The Achilles’ heel

If you’ve ever written a Fellowship application, or for some schemes, a Project Grant application, there are designated sections for writing about your research performance and you as a ‘candidate’ for funding.


This is by far the most sensitive part of an application for people to write, an Achilles’ heel of sorts in the application.


For some, the struggle is with ‘self-promotion’ – how to say glowing things about themselves, or how to get beyond the deep-seated aversion to doing so.


For others, it accentuates a persistent and overwhelming sense of imposter syndrome.


So how do we get around such sections, given they’re likely to bring out our worst fears about ourselves and feelings towards such bureaucratic processes?


An approach I’d suggest is to understand what’s actually being asked or expected of you in this section of an application.


What’s being asked is ultimately for evidence that the proposed project is feasible and will deliver what it has proposed.


Now, given you’re in the driver’s seat of the project, your assessors need to know that the project is feasible and the aims and outcomes will be achieved if it’s going to be in your hands.


A simplistic equivalent is if you’ve ever sourced quotes for house repairs or renovations from a few firms, with similar price structures. One of the factors you’ll likely assess them against is previous work done – the quality of the finish, whether it went over budget and was completed on time, what they were like to work with. You’re looking at past behaviour/evidence of their performance to make an educated guess about how your investment in them will likely pan out.  


What are some examples?


  1. If you say the project will do x and y, what confidence can we have that you will be able to do that? This is less about your method and more about evidence of your having done these proposed things successfully in the past.


  1. If you say this research will be positioning you at the forefront of your field and that you will successfully disseminate the research within your discipline, where is the evidence that you have been recognised as an emerging expert in your field or that your published (or presented) work to date has been well received and picked up within your discipline?


  1. If you set out a program of ‘outputs’ for both your discipline and end users of your research, or are trying to make the case that, in your hands, this funding will return significant dividends to Australia, how does your track record to date – relative to the opportunities you’ve had to conduct research in that time – demonstrate a high level of productivity and inspire confidence that you deliver on time and on budget?


Considered this way – in terms of feasibility – it becomes easier to distance yourself and draw together the right sort of data for these kinds of sections/questions.


Now over to you – have you considered your achievements as evidence that you can produce research outputs, or trigger real-world outcomes and impact? Do you find writing about your achievements, scholarly standing or track record difficult? What advice have you found useful from colleagues or peers in writing such sections? Hit reply and let us know!

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