NSERC explains the drop in 2011 CGS, PGS and PDF numbers

In response to our last blog post, “Piece of Mind” received the following memo from NSERC communications.

NSERC offered fewer CGS-PGS awards in 2011 for two reasons:

First, the Government of Canada’s Economic Action Plan (EAP) came to an end, which had provided an additional 400 CGS master’s-level awards in the 2009 and 2010 competitions, and an additional 200 doctoral-level awards in 2009. With the conclusion of the EAP, the number of available awards reverted to the 2008 baseline.

Second, NSERC discontinued its past practice of offering more awards than its budget allowed for in anticipation that some awards would be declined. Instead, NSERC offered the exact number of awards provided for in the CGS and PGS budgets in March, then offered additional awards in June once the number of declined offers was known. NSERC currently supports 3,834 graduate students, including the 1,703 CGS-PGS awards offered this year.

Fewer PDF awards were available this year because a higher-than-average number was taken up in 2010. That higher acceptance rate left a smaller proportion of the budget available to 2011 applicants. NSERC is projecting expenditures of $16.258M for PDFs in 2011-12, plus $1.61M for the Banting PDFs. This is consistent with expenditures in recent years:
2010 – $17.001M (when more awards were accepted)
2009 – $16.376M
2008 – $15.443M
2007 – $15.196M

As with the CGS-PGS awards, NSERC also offered only the number of PDF awards allowed by the program budget in March, followed by additional awards offered in June after the number of declined offers was known.

Leaving out the one-time injection of CGS funding under the EAP, NSERC has maintained its overall expenditures for Scholarship & Fellowship (S&F) programs in 2011 relative to 2010. Some reassignment has taken place to manage pressures within the S&F suite of programs – for instance, increasing the funding available for Industrial Postgraduate Scholarships and the CREATE program.

A package of statistics for the 2011 scholarships and fellowships competitions has been posted on NSERC’s Web site at http://www.nserc-crsng.gc.ca/_doc/Students-Etudiants/CompStat-StatConcours_eng.pdf

For a number of years, NSERC has sent letters to PDF applicants who are above the quality line but did not receive an award, encouraging them to consider Industrial R&D Fellowships (IRDF). Many doctoral graduates will find employment outside academia, and IRDFs offer another way for applicants to gain valuable experience and work opportunities.

The role of selection committee members reviewing S&F applications is to rate applications, and to rank them based on quality. Those applicants at top of the order are offered a CGS, the next tier are offered a PGS, and we continue down the list until we reach the budget’s limit. Awards are distributed in proportion to the number of applications received by each of the various selection committees. This ensures the same success rate is seen across all fields.

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7 Responses to NSERC explains the drop in 2011 CGS, PGS and PDF numbers

  1. Casteels says:

    I will probably have comments, but it seems the link to the stats package is broken…

  2. Casteels says:

    Now that I can see the linked stats, I find those numbers irrelevant to the discussion – it would be more useful to see the year to year numbers over the last n years, with n>5. I will be interested to see next year’s numbers. Presumably they should significantly increase as the apparently extra-large number of 2009 Fellows finish their grants.

    It seems the key number is the one NSERC omitted: the amount “reassigned” to the industrial postdocs and CREATE. It is indeed an unfortunate fact that most recent PhDs will be unable to find an academic job and so the goal of connecting them to industry is, on the surface, laudable. However…

    1) As I alluded to in a previous comment, this is strictly impossible for all but an epsilon>0 proportion of researchers, especially in mathematics. I imagine this true for many other fields as well. I hope that if the budget for the Industrial R&D program is not used up, then the leftover money is put back into the scholarship and fellowship programs.

    2) I was going to make an overlong point about what is, in my opinion, a lack of understanding by NSERC of the role of research-level science and mathematics within the economy, but coincidentally Philip Hultin essentially just did so in a comment to this post: https://nghoussoub.com/2011/06/30/“decision-based-evidence-making”-and-the-future-of-canada’s-scientific-research/

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