Successful Sshrc Proposals

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					How are research proposals to
     SSHRC evaluated?
         A look inside the black box
     of peer-adjudicated social science

            Charles Davis
         Ryerson University
         15 September 2005
      Member, SSHRC committee 21, 2001-2004
                 Chair, 2002-2004
     Basic program features
• A Standard Research Grant (SRG) is intended
  to fund a 3-year research program
• Up to $250K over 3 years to individual or team
  – Maximum $100k/year
• 2447 SRG proposal adjudicated
  – 40.1% funded
  – 28.9% of requested funds approved (~ $80M)
• The success rate of new scholars is about 10%
  lower than that of established scholars
                      21 adjudication committees (2004-5)
•   Classics, ancient and mediaeval studies, religious studies, classical archaeology01
•   History: history of science, technology and medicine02
•   Fine arts: history and philosophy of art, architecture, theatre, music, film, dance03
•   Linguistics, applied linguistics and translation05
•   Economics07
•   Sociology and demography08
•   Geography, urban planning and environmental studies09
•   Psychology10
•   Education 1: Arts education, bilingual education, civic education, computer assisted instruction,
    counselling and career guidance, early childhood, educational psychology, environmental
    education, geography, health sciences education, history, mathematics, moral, values and
    religious education, pedagogy, physical education, reading and writing, science, second language,
    special education and vocational education (For additional disciplines, see Committee 17) 12
•   Interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary studies15
•   Anthropology and archaeology16
•   Education 2: library and information science and archival science: adult, continuing and
    community education; comparative education, curriculum, distance education; educational
    administration, planning, and governance; history, philosophy & theory of education; higher
    education, measurement and evaluation, sociology of education, teacher education (For additional
    disciplines, see Committee 12)17
•   Literature 1: English (from the Mediaeval to the Victorian period), French; German; Slavic18
•   Literature 2: American, modern and contemporary literatures in English, English Canadian, First
    Nations, French Canadian & Québec, romance, other languages & literatures19
•   Health studies and social work 20
•   Human resources management, information systems, international business, management;
    marketing, organizational studies; business policy, industrial relations21
•   Accounting, finance, management science, productions and operations management22
•   Law, socio-legal studies and criminology23
•   Political science and public administration24
•   Philosophy25
•   Communication, cultural studies and women's studies26
        golden rules of peer-
      adjudicated grantmaking
•The process is objective. It does not matter
whether you have friends or colleagues on
selection committees.
•The process is not random. It is not a form of
•Winning proposals are not selected.
  – weaker proposals are eliminated from the
  competition – the winners are those that remain.
The „rules of the game‟
perpetuate the Matthew

“Unto he that hath shall be given.
 From he that hath not shall be
          taken away”

  i.e. the funding mechanism obeys
  a law of accumulated advantage
          Scoring formula
• Regular scholar
  – Record of achievement 60%
  – Research Program 40%
• New scholar
  – Whichever is higher:
    • Record of achievement 60%, research program 40%
    • Record of achievement 40%, research program 60%
      Research achievement
• evaluation of the record of research
  achievement is based primarily on
  contributions to research the applicant has
  made within the last six years
• if the applicant's research career has been
  interrupted, research achievement is
  evaluated based on his or her most recent
  period of research activity.
• For regular scholars, applicant's five most
  significant contributions are taken into
  account in order to accurately situate the
  most recent six years in the context of the
  applicant's overall career.
                  Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
        Research achievement
Research contributions include:
• refereed publications, including books, chapters of books and
• book reviews by the applicant/co-applicant or published
  reviews of his/her work;
• research reports, papers presented at scholarly meetings or
  conferences, and other forms of written scholarly expression
  or participation in public discourse and debate which
  constitute a contribution to research;
• where appropriate, contributions to the training of future
  researchers, including the supervision of graduate theses
  and/or the involvement of students in research activities;
• research results from previous research grants, other awards
  from SSHRC or other sources;
• academic awards and distinctions-new scholars may include
  scholarships and fellowships
                       Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
      Research achievement
Evaluation criteria:

• quality and significance of published work (taking
  into consideration the quality of the chosen
  publication venues);
• originality of previous research and its impact on
  the discipline or field;
• quantity of research activity relative to the stage
  of the applicant's career;
• demonstrated importance of other scholarly
  activities and contributions;
• recentness of output (taking into account the
  nature of the applicant's career pattern and
  previous non-research responsibilities);
                       Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
      Research achievement
Evaluation criteria:
• importance and relevance of dissemination of
  research results to non-academic audiences (as
• significance of any previous research supported
  by SSHRC or any other agency;
• where applicable, contribution to the training of
  future researchers. (The committee must make
  allowances for applicants who have not supervised
  graduate students simply because their university
  does not offer graduate programs.)
• efforts made, where appropriate, to develop
  research partnerships with civil society
  organizations and government departments.
                       Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
Record of research achievement
   Research program: one or
   more projects over 3 years
• explicit objectives, situated within the context of
  current scholarly literature;
• relationship of the proposed research to the
  individual's ongoing research or to insights gained
  from earlier achievements-,
• importance, originality and anticipated contribution
  of the proposed research;
• theoretical approach or framework;
• research strategies or methodologies (detailed
  methodology not necessary);

                        Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
        Research program
• plans for the communication of
  research results within and beyond the
  academic community
• specific roles and responsibilities of
  students and research assistants,
  including how their duties will
  complement their academic training;
• relationship of requested budget to
  proposed program of research.
                  Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
 Research program: evaluation
• degree of originality and nature of expected
  contribution to the advancement of knowledge
• scholarly and intellectual as well as social and
  cultural significance of the research
• appropriateness of the theoretical approach or
• appropriateness and expected effectiveness of the
  research strategies or methodologies
• suitability and expected effectiveness of plans to
  communicate research results both within and, as
  appropriate, beyond the academic community
                         Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
Program of research
Score needed for funding
                                                cutoff zone:
         Meritorious                            currently
         but not                                about 7.3 for
         funded                                 SRGs


              Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
Achievement vs. research program


           but not funded


        Source: SSHRC SRG Program Manual for Adjudication Committee Members, Dec. 2001
        Some common errors

• Theoretical framework weak or insufficiently
• Methodology weak or insufficiently explained
• A project is extended over 3 years to make it look
  like a program
• Budget is padded or poorly formulated
• Padding of CV
• “me too” proposals
   – SSHRC funded research like this last year
   – Another research project in already worked-over area
• Implausible teams
      Some common errors

• Failure to respect page limits (6 pages
  means 5.75-6 pages – 6.1 pages is no good)
• Include literature review or information
  compilation as research
• Grad students‟ roles not consistent with
  research program flow and objectives
• In a resubmission, failure to take into
  account the views of the committee and the
  external assessors
• Ultra cartesian or ultra baconian research
          Risky storylines
• “I‟m Too Important to Submit a Fully
  Worked-out Research Proposal – my
  record speaks for itself”
  – Variant: “We‟re a team of Very High
    Profile Researchers. Our collective
    Research Achievement is off your scale”
• “The fate of the world hangs on the
  outcome of my project”
               Risky storylines
• “My colleague got a grant last year to work on hamsters,
  so I will work on hamsters also”
• “It would please God if this proposal were funded”
• “My research results will overturn all established
• “The Minister mentioned that this would make a great
  research project”
• “Because of the proliferation of incommensurable
  discourses in late postmodernity, you cannot understand
  what I am saying and I cannot understand my
  respondents, but I will study them anyway if you pay for
    A typical 3-year program
• Year 0: literature review completed;
  methods and instruments selected;
  preliminary hypotheses formulated
• Year 1: refine instruments and hypotheses
  through qualitative research (focus groups,
  grounded theory, etc.). Test instruments
• Year 2: apply instruments for data gathering
• Year 3: analysis, interpretation, modeling,
  dissemination of results
Common winning formulas for
      new scholars
• New scholar with good track record
  extends doctoral research via 3-year
  – Watch out. If the proposed research is
    too close to the doctoral research, it will
    be regarded as derivative. If it is too far
    away, it will be regarded as too bold.
  – The most successful ones have published
    several articles (often with their PhD
    supervisor) before applying for a first
Common winning formulas for
      new scholars
• New scholar as PI with established
  scholar as co-investigator with
  specified roles
  – The co-investigator brings up the
    “research achievement” score in
    proportion to his/her role in the project
  Budgeting tricks and traps

• the committee may reduce your
  requested budget.
• It is good to ask for money for grad
  student stipends – build grad students
  into your program
  – Note: It is best to use doctoral students.
    In regional universities it is OK to use
    master‟s students. If you use undergrads,
    make sure you have a good reason.
   Budgeting tricks and traps
• Do NOT request conference travel money in
  Year 1.
  – Hint: OK to request modest funds for grad
    student travel to conferences, if they present.
• Do NOT inflate travel cost estimates.
  – it is permissible to include travel costs of work
    with research collaborators, but not
    collaborators‟ research costs
• Note that research travel costs include
  dissemination costs, which are also
  calculated separately
  Budgeting tricks and traps
• Do NOT request funds for computers
  unless computers are clearly necessary
  for the research and they are
  unavailable through the university
  – OK to ask for laptops for field research
• NEVER ask for funding for less than
  three years
   Budgeting tricks and traps
• Research Time Stipends are only available if the
  home university contributes one-to-one matched
• Do NOT request funds for books. SSHRC does not
  like to pay for books.
• Be CAREFUL if you request funds for
  consultancies – this is thin ice
• NOTE THAT once the budget is approved, SSHRC
  says that you can spend your grant however you
  like – but your University controllers do not
  necessarily know this.
  – At any rate, you cannot pay yourself an honorarium.
  Budgeting tricks and traps
• See SSHRC‟s list of ineligible items. It
  includes: training, purchase or rental
  of standard office equipment,
  preparation of teaching materials,
  entertainment and hospitality costs,
  research leading to a degree, fees and
  honoraria to colleagues, indirect or
  overhead costs, etc.
• ALWAYS include a clear explanatory
  budgetary note
Budget for hypothetical three-year, one-person small project
       at a small or medium (non-doctoral) university
    Thank you!

Questions or comments?

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