What the CRN funds
We have had a number of people express frustration at the experience of seeking network funding for an event or activity, only to find that it is not regarded as appropriate. We have taken a fairly hard line in trying to ensure that we don’t become just another source of funds for events that are going to happen anyway, and that our funds are spend developing research networks not merely increasing attendance at conferences and the like. Some other networks have taken a different line, hence the varied expectations being generated. Also, the network allocates two kinds of funds—those derived from the ARC and those provided by universities hosting node convenors—and they are subject to slightly different considerations. Therefore, it seemed appropriate to provide network participants with a reminder of what it is we have agreed to fund, as well as the constraints upon our decisions.
The aim of the network program is to build networks based on genuine shared intellectual interests and disciplinary or methodological needs—not geographic proximity, institutional affiliation, or strategic partnerships. Consequently, proposals based on the activities of a single researcher or a single institution, or without potential for benefiting more than one person or institution, are not considered appropriate for this program.
Also, the network funding is primarily to provide administrative support, travel assistance, the development of mobile or accessible resources, and other forms of the assistance to those wishing to build collaborative relationships and projects. It does not fund research, and nor should it simply be another source for conference funding; while there may be reasons to provide support for conferences from time to time, the network program has specific aims and it is important that the CRN places most of its funding in activities that have the interests of the network as their primary focus. Activities funded should have a broad, ideally national, benefit, and they must be things which would not happen without network funding
Central and node allocations are governed by these considerations, with the allocation of central funds in particular being obliged to consider the national aspects of the network’s development. Ideally, its allocations are meant to deliver benefits to the whole membership, or to fill significant gaps in the field as mapped by the node structure, as well as to support the activities of the network convenor and project officer (travelling to network events and so on).
Finally, it is important to understand that there are two kinds of funding—ARC funds from the network, and the university allocation to node convenors. The institutional allocations for the node convenors are largely free of the restrictions outlined above and may be used in a slightly more varied way to fund, for instance, teaching relief for convenors.
Our budget categories, provided by the ARC, cover it pretty well: personnel, bringing people together, and sharing research resources. We have interpreted this as developing collaborations, resourcing selected events, sharing research materials, developing new collaborative and interdisciplinary projects, and sharing methodologies across disciplinary boundaries. As a result CRN money can be used to fund the following (and this is an indicative, not a comprehensive list):
The university allocations to node convenors are slightly more flexible, and can be used for personnel, administrative support, teaching relief, travel, and a number of other purposes. Usually, the university has its own ideas about what it will allow and convenors need to negotiate this with their own administrations.