For some time MeCCSA has been concerned at the limited number of media and communication focused projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. The precise statistics of this and the problems they reveal remain a matter of discussion between the Council and MeCCSA. One potential worry has been whether project applications are appropriately assessed, and receive scrutiny from people in the field.
Earlier in the year the ESRC announced that they were recruiting to their Grants Assessment Panels (GAP), and among the fields for which expertise was sought was media studies. At the time MeCCSA notified members about this and encouraged applications. It is very good news indeed that John Downey, who is Professor of Comparative Media, and Director of the Centre for Research in Communication and Culture, at Loughborough University, has been appointed to Panel B of the GAP. John is a member of the MeCCSA Executive Committee, and is Vice-President of ECREA, so brings a wealth of experience and expertise to bear on the evaluation of research proposals.
One of MeCCSA’s concerns has been that, although media and communication related proposals do receive ESRC funding, few of these come from communication or media studies departments, being in the main from mainstream social science departments. The GAPs assess and grade proposals in the light of comments from reviewers, so their role is absolutely pivotal in the assessment process. There are about 60 GAP members in four subject clusters. Members are elected for 2 years (usually renewed for a second term) and the Panels meet 3 times a year. Some circumstantial evidence suggests that there may, in fact, be insufficient proposals received from communication and media departments, and whether the problem is the paucity of applications, their inadequate quality, or the assessment process, remains uncertain and a matter of continuing discussion between the ESRC (and indeed the AHRC) and MeCCSA. But the appointment of a senior media studies scholar to the ESRC GAP is unquestionably good news for the field.