NSERC Discovery Grants II includes a discussion on the effect of the new “binning system” on the Discovery Grant Program. I have received since many reports and opinions identifying and emphasizing various flaws in the system. There seems to be unanimity on the unfairness and danger of having the “Training of HQP” as such a determining criterium for grant eligibility –let alone size. The following and the next few posts will include –slightly edited for anonymity– contributions from various colleagues.
In my department there is one (newish) complaint from junior Faculty that I think is important:
It seems that the belief in the community is that you must now work with students in order to get a grant. The grants officer at the University …. is more-or-less telling people not to bother applying if they have not worked with students. This seems crazy to me. As a math community and in terms of the goals of NSERC, of course we want researchers to take on students and bring them in to mathematics. However these are RESEARCH GRANTS, and I see nothing wrong with having a grant to facilitate important research, whether or not it includes students.
The key should of course be the quantity of money in the grant. One needs significantly more for several students, and so it should be. However the bin system can penalize researchers without students in an unreasonable way. Let me point out two circumstances where one might not have worked with students:
1) Someone applying for a first grant, or, in the case of one of my colleagues, a second grant and she had a baby and moved universities in the last three years. It is not unreasonable for people to get on and prove theorems and only integrate students as seems appropriate.
2) Some people are awful communicators, but still prove valuable theorems! No students survive with them so they have given up trying.
I do feel that this new system is becoming a real mess — so many valid complaints.