Research grants

Research grants, or research funding, is often a hot topic in academia. As many researches (at the professor, post-doctoral, graduate student, and research assistant levels) would be unable to conduct their research without them.

For the most part, I’ve been mostly “shielded” from them as a graduate student, as we are rarely involved in the application process. And, for the most part in the sciences, these grants primarily come from the NRC (National Research Council Canada). But, even though I haven’t been involved in the asking, I have benefited from the fact that my supervisor has held these while I’ve been a student. It is often funding from these grants that cover graduate student salaries over the summer and research assistantships during the year.

This week I had an interesting experience, in that I received an email from my supervisor asking me to fill out a survey about these grants. One of the NRC grants, the Discovery Grant, is apparently up in the airs over it’s continuation. And so they are doing a survey of people affected by these grants. I assume this is to get some idea on how useful they are and whether they are worth continuing. Of course, I can’t imagine there will be many people who will fill this out (since most people affected by these grants receive some sort of monetary amount from the grant) will actually have a negative point of view.

However, I did fill out the survey, as I was interested in what questions they were asking. And I’ll be interested in what the outcome will be. I’m not currently funded by this grant (although I have been in the past and will likely be in the future). But part of my research group (and in a way part of my research) does depend on this funding. So a loss would be felt.

As I’m also quite involved in a NCE (Networks of Centres of Excellence) and have been able to learn a lot more about how NCE are judged/graded/evaluated, it was interesting to see questions of a similar vein appear in the survey. Interesting (but not surprising) as both the NCEs and discovery grants have the same overall purpose, of increasing and supporting research in Canada. But, I felt like having that insight from the NCE related talks, I could better understand where some of the questions were coming from and what they were trying to understand.

So all-in-all, it was worth the 20 or so minutes it took to fill it out. And, I was pleased that there was only one question in this survey where I couldn’t quite figure out how to answer. It was about receiving funding from the grants, but wasn’t specific to whether yes meant you were currently receiving funding, or just that you had received funding at some point. But, better then some where I’m not sure how to answer many of the questions.

Is your research/position/salary dependent on grant funding? Have you been involved in applying for grants? After applying for scholarships and knowing that grant applications are worse (bigger and more convoluted) the idea kind of terrifies me.

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