Rationalizing the unreasonable: there are no good academics in the EU

Accessing external research funding is increasingly a basic part of what it means to be an academic today. Some sources of funding are more competitive than others, and the EU’s Horizon2020 programme is particularly tough for researchers in the humanities and social sciences. I have served as an evaluator for the Horizon2020 programme; I have also in the past applied to the predecessor programmes. I can therefore relate very easily to this blog by Jan Blommaert, who gives an informed and thoughtful account from an applicant’s perspective.



Jan Blommaert 

Attracting external funding has become, everywhere, one of the main priorities of academics, and writing funding application has consequently also become one of their main tasks. The idea is “competitiveness”: quality will be evident when academics, individually or in teams, acquire funding after a strict and rigorously exclusive peer-review process. In addition, specific sources of funding are specified as benchmarks, suggesting that they are the “most competitive” ones, and therefore also the best and most objective indicators of quality: think of the ESRC in the UK or (the focus of this text) the European framework program Horizon 2020. In every form of performance management – for individual academics seeking promotion or tenure, for research teams, departments and entire universities – success in such benchmark external funding acquisition is given immense positive attention. Universities, consequently, impose quota on their academic units – “you shall apply for at least five…

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