September 1, 2010
Gerty-Z has just posted on the topic of “ambition” in the context of grant review: “the proposed studies are too ambitious”/”the proposed studies are not ambitious enough”. She considers the calibration of the level of “ambition” of a proposal to be a key aspect of grantsmanship, and wonders how one can best optimize this parameter of a grant application.
This is pointless. The “too ambitious”/”not ambitious enough” shitte is a red herring.
One of the most important lessons of grantsmanship is that the criticism and praise in the written critiques and resume of discussion often has little to do with the real underlying reasons–often just “gut instinct”–for the reviewers giving the scores that they did. “Too ambitious/not ambitious enough” is one of those things that a reviewer can say about *any* grant, since it is so grossly subjective, and never be challenged for being full of shit. Thus, reviewers frequently lazily fall back on this kind of criticism if they just don’t feel like making the effort to come up with a more analytical criticism.