Posted: May 14, 2011 in Academy
Tags: , ,

All over Australia at the moment thousands of twitching messes of the ‘early career researcher’ class are coughing up the last bloody dummy associated with the novel process known as DECRA. If you are not aware of what this is, you likely don’t want to be, but rest assured that DECRA is GUBU. It’s a symptom of what Eeva Berglund in a recent edition of Radical Philosophy refers to as the ongoing “transformation of universities into human-fueled machines”. Perhaps not entirely surprisingly, DECRA involves filling out a convoluted online form, and at the juncture where a budget is to be arbitrarily fabricated, the form comes up persistently with the following gem:

The requested amount has to sum up to $125,000 in any given year; this budget requests more or less than that in at least one the years.

No more, and no less, and exactly as much in each year. Everyone no matter what has to request exactly that much, this guy for instance, because let’s face it, everything is exactly the same as everything else. It doesn’t really matter that the budget is made up, because it’s not like you’ll get what you ask for anyway (you’ll get less). But the missing ‘of’ in the above admonition is somehow especially disheartening. Other zany moments include the ‘national research priorities‘: interested in learning more about (say) Duns Scotus? Well, contort that interest into the service of the state and/or market! It doesn’t really matter if it’s a fib, but you should show, at every opportunity, how you, your research, and your discipline are not completely useless. Typically abject means of formulating such justifications can be found, for instance, here. That something might be interesting to investigate on its own terms would be a sure  sign of self-indulgent and no doubt elitist intellectual curiosity or some other unprofitable heterodoxy, any such signs must be extinguished without mercy. But perhaps the true highlight of the DECRA form is channeling the spirit of your employer into an ‘institutional statement of strategic support’ or some such (tips abound on how to structure this lie appropriately), where we attempt to persuade the big other that the system works, someone knows what is going on, cares etc.. The breathtaking, wholesale, sectoral dishonesty and bankruptcy of this particular aspect of the process is not only interesting in and of itself, but also in that nobody even bats an eyelid at it. Participants are privileged that they get to fill out the form, because being able to do so well is a sign of life, of happy, good-faith commitment to the rules of the game.

The DECRA scheme is expected to have a 10% success rate, which is to say, at least 90% of the people who apply for it this year will fail. Why it is a productive use of ostensibly semi-intelligent stiffs to set them to work competing with each other by filling out forms making up ways to spend money they won’t get escapes us at the moment, but by the end of it most applications are no doubt in a shape which looks to the exhausted readers like this. Hypercompetitive make-work must be enforced at all levels because zombie pseudomarkets provide … reassuring illusions of efficiency? Atomised and alienated drones? Misguided hopes of time for research – or at least, time not spent assaulted by increasingly unreal administrative and teaching bloat? Moar brainz plz?


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