Publication Date

October 1, 2010

Perspectives Section

Letters to the Editor

Editor's Note: Perspectives on Historywelcomes letters to the editor on issues discussed in its pages or which are relevant to the profession. Letters should ideally be brief and should be sent to Letters to the Editor (or mailed to Letters to the Editor, Perspectives on History, AHA, 400 A Street SE, Washington, DC 20003-3889) along with full contact information. Letters selected for publication may be edited for style, length, and content. Publication of letters does not signify endorsement by the AHA of the views expressed by the authors, who alone are responsible for ensuring accuracy of the letters’ contents. Institutional affiliations are provided only for identification purposes.

To the Editor:

I am gratified that the nameless, faceless representatives of DAAD have read and responded to my article and apprised us of the change in its policy that took place in 2008. I would be happy to present evidence of the affects of this change at the round table on ageism, hiring, and adjunct issues that I have co-organized for the next AHA meeting in Boston, if DAAD will make such available to me.

On the other hand, as far as DAAD’s claim to current p.c., I should point out that their new policy is less than two years old, not well publicized, and has had time to benefit few researchers prior to the lastest funding cycle. The phrase ‘too little, too late’ springs to mind. I fail to see how this belated acknowledgment of bias assists those previously affected by DAAD’s former policy. I do applaud DAAD for recognizing their bias and modifying their policy so that current age-enhanced scholars can benefit from opportunities DAAD makes available.

I also acknowledge that the work done by the funding entities, including DAAD, is admirable, praise-worthy, and essential. On the other hand, the mysteries of the arcane processes by which funding is granted are as inpenetrable to those who have, as to those who have not, been awarded the grants. Colleagues have told me they have been advisedthese agencies do indeed share information, whether formally or not. This would certainly be understandable, given the limited availability of funds and the plethora of applicants. It does, however, stretch credulity to insist, as DAAD has in this instance, that this select group of Brahmins does not share information on various aspects of funding decisions. This reminds one of nothing so much as the forthright responses of the tobacco industry executives when faced with questioning at the Senate hearings on nictone addiction.

Granted, my conclusion is based on anecdotal evidence. However, this is not the focus of a historical study requiring faultless documentation, but current practice that affects many in our profession. Having worked in the business sector for many years, I am aware of the jealousy with which processes considered proprietary, whether intellectual or physical, are guarded. Access to verifiable confirmation or refutation of facts in contemporaneous institutions is difficult, if not impossible, and one is forced to either rely on the pronouncements of spokespersons for those institutions or on testimony of those affected by the processes. Transparency in how funding is determined would be a welcome change.

Healthy debate on these issues can only improve the situation for many exploited and/or age-enhanced scholars. I encourage anyone with alternative views or suggestions on the issues facing our profession to join the discussion at the AHA meeting in January.


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