Monday, 2 July 2012

Email from a failing state

It's over a year ago that the Greek education ministry asked me to act as an evaluator for their research projects. One gets many requests like this... over the years, I have evaluated proposals for the Israeli Science Foundation, the NSF, ERC, and the UK's ESRC, inter alia. I thought it might be interesting... and so it proved. First, the program is really generous. As in - I cannot believe they are spending so much money generous. The research project funding is allocated 120 million; maximum for each grant, 600,000. That in a country of 11 million people -- that's more than 10 euros for every man, woman, and child, on average. I don't know what the aggregate number for Spain is, but I can tell you that research funding here is now really pretty miserable - even worthy projects get piddling amounts of funding, if any.

The project I was assigned was GOD AWFUL. I mean, truly, truly awful, as in "i don't know who let these people into a university, let alone teach there". Fine, this happens. I said what I thought, and figured it was the last of it... and then the emails started. One, two, three. Would I not wish to reconsider? Here is how to change your feedback! Do I really want to say that? Amazing. As if I had somehow had a bad day, and giving a low mark to a project was somehow insulting. The emails never quite said it, but they were telling me to give a better mark, indirectly. I didn't. Now, that was last year September. Now (July), I get an email saying they would like to pay me for my services (!). First, this is a bad sign; you don't get paid for this, you do it to further scholarship. Second, it is amazing that it takes so long... a year? Really? For an email? Third, there was no promise of payment initially. The original emails all came from This request comes from, asks for a lot of details about my bank account, and looks about as official as your average Nigerian scam. I think I will give this one a pass...

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