No students? Don’t bother apply for Discovery Grant

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.

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2 Responses to No students? Don’t bother apply for Discovery Grant

  1. We have had an accute glut of Ph.D.s for at least 30 years. The least desirable job ad still attracts over 50 qualified applicants.

    And then, a bunch of influential people get into their head that what we need most are more Ph.Ds. No… really?

    I would very much like to see how they justify these choices. I can only see things getting worse. We’ll train more Ph.D.s who will get less desirable positions.

    So now… The fellows who prove theorems but don’t like working with students will feel compelled to take on more students… even though we don’t need more students! This is sick.

    On the plus side, you can prove theorems without much money if you have a salary.

  2. Pingback: NSERC’s scholarships and fellowships: Policy shift or collateral damage? | Piece of Mind

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