This is a nice, thoughtful piece. Thanks to 'JPG' for the link.
Being me, I particularly liked the following paragraph:
(One detail which should be noted in passing is, yet again, the habitual semi-literacy which seems to be compulsary amongst educational administrators these days. The statement does not, as it says, "refute" the allegations made in the Observer: to refute is to convincingly disprove, and the AHRC offers no evidence to make its case. It merely rejects the allegations, which is a different matter.)
I must admit that I am becoming more and more confused by this whole business. Indeed I am beginning to wonder if it isn't some sort of elaborate early April Fool's Day jape dreamt up by Cable, Willetts, The Observer and those knock-about, fun-loving pranksters at the AHRC.
To clear all this up, what we need, as Iain Pears implies, is some sort of proof from the AHRC (a time-line of meetings, decisions etc., minutes, and so on) that all this predated the Tory party's invention of the ludicrous notion of the Big Society and some transparency about how it reached the (to me at least) rather dubious conclusion that the issues related to the Big Society were amongst the “highest priorities in the arts and humanities.”
Now, rather tiresomely if I'm honest, someone has (predictably) started a petition. Here is the link if you can be bothered. Is it just me or is this race to an e-petition for everything at the drop of a hat weakening the effect of petitions? I have heard that it has, in that the number of signatures, rather than being taken seriously, is now calibrated against the ease of starting an internet petition. If I was going to petition anyone about this, I'd want the AHRC to give us some 'facts' (as above) first. The accusation of political interfering in research funding is very serious, to be sure, but don't we need to be certain that that is what is going on? The AHRC deny it but I doubt I am the only person who thinks that neither Peter Mandler nor Colin Jones are un-savvy enough to make statements like those in The Observer if there weren't some reason to believe that something untoward was going on. Indeed I was disappointed in the RHS response to 'Impact' because it was (in my hot-headed view) too savvy and politic. Prof. Jones isn't likely to use the words 'gross' and 'ignoble' lightly. So to remove all these suspicions let's see some hard proof. If this is all a lot of nonsense that shouldn't be too hard to furnish. And then we can all move on.
As it is, anyone whose application is turned down will at least be able to blame this fact on not being interested enough in The Big Society, rather than facing up to not having put in a good enough application. I'm not sure that would really be a good thing...
But what we need is a bit of transparency about all this, from some of the people involved, so we know for sure. Then we can protest properly. No?
Here is another petition. I have signed this one as it has something concrete to object to. Not that it'll make any difference. 500,000 people (1 in 120 of the population) on the streets of London on Saturday has had no effect. Taking no notice is one of the malign legacies of Blair and New Labour. Once upon a time, even the Tories had to take notice of the Poll Tax demos. Ho hum.