I’ve been in a small European country (Cyprus) now for about five months, and recently spent a whole lot of time preparing grant applications to the national Research Promotion Foundation (RPF) here. Some observations:
First off, there’s a lot of chaos in trying to build a research community from scratch in a matter of 5-10 years – a decade ago, there was no academic research in the natural sciences to speak of. And since they’re doing this all for only the first or second time, there are plenty of mistakes that it appears the RPF has made along the way with regards to the grant application process.
That’s understandable in the long-run, but for the researchers who depend upon such funding for their jobs, it is agonizing to think that a minor overlooked detail could arbitrarily disqualify them from funding and have their application thrown out. And researchers here really need RPF funding, because they’re generally not able to be competitive yet with some of the institutes across the rest of the EU, which have much more experience. It’s such a young research community here.
Second, grad school here is a bit different. Probably because it is such a young research community here, the research departments don’t guarantee funding to the grad students. From what I’ve seen, they have to have successful funding requests to stay in grad school, just as postdocs like myself have to be successful in the same way to stay in academia.
This is a big departure from the department that I did my predoctoral work in, where my PI ensured that I was funded for the necessary length of time, and I could just go get work done. That, for me, made it easier of course, but it also left me with less experience writing grant applications than I would have had in this setting. So while here the grad student’s may be cut out of academia before they even start their career, my impression is that those who make it through will be better prepared for competing after their dissertation.
But those are just some observations, and I’m still very much a neophyte in this area…
Photo: Anders R. Naesset