Was there ever a golden age of research funding where grants were easy to come by? Funding Insight columnist Olaf Svenningsen, board member of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators and an executive officer at the University of Southern Denmark, suggests that things weren’t necessarily any better in the past.
One of the reasons that working with research funding is fascinating and frustrating at the same time is its state of constant change. Politicians, funders and university managements all seem to compete to push development, often in many different directions at once. As in many other areas of life, there is a perception that things were better in the old days; funding was easier to come by, more plentiful, and less constrained.
An eminent Swedish professor once told me about the application process his thesis supervisor used—in the good old days, of course. When funding was needed he picked up the telephone, called the research council and asked for a million kronor, and that was that. This would be simplification in its purest form, if true. I have my doubts about the veracity of this story, though.