Nicholas Ostler nostler at CHIBCHA.DEMON.CO.UK
Fri May 10 13:40:56 UTC 2002

At 12:25 pm +0100 9/5/02, Barry Supple wrote:
>Dear Nick:
>I visited SOAS yesterday and spent over two hours going through the
>programme in detail. They seem to be on the ball, and are quite well set up
>administratively.  They will summarise arrangements, procedures and budget
>within a week or so.  We can then issue an offer letter to make the grant
>official.  And they'll advertise the academic director's post before the end
>of the month.

There was another interesting sidelight on SOAS that emerged from the
Sheffield meeting yesterday.  Talking to Tony McEnery of Lancaster, I
gathered that they were not terribly helpful when he approached them
for help/participation in his computer project for text archives of
Indian languages (now well underway as the EMILLE project).  He
couldn't, however, tell who at SOAS had failed to meet this
particular challenge. Anyway, it appears that we shall need to be
especially careful to give focused guidance on the technical
standards and archiving side, perhaps enlisting some outside

>No real problems, but a few issues on which you may care to comment:
>1.  TYPES OF DOCUMENTATION GRANTS.  I have all along assumed that research
>project grants would be the predominant form.  But some people at SOAS, like
>Steve bird earlier on, have wondered whether the programme might also
>include 'development' grants  -  individual research fellowships,
>publications, top-up grants to modernise an historical archive, etc.  I told
>them I would consult Lisbet, because her inclination might be to get ahead
>with the urgent task of documenting, and therefore to focus on
>straightforward tasks.

We shall undoubtedly get requests to support publications unless we
take a firm line against.  Given the dearth of other funding (pointed
out by Oxford), it is arguable that we should support some people's
costs in attending the academic programme.  But some element of such
costs is likely to be built in to  requests for conventional grants
coming from abroad.  Such work is definitely in accordance with the
overall aim of the programme, but must not be allowed to distract
from the central purpose, of recording languages which otherwise
would not be recorded at all.

One approach would be to allow say 10% of the annual budget for the
kinds of purposes you mention.  But then we must expect that much
more than 10% of administration (and Panel) time will be spent on
adjudicating and dispensing such funds.  (Cf C N Parkinson, and the
"Bicycle Shed" problem.)

My basic view is that we should be guided by Lisbet's preference on
this.  We could go either way.

>2.  OVERHEADS.  I also told them that we were not inclined to allow overhead
>costs as elements in documentation grants, although we were prepared to be
>quite flexible as regards 'direct' costs.  I'm asking Lisbet.  Any thoughts?

As above.  I agree with you (and shall with Lisbet). Where the costs
are for support of the human beings actually working on the
documentation (or buy-out of teaching?) this seems quite  pertinent.
But paying a percentage of general university upkeep is not what we
are about.  We are after all offering 100% grants for the activities
funded.  (I am reminded of EC policy, where universities can go for
100% of direct costs, or 50% of costs including associated Overheads.
The latter usually amounts to more cash.)

>3.  VISUAL IDENTITY.  Do you have any views on a 'house style' [logos,
>fonts, presentation] for communications?  Or does it matter?

Now there's a thought.  We're going to need some letterhead at least,
and no doubt a matching logo will grace our web-site etc.

When I was at the same stage with the Foundation for Endangered
Languages, I asked around among the then membership + sympathizers
for potential logo ideas, but got nothing.  In the end, the logo we
have (the one you will have seen, with the hand sowing various
alphabetic characters) was commissioned from an artist friend of mine
here in Bath.  She charged very little for it (just a couple hundred
quid or so, as I remember).  I could ask her about another one,
different of course.

Something else to ask Lisbet, I am sure.

>4.  PANEL.  They are going to make some proposals, and I'll forward them to
>you.  Like all of us, they were disconcerted at the idea of a very small
>group.  And then the Director came up with the idea of an advisory group
>['behind' the executive panel], whose members would stand by to give
>individual expert advice on individual proposals [i.e. a sort of panel of
>'in-house' referees] A good idea, I think, but in my experience, a member of
>such a group needs a modest remuneration [a retainer].  At the same time the
>executive panel members would have a little less to do and maybe need less
>than the $5000 Lisbet originally suggested.  Any idea of comparabilities?

Hmm. I'm not terribly keen on two-tier membership. And the work we
are paying for is not so much coming to London for the meeting, as
applying their great minds to evaluating the proposals, at which all
will be much on a par.

However, I suppose if this advisory group were reasonably large (say
a score?) then they could be focused closely on particular areas, and
not have to read too many proposals outside their own area of
expertise: this would diminish the requirement on them, and so the
appropriate remuneration. It would also be possible for each
executive panellist to represent a set of allied expert reviewers.

If we get (say) 50 pre-proposals in a year, and each must be read by
3 reviewers, that is 150 readings required.  Supposing they're
distributed equally around the areas (and I distinguished some 12
areas in my recommendation of panellists (America A,B,C, Australasia
A,B,C etc.) then we'd need 30 reviewers including the 6 on the
executive panel, each reading 5 pre-proposals, followed up by say 3
full proposals each.  The task of the executive panellists would be,
as well doing their their own share of reviewing,  to represent the
proposals in their respective areas at the Panel. (And if one
couldn't attend for some region, the regional consulting groups would
provide a ready set of replacements for a given meeting).

In such a set-up, it would seem fair that the executive panellist
might receive say twice the honorarium of the consultant reviewers.

If this sort of arrangement seems sensible to you, SOAS and (above
all) Lisbet, I'd be happy (indeed much happier) to replace my
previous suggestions with a larger and more structured list of
proposed executive panellists and consultant reviewers.

But we'd also have to adjust the invitation letter you are planning to put out.

>5.  PUBLICITY. While I have your attention, when we have agreed and
>consulted about the Invitation to Apply, do you have views on where and how
>it can be globally publicised?

Yes.  I find that I get an excellent (instant) response by using the
Internet.  The set of lists I use at the moment is:
linguist at tam2000.tamu.edu,
endangered-languages-l at carmen.murdoch.edu.au, lagb at essex.ac.uk,
lgshift at lists.sil.org, nat-lang at gnosys.svle.ma.us,
baalmail at education.leeds.ac.uk, indknow at u.washington.edu,
elsnet-list at let.ruu.nl, linganth at cc.rochester.edu,
LING-AMERINDIA at unicamp.br, celtic-t at tc.umn.edu,
CentralAsia-L at fas.harvard.edu, saltmil at onelist.com

In addition,there are 250 or so interested parties on my mailing-list
for the Foundation for Endangered Languages.

I could consult to make sure that I am not missing out any other
regional biggies, e.g. in the African and Pacific areas.  It may be
that one needs to join some of these lists in order to put messages
on them, but I have all the necessary memberships at the moment for
the above.

Best wishes


PS. I missed you at Sheffield yesterday.  Was your absence due to
unexpected problems in looking after your wife?  Anyway, I hope she
is not having too hard a time at the moment.

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