Learning from Failure

Not my students’ but my own. I got the official letter today: the internal institutional research grant for which I applied? I didn’t get it. I’d actually sussed that out more than a week ago as I heard from other colleagues who’d gotten emails about their success and then a message from the dean about the overall percentage and numbers of successful versus unsuccessful in the various faculties. It was pretty easy to do the math and realize that if A, B, C and D all got emails about their grants, E, F and yours truly who got no email weren’t successful.

The letter, when it came, was brief and regretful. The feedback wasn’t entirely helpful: according to the comments, committee members felt that my application landed somewhere in-between a publication and a research project grant. They also felt that the research wasn’t entirely new (since I’d proposed moving forward from the preliminary work I’d done last summer for my paper at the Berks).

I’m hoping to learn from the failure but also not to dwell on that. I admit, it’d be nicer to have been successful than not but I’m not about to lose sleep over the one-off assessment about one part of my work given of a panel of people far outside of my discipline. At the same time, a fairly similar panel will be convened for the same competition next year – if I can ‘crack’ this one, I can better plan for the next.

So, it’s time to learn from this go-round. I would like to see what they consider a successful purely research project – I’ll review over some of the applications my successful colleagues shared during our run-up to the application. Did I err by naming specific journals in which I’d like to place the results of the coming year’s research? Would I have been better to propose a publication grant for those would-be articles? I’m doubtful on that front given that for publication grants they seem to want to give money only to people who have an accepted manuscript that needs subvention. None of my publications, accepted or under consideration for the next year would fit that category.

Mostly, I’d like to clarify how the novelty issue factored in and if there’s any point in applying for the next stage of the broader project next year. Because I’m not someone who starts and finishes projects in a blink of an eye. This work on stepmothers I want to take all the way to a monograph. If that means that my institution won’t be able to financially support me, so be it. One nice element about my kind of history is that it’s fairly easy to do with one person, a plane ticket and a cheap squat somewhere near the archives.



Filed under academe

5 responses to “Learning from Failure

  1. I hate failing, but the feedback is often useful. Sadly I ended up self funding most of my sabbatical, which was not how I envisioned it, but things are SO competitive right now that I kind of expected that I would have to!

    • J Liedl

      A big part of the reason why I opted for a six-months sabbatical was that I didn’t have to take the salary hit a full year would have entailed. That and I can’t travel away to archives that might offer some term funding for a month or a quarter in residence. . . .

      But yes, either way, we learn something!

  2. CK

    I’m so sorry, Janice. Don’t understand why research that builds on earlier research but goes in new directions/developments would be a problem (isn’t that how one becomes an uber-expert?). (((((J))))

    • J Liedl

      I think they were looking for something more to say about why they couldn’t fund it (as there was a very real hard cap on funding). But, yeah, hardly fills me with hope to pursue a multi-year project because if I don’t apply and succeed in year one, how will I have a new project?

      • CK

        Exactly. Well, hopefully they were just trying to provide a rationale when really it was not enough money to go around. (((((J)))))