media management). The last two themes have been "The future of music" (2010) and "The future of radio" (2011) and this year's theme will be "The future of magazines / Magazines of the future".

Daniel and Åke will shortly present the course and this year's theme. Most of the time will be allocated to discussing our collective (magazine) reading habits, as well as to discuss literature and suggestions for interesting guest lecturers that we want to invite to KTH after the summer (the lectures are public and you will all receive invitations to them).


The Monday morning crowd usually exclusively consists of employees at the department, but I had in fact invited a few others, and we were thus joined by guests from Tidningsutgivarna (TU, Swedish Media Publishers' Association), from Sveriges Tidskrifter (The Swedish Magazine Publishers' Association) and from Swedish media powerhouse Bonnier Tidskrifter (English). That was great and both my colleagues and the invited guests had many exciting suggestions for guests that we might want to invite to the course. Especially the external guests will be useful when I follow up on the proposals and I will for sure call them and ask for information, directions and references to different "roles" (topics) and persons who can fill these "roles".

In general we want to invite guest lecturers (generally around 15-20 or so!) from both academia and the business world. We also make sure to cover technology, economy and interface/use in the choice of guest lecturers we invite (and/or, production, distribution and consumption). We might add sustainability/sustainable development (ex. recycling, environmental footprint) to this list (due both to directions from "above", but also as something that I happen to think is important). I expect our students to divide into a dozen or so project groups and together cover traditional (analog, print) magazines, digital magazines (read on tablets etc.) and also different futuristic combinations and hybrids.

This course/theme is for sure a topic I will come back to on the blog several times during 2012, but perhaps not until after the summer.

söndag 15 april 2012

30-day challenge

We have a small 30-day challenge "club" at my department. We meet on the 1st of every month and promise something. It's sort of like a new year's promise but smaller. The promises we make have to do with either trying on a new habit for a month, or, getting rid of a habit for a month. It is possible to keep the promise in question for one month only, or to continue indefinitely while taking on a new habit. The original inspiration came from a 3.5 minutes long TED talk by Matt Cutts called "Try something new for 30 days". Do have a look at it - it's very inspiring.

We started in February and we meet on the 1st every month. At that meeting we both evaluate and talk about our previous promises and discuss ("operationalize") our new promises.

My February promise was a piece of cake, I promised to not use the elevator at work (we're on the 6th floor). My March promise was so-so and I quit it one week into the month. The promise wasn't very good and I also didn't have time as research application deadlines took precedence. My April promise is great thought and this blog post is about that promise.

I've already written about my book-reading habits and a recurring topic here is "Books I've read lately". Since I read (a minimum of) 25 pages of academic literature (books) per weekday, I'm plowing through 600-700 pages per month, or, a little more than two books per month. I'm happy with that pace, but, the problem is that my pile of unread articles just gets higher and higher. So my April promise deals with academic articles. More specifically, my promise is to read an average of 10 pages of academic articles every weekday and preferably at work rather than home. Ten pages per day doesn't sound too much, but with an average of 22 weekdays per month, it adds up.

So, in advance of April 1, I sorted the half meter high pile of printed-but-unread articles (I also have other similar-but-older (and higher) piles on my desk) into smaller thematic piles. The pile represents stuff that I have printed during, say, the last six months. Sorting these texts was in itself was a pleasurable activity, reminiscent of seeing old friends again ("hello interesting article, I haven't seen you in months!"). I then skimmed off one or a few of the very most interesting have-to-read-articles in these thematic piles while adding up the page count. I ended up with 220 pages, consisting of 17 texts ranging from 2 to 50 pages each. I then went one step further and divided them into four piles with 50-60 pages in each, put each pile into a yellow plastic folder and mentally labelled these folders "week 1", "week 2" etc. Each folder is pretty thin and it felt totally do-able to read the contents of each folder in one week.

Fast forward and two weeks into the month of April, I'm right on target and it feels pretty good. I have a Google doc which helps me to keep track of my status, and, it's open for you to promise something and add yourself to it - just follow this link! You can even be anonymous if you'd like to. Or you can write a short or an extended comment here about your promise.

The last part of my April promise is to add the articles I read to Medeley, a free program I have just started to use in order to manage references to papers and books that I have read. If I manage to read 22 days worth of papers in four weeks, the very final task for Monday April 30 is to add all the papers I've read in April to Mendeley under the "April 2012" tag I've created. Another benefit is thus not only that stuff gets read, but that I keep track of what I read and when I read it.

I think I will renew this promise of mine to read articles also for May, but I have (already) something else in mind for June (I'll probably write something about it in a later blog post). I will also here and now add an additional dimension to my April promise and that is to write a separate blog post in the beginning of May with a list of the articles and texts that I have read in April. If I continue to read 220 pages of articles on a monthly basis, I might start a new "series" of blog posts about "Articles I've read lately"...?

So, scamp over to the Google document and promise something for the second half of April. Other popular promises in our group have been to walk or bike to/from the job, not eat sugar/sweets on weekdays, tweet or take a photo and upload it every day etc. Do also check out Matt Cutts' short talk and get inspired!

söndag 8 april 2012

I am health personified!

And none of my children have ever been sick either - although my eldest once broke his leg and had to stay home for three weeks. Confused? Read on. This blog post will give some insights into working conditions and the administration in a large bureaucracy (KTH).

We have a new system for self-reporting ("Egenrapportering"):

"You as employee at the CSC School can now do your vacation application/care for sick child/sick leave/etc through the web in the self-reporting system."

An administrator came over and gave a run-through of the system this past week.

In the same way my bank can make me do parts of the work that bank tellers did before (withdraw money, pay my bills, transfer money between accounts), the system for self-reporting makes me do (part of) the work that administrators did before. But that's ok, because even if it is one more system to keep track of and handle, it also gives me increased control. In short - there are pros and there are cons and it's a tradeoff. It might or might not be the case that the cons are bigger than than pros for me, but perhaps the pros are huge compared to the cons for someone else (the administrator tasked with keeping track of these things). In other words, it doesn't "cost" me too much to use the system, but what I do might be "worth" a lot to someone else - and that's OK.

My problem is elsewhere. My problem is that we live with two different systems of what work is at the university and these systems (or rather, only one of them) is "embodied" in software. When the model of work (as coded in the software I have to interact with) is different from my actual work, the result is tensions and sometimes perhaps even an occasional "breakdown". The best paper I have read about such mismatches is John Bowers (et. al.) 1995 academic paper about the discrepancy about how work is actually done in a printshop and how a computer system (working on behalf the company's accountants) perceives, classifies or "codes" work. The huge discrepancy actually created a lot of suffering (like overtime every single day for six months after the system was implemented). The paper is available online (pdf).

It is difficult to protest against software and the code that constitutes it. This is exactly the point that Lawrence Lessig made in his book "Code and other laws of cyberspace". When we write code, we do the equivalent of rewiring the physical architecture that guide our actions. You might not like a specific wall, but that wall still does affect you (it limits and restricts your behavior, but it also increases the privacy for those who are behind the wall). One of Lessig's lessons concerns how the balance of power (in the US) has shifted from (exclusively) east-coast code (laws, texts) to west-coast code (computer code, software). Code regulates what we can and what we can not do just as effective as speed bumps, guard towers and other architectural "features" of the built environment.

It is thus possible and interesting to look at power relationships that are embodied in software, and to be on the lookout for built-in "biases" in computer systems (pdf of Friedman and Nissenbaum's great "Bias in computer systems" paper). I wrote a paper together with Jacob Palme where our argument was that the Internet is biased in favor of English-speakers and against all other language-users (especially those languages that use non-roman characters). Look for the reference to a book chapter on "ASCII imperialism" in my academic texts on this webpage - and do note that we would like to write an extended version if you happen to be the editor of a special issue in a suitable academic journal :-).

With a sensitivity to bias in computer systems, it is clear that the new self-reporting system is clearly designed for people who have stable tasks and stable working hours (like the administrators at my university) or perhaps for consultants (who need to be able to account for every hour of their time). My job is not like that. My time is "unregulated". That means I can do my work more or less whenever and wherever I choose to. I can sit at a cafe half a day grading exams - or at a library or in my home. I don't have to do my work in my workplace or during regular/regulated hours (although I most often do that and my employer prefers for me to be at my job as often as possible during office hours).

I personally often work for an hour or two late at night (or in the middle of the night). I can also choose to sit in a summer cottage and grade exams or write an academic paper. In short, where and when doesn't matter as long as the job gets done. But if I have a cold and I have to stay home, there is on the other hand no-one who can easily take over my tasks, so I will basically have twice as much work waiting for me when I get back to my job (and I "naturally" don't get paid any overtime for doing it). So if I'm home and in bed for two days, I will have to work harder and "make up" for lost time when I get back. So should I still use the self-reporting system and report that I am on sick leave? My salary will take a hit, but I still have to make up for lost time and can't "shed" anything I'm tasked with doing at my job. It thus seems to not make a lot of sense to report that you are sick.

Another strategy is of course for university teachers to continue to work even if they are sick (still go to your workplace, or work as much as you can from home). Yet another strategy (already mentioned) is to just not report that you are sick and work extra hard when you are well again. This week I talked to a teacher who was home with her sick child - and then went to work in the evening instead... I would guess that using these strategies is not the exception but rather the norm for university teachers. Working within a system that contained many different kinds of "tensions", it was said in the Soviet Union that "they pretend to pay us and we pretend to work". University teachers don't "pretend to work", but I think we often "pretend" never to be sick or even to never (or seldom) have sick children. We just make do and make up for lost time during evenings and weekends. I believe it's thus fair to say that our administrative systems are not suited for a job with unregulated time. But we "should" still use them. Go figure.

In fact, the self-reporting system is designed not for university teachers, but rather for (university) administrators. So me as a teacher sort of becomes "the exception" rather than the rule!? Could you remind me again about the core tasks of a university once more? Is administration among the top-three tasks or was there something about... perhaps research... and perhaps teaching...? And for whom should our computer systems then be designed...?

When I listened to the run-through of our new system for self-reporting, I tried to think of an occupation where a self-reporting system would make absolutely no sense whatsoever. I can up with an artist. Or better yet, an author who writes a new book every second year. Would a system for self-reporting make sense for an author with very free and unregulated working hours? The answer is clearly "no, it wouldn't". So, is my work more like that of an author, or more like that of an administrator? In the subsequent discussion, Joel who has extensive experiences both from the academic world and working as a "consultant" in a streamlined (non-academic) research organization said that my work was definitely more like that of an author. If so, there is a big-time conflict between the reality and the map; between on the one hand the computer system (and the underlaying rules and embodied ideas about work), and on the other hand the actual content of my job (tasks, pace etc.).

I've used illness and sick leave as an example here, but it would be possible to find other examples, for example the issue of vacation, or of acquiring further training in order to be able to do your job (keep the courses you teach current for example). To read up and learn more so that I can update the courses I teach is - I suppose - a "hobby" of mine since I don't really have time to read books or academic papers at work, but rather have to do it in my "leisure" time. This is also one of the premier reasons why my work time is "unregulated". How would you regulate a knowledge-intensive job with so much freedom and also so much responsibility in any sensible way? I guess you could do it in some way, but it would have to be done with care and sensitivity to real work practices - instead of pretending that the work is something it really isn't. It would probably involve not formalizing many aspects of the work in great detail.

What can I do when official job routines differ from the characteristics of my day-to-day job? Suffer in silence and perhaps try to ignore or skirt the system. What can I do to change the system? Very little as far as I can see. I do want to point out that it's not all my employer's fault though. I'm sure that my trade union is also is doing its best to formalize my work (on my behalf of course, but not necessarily always to my benefit).

onsdag 4 april 2012

No research grant from RJ

Ok, so I got an e-mail from Riksbankens Jubileumsfond and the message concering both of my projects was a "you didn't qualify for the second stage in the application process" (in which about half of the applications succeed and actually get research grants).

Out of 899 applications, 107 - less than 12% - qualified for the second round. When everything has been said and done, around 6% of the applications will get research grants, or, around one in every seventeen applications will be granted. I have unfortunately not kept track of how much time we have put into these applications, but I guess it for sure has to have been more than 40 hours each, and perhaps upwards to 80 hours (or more?) per application. It's very hard to estimate; how do you treat early and less goal-oriented discussions, or, the fact that it might be possible to re-use smaller or larger parts of an application later?

The actual message I got from RJ can be seen below. Do note that it is a standard message into which they have cut-and-pasted the name of the project. There is unfortunately no other feedback, even though I as an applicant naturally have many questions; did they like the application (but there were other applications that were even better)? Are there some specific problem with the application? How can it be improved if I decide to hand in the same (or a similar) application elsewhere or to RJ next year?

As a university teacher I read lots of texts that are written by students. Some are written with great care and are a joy to read. Others aren't. It's not really a secret that some texts that students write and that pass my eyes by are hastily written, fail in their purpose and contain lots of errors of various kinds. I should despite this preferably always leave some kind of comment/feedback to the student (one or a few paragraphs - or at least a sentence) so he/she can understand why his/her effort got a specific grade and/or how to improve the grade, or the writing next time around. I read at least 100 shorter texts each year in our program-integrating course and read more (and longer) texts in my course on social media last term.

I don't know who specifically read my research grant application, but I doubt they earn more than twice, or at the most three times my salary. It is thus dissatisfying that the balance of power/time between an applicant (who spends, say, 40-80 hours (or, 20-200 hours) of work on an application) and the evaluator (10-20-30 minutes to read each application?) is so uneven. I should as a teacher leave at least a short comment for my students when they write something - no matter how hastily written and sloppy the text is. But no-one leaves a comment for me - no matter how carefully crafted my application is... Actually, if I hand in a half-baked paper to a scientific conference or a journal, I will get a written motivation and perhaps also some advice or suggestions if it is rejected, but I get nothing when I hand in an application for a research grant. Isn't that somehow strange and perhaps also slightly disturbing? I think so.

I'm not the first person to comment on this - it's a know problem. Researchers spend inordinate amounts of time writing applications (of which the majority is rejected). Wouldn't it be better if they spent this time (perhaps several or many weeks each year) actually doing the research instead of writing about the research they want to do (in the future, if they get the money)? What should the proportion be between these two activities? I'm not updated on what solutions have been proposed to this problem (if any). Still, the current system can definitely be improved. The (non-)message I received (below) can be interpreted in a variety of ways; "Better luck next year" or "Don't bother again". Which one is it and how am I to know?

I by the way still think the applications (and the proposed research projects specified within the applications) were excellent. We will in both cases pursue these ideas (e.g. ask for money from other sources to conduct the research). Since they both to some extent take harsh economic times as their starting point, I think they both (unfortunately) have time on their side.

Bästa sökande!

Stiftelsen Riksbankens Jubileumsfond har vid sammanträde i beredningsgrupper inte valt ut din ansökan

Nätverka för att möta kriser: Att bygga resiliens genom digitala nätverk

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