Which is of course logically derived from Acronyms Really Send me sillEe.

One of the regular parts of a research career is the endless cycle of applying for research funding.  The various research councils open calls for grants every 6-12 months or so, and in order to fund the research which generates the publications which keep you in your job you need to win some of this funding.

Now the whole research grant system is a series of blog posts all on its own, so I won’t go into too much detail for fear of jeopardising my future publication potential (see what I did there?), but suffice to say that if you’re not familiar with the system it goes something like this:

Council opens calls. You have about 3 months to submit your application.  this application will contain an introduction to the science (the people on the committee are highly unlikely to be specialists in your particular field), an explanation of what research you are proposing, why it’s important, what the impact of the research will be, what needs paying for, how much you need, and what timescale you’re going to do it in.  My particular favourite part is where they try their very best to ask you what it is you’re going to find out, which I think is a beautiful collision of accountants and research.  It’s a miracle CERN ever got any money.

My least favourite part is one of the first questions on the application form, shortly after ‘Applicant Name’.  Because committees have to refer to these projects in discussions and memos or wherever, they don’t like project titles.  What they really love are acronyms.  Hence, every project has to be submitted with one.

That’s all well and good, but when you’re trying to squeeze the last juicy morsel of cash from a committee who probably don’t care about pouring sand down chutes, it suddenly becomes very important to come up with something striking, coherent and preferably either witty or so cool sounding they can’t possibly fail to fund it.  The absolutely best option is a word which actually has something to do with your research.  Afterall, it must be important – it’s usually the second box on the application form, and if it’s the only name the project is ever going to be known by the last thing you want is the committee debating whether they want to fund your TURD-THROWER project.

As a result, one of the most timewasting activities I’ve found myself indulging in is coming up with lists of words vaguely related to the project and inserting their first letters into this.  I am very strict with myself though; I only allow myself to use first letters.  And on occaision first AND second letter.  That places me in some kind of stickler elite, because a simple Google search for ‘bad acronyms throws up 7,150,000 results, with one of the dirtiest examples being InterCal:  Compiler Language With No Pronounceable Acronym.

It’s worth bearing in mind that being honest with your acronym isn’t always a route to success either.  Take, for example the American Symphony Orchestras League (ASOL).

Or perhaps you prefer the deeply nested acronym? New Scientist managed to turn this one up: RARS is the “Regional ATOVS Retransmission Service”, ATOVS is Advanced TOVS, TOVS is TIROS operational vertical sounder and TIROS is Television infrared observational satellite.

Perhaps the deepest circle of hell should be reserved for recursive acronyms – those that get you stuck in an infinite loop of self-referential fuckwittery.  Take, as a prime-time example VISA — Visa International Service Association.

Right, I’ve had enough.  They’re driving me mad.  Project AEUPMIFFE it is.


About Pete Rowley

Earth Scientist with a background in volcanology and sedimentology. Enjoys a good rant, beer, and games. Dislikes reality TV, crowds, and unreasonable people.
This entry was posted in General, Geology, Science and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A.R.S.E.

  1. maltpress says:

    PHP is a lovely recursive acronym, standing for PHP Hypertext Precursor, while *that* PHP stands for Personal Hope Page. Lovely. It’s like a chicken inside a turkey or something.

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