Science and Technology Studies
University of Wollongong, NSW 2522, Australia
8 October 1996
David Murphy, Director
Individual Grants Section
GPO Box 9880
Canberra ACT 2601
Dear Dr Murphy,
Thank you for your letter of 22 July responding to mine of 27 May concerning my application for an ARC large grant (file number A79700005, category 705), which was rejected without being sent to external assessors. The comments that you conveyed will be helpful in revising the application. For your information, here are my responses to the panel's comments.
"First, the application was very sloppy in defining its terms. What is meant by making technologies useful through social means? What are social structures? These have to be precisely and rigorously defined..."
To the best of my knowledge, the application said nothing about "making technologies useful through social means." It does extensively discuss making technologies useful for nonviolent struggle, providing examples.
I was unaware that social scientists would be unfamiliar with the concept of social structure (e.g. capitalism, the state, family) and will make this clearer in future.
"Second, the proposal 'to stimulate' the practicality of these ideas (citing a 1966 study) needs to be better justified and explained."
The application says nothing about "stimulating" the practicality of the ideas, but rather talks about simulations as means of providing insights about their practicality. The 1966 study is a classic simulation of nonviolent struggle published complete with social scientific analysis -- the only study of its kind -- hence its citation. I will clarify this point to avoid misunderstanding next time around.
"Third, the application failed to satisfactorily explain the theoretical basis in which the study was grounded."
The theoretical basis is in peace research (specifically nonviolent action) in conjunction with technology studies. A fully satisfactory explanation for those who are totally unfamiliar with these fields would take more space than available in the application. This is the reason for my initial letter of 27 May asking whether the panel had consulted a peace researcher.
"Fourth, the panel is never impressed with proposals that indicated they are going to survey the literature for the first 18 months."
I wouldn't be either. The application specifies "Detailed study of the dynamics of communication technology in relation to both violent and nonviolent struggle, based on literature searches, interviews, and queries via computer (18 months)," and then gives considerable detail about what is involved, which is far more than literature searching. (Indeed, there is very little of what is normally called a survey of the literature, since the literature is quite familiar to me. Rather, it is a focussed analysis of parts of the literature in preparation for interviews, as described in the application.) The application also states that this activity is spread over the entire project, not concentrated in the first 18 months.
I will rewrite this material so that there is less chance of misunderstanding.
copy: Aapo Skorulis, Office of Research, University of Wollongong