The Reviewer

The following poem is from The Annals of Improbable Research.

by Lloyd Fricker
The Bronx, New York

Once upon a late night dreary,
As I worked with eyes all bleary,
Reading many pages of proposed experiments galore,
While I pondered all the detail --
Suddenly there came express mail
From a government official with a dozen pages more.
“Tis some supplement,” I muttered, “to be thrown upon the floor.”
“Only this and nothing more.”

As I thought, as my mind wandered,
“Why a supplement?” I pondered.
“What could be so important that they had not thought of it before?”
They had filled the margins plenty;
Pages totaled five and twenty.
Countless words filled up these pages, and now they were sending more,
Hoping that it all would help to give the grant a better score.
It once did, but nevermore.

Quite distinctly I remember
Study section late September,
Spending countless days and nights in meeting rooms behind closed doors.
Reading, writing, and debating,
Did the grant deserve a rating?
We were endlessly discussing minute flaws and giving scores.
Several grants I found appealing, but I trashed so many more.
Anonymous forevermore.

“This one’s great,” a reader spoketh.
I replied, “surely you joketh.
There is no preliminary data showing work before.”
“But the supplement” he pleaded,
“Shows the data that is needed.
Didn’t you have the time to give the supplement a once o’er?”
“No,” I answered, “I just read the application and no more.
Only this, and nothing more.”

For the pay we are receiving
Extra work I’m not conceiving.
Some grant applications are exciting but most are a bore.
Other work I should be doing,
Rather than just grant reviewing.
Therefore I refuse to read another twenty pages more.
I’d consider reading if it were but just a brief encore --
Just one page and nothing more.

Supplements should be like icing --
Short and sweet, and quite enticing.
Keep in mind the Golden Rule that more is less and less is more.
Summarize your plan concisely.
Chose with care your words precisely.
Be aware that reading a grant application is a chore.
Applications won’t get funded if they make the reader snore.
That’s what matters, nothing more.

Edgar Allan Poe’s house in Philadelphia. This poem was not written there, nor is the author Edgar Allan Poe.


This article is republished with permission from the January-February 2005 issue of the Annals of Improbable Research. You can purchase back issues of the magazine or subscribe to receive future issues, in printed or in ebook form. Or get a subscription for someone as a gift! Visit their website for more research that makes people LAUGH and then THINK.

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