- Writing “so far as I know” was important, because I didn’t want anyone to be able to say my magical sentence was false. And, in fact, writing ‘so far as I know’ helped me justify not doing any search for existing practice. Because, if I looked hard enough, I might discover that my idea wasn’t unique.
- It was important to write, “No one else has ever done this before,” because that’s what funders value, I assumed: uniqueness, newness, innovation. If someone else is doing this, I shouldn’t be wasting my time with a proposal.
A year later, I’d crossed to the other side of the desk, to become a FIPSE program officer, and soon realized how silly my assumptions had been. In fact, my claim might even have been a reason that my proposal had been turned down.
- An idea that is truly unique is probably responding to a problem or opportunity that no one else has ever faced. Few foundations are interested in supporting such tiny problems or opportunities.
- Someone who is as isolated as I was (or, worse, as isolated as I was pretending to be), has no opportunity to learn from the achievements and mistakes of others.
- Someone that isolated is also unlikely to find it easy to disseminate the results of their work. Dissemination generally is part of what funders consider to be the payoff to their gifts or investments: wider impact and visibility for their work. That was certainly true for FIPSE.