Canadian Common CV: NSERC vs. Linkedin

“I hope you write a blog post about the shameful time NSERC is wasting for all of us dealing with the Canadian Common CV website!!!” My friend was referring to NSERC’s new “Portal” to be used to “manage application and peer review processes, acceptance of awards, notification of results and reporting.” But first you have to enter your Canadian Common CV (CCV), which will replace the standard Form 100 for researcher’s Personal Data. Now I confess that I still haven’t used the new system yet. My next application for a research grant is one year away, but more significantly, I was discouraged by the following NSERC bulletin. “We strongly encourage the research community to start entering their data once the template is available as it can be time consuming to populate the fields the first time.” I figured that if they are warning us about how time consuming it is, then this must be even more daunting than some of the grueling data collections and surveys they have subjected the research community to (without warning) in the not so distant past. Then came this.

“I have to drill down to my bachelor’s degree to give a supervisor’s name (don’t have one, duh! so enter “NA”) and then create fictitious start and end dates for my non-existent supervisory experience. This goes on and on for every aspect of one’s life ….”

Another colleague had the following experience.

“I notice that the application process now has the following mandatory question: “Field of Application.” When you click the help button to find out what this question means, you get the following text:

“The field of application is the scientific, social, economic, cultural, or political area where the research can be applied, most of the time to help resolve a problem.”

And the answer to this question is not some arbitrary text. It has to be selected from a drop down list of possible answers such as “foreign affairs,” “state affairs,” “security,” and “construction.” The only things that are remotely scientific are information technology and some medical stuff.

I think I’m going to pick “state affairs” and “construction,” even though I am a number theorist.”

But here is the most pathetic one:

“I was amused to find Vij’s Restaurant listed as one of the 3622 possible NSERC affiliations in BC. UBC is harder to find — it only comes up if you look the The University of British Columbia. If you type in UBC, you get the Properties Trust and the Dairy Farm. It’s all just very weird.”

The main objective for the CCV is to “lighten the load on the research community when applying for funding, or for reporting purposes, on the principle that the CV data entered once by the researcher can be readily utilized in a manner that suits the requirements of any subscribing agency.”

Fair enough but “any subscribing agency?”

Oh well, I guess this is the new normal we have to get used to.  In the meantime, please let us know if you have issues (or anecdotes) about this new system. And to be fair to NSERC, it is also soliciting  input about the functionality of the portal.

Today, I see that “The CCV application has been redeveloped,” again.

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26 Responses to Canadian Common CV: NSERC vs. Linkedin

  1. Alex Bond says:

    It’s used in the Banting postdoc applications, and even for an early-career researcher just out of a PhD took far longer to input data, and generated a document far longer than a typical CV.

  2. AdamVT says:

    I’d be curious to know how long it took other people to compile their CCV. I estimated it took me about 9 hours of work. I found one bug (I had done some work in Italy, but it wouldn’t give me locations in Italy, but provinces in Canada!), but what is is really frustrating is that you cannot do simple formatting (like superscripts and subscripts), which I sometimes need for the titles of my paper. Oh, when the final CCV is compiled and linked to your NOI, it looks horrible. Because of the way it is formatted, only three publications can appear on a page. So, if you have 20 publications over the last 5 years, 6 or 7 pages are needed to list these papers.

  3. JohnC says:

    9 hours sounds about right. I pity the people who have to look at the NOI. In my case, just the CV attached to the NOI (i.e., not including the actual proposal summary or list of referees) results in a PDF that is 42 pages long. For comparison, last time the entire NOI was five pages.

  4. Peter Loock says:

    “Klingon” is one of the more interesting language choices that is available..!
    I don’t speak, read or write Klingon, but checked the box anyway to volunteer for a review of any proposal that may be submitted in Klingon.

    To answer AdamVT’s question: it took a paid (!) student 50 hours to insert 130+ presentations and I probably spent a similar amount of time with the rest. The result is ~40 pages of noise with very little signal.

    I feel sorry for the reviewers…

  5. It took me about 15 hours of work, and I’m only a second-time applicant. I think very senior applicants are looking at 30+ hours of data entry. It’s ridiculously complicated and produces horrible, useless output, that no one will actually ever look at.

    Two examples of it’s bad design:
    [1] When you are picking a granting agency, some of NSERC’s programs are listed under “NSERC xxx” and some are listed under “Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada xxx”. Given how many entries there are, there are probably over 50 between these two different NSERC lists, so you definitely can’t see both groups on the screen at the same time. I realized by accident that this is what was happening.
    [2] We’re asked to enter all previous and current funding. Fine. Then, *for each and every publication*, we are asked for the source of funding. Instead of doing the obvious, which is having us choose from the list of funding sources we spent so much time entering, we instead have to *manually* enter the funding source *again* for every single paper.

    The whole system seems amateurish. It certainly wasn’t ready yet for NSERC Discovery Grant applications, since whenever I ask people from NSERC or from my Office of Research about whether or not we’re supposed to enter information that was never asked of us in the past, I always get the answer: “Use your judgement. If you think it would be helpful, then enter it.” I don’t know what this means. It would certainly be helpful if it was later deemed that my application was ineligible because certain information was not entered on the CCV…

  6. Mélanie says:

    Anecdotes… I just have so much about this CCV!
    As CIHR applicants, we had to use it since, I think, 2 rounds of grants. And for those who discovered it now, its quite better than it was last summer! The pdf had so much columns in table than words were cutted after 13 characters whatever it make sense or not…

    It’s amazing slow and so badly coded, with so much frames! Who code website like this in 2013?? And so much clicks for nothing. And you. english people, are lucky to don’t have to read the french version, I’m just unable to describe how bad it’s translated. 😦

    About strange thing. Today I have to correct errors I had on research funding. I HAVE to enter the amount of money we had received for a grant submitted… Impossible to write 0…

    This year, we have to submit within 2 weeks, to 2 differents agencies. I just discovered, I will have to almost do it 2 times! The system don’t remember which entries you need to unckecked (for example, for students, only last 5 years for FRQS, and all students for CIHR). I can’t just imagine why this it’s not done automaticaly! I even get errors because the 2008’s presentations “expired” and I have to uncheck manually (after clicking on it, wait so long, to discover what was the problem…)
    Another strange thing: because CIHR acknowledge it’s a labourious process, they allowed us to still use annexes for presentation/publications and other stuff. We still not sure for this year, but we have now to maintain the CCV, annexes for CIHR and annexes for FRQS (because they don’t want to use CCV). So much time wasted, I was thinking the idea was to have COMMON cv…

    And by the way, I’m still looking to understand how students are ordered, if someone could find it. It’s not by alphabetic order, not chronologicly either not by grade or levels!
    And I’m still not sure how manage summer stagiaire. We should enter the “degree start” and “degree end”, but they are doing a bachelor, they are in our lab only for 3 months, not the whole 3 years!!

    I wrote many comments to the CIHR and the only answers I had was : “fill the field as you think it’s appropriate” OR “we will pass on our team engineers”. They ameliorate a little bit but so slowly…

  7. AdamVT says:

    The previous post reminded me that I also couldn’t figure out how students were ordered. I asked my research office, and they checked with NSERC who said it was by completion date. Uhmm… no it isn’t. It seems completely random.

  8. HeatherT says:

    So glad I read your blog today! UBC is also listed as THE University of British Columbia on the NSERC Research Portal. Never would have figured this out if not for your blog.

  9. omer says:

    Can we use NSERC funds to hire an assistant to fill in the forms? If one person enters data for a whole department, they could probably do it much faster then n people individually figuring out the bugs and quirks. This would also result in a quantified cost of using the system.

  10. Damien Roy says:

    Le CVC c’est une illustration du principe de Peter, appliqué à l’informatique. Avant, la partie triviale d’une demande de subvention était la mise à jour de son CV. Maintenant, il faut y consacrer bien du temps et de l’énergie pour un résultat qui est bien loin d’être satisfaisant.

  11. Ghoussoub says:

    From Peter Borwein: Just to add to the misery! You can’t put any math symbols in the LOI it won’t accept them

  12. tk says:

    So what is exactly the value added of this excercise? Why dont they just give me a shovel and ask to dig a hole in the ground instead? At least it will be a useful physical exercise…

    Please, why can’t we just include a PDF of a few pages??? dont make me retype 5+ pages of 10+ years of CV…. I just woke up to the 1st of August deadline for the intent to apply for discovery grant….

  13. Ghoussoub says:

    From Andrew R:
    It seems that it would a good to send to NSERC an
    “invoice” from the mathematical community for an estimate of the
    number of additional man-hours (which could then be translated into an
    associated cost) incurred filling in the new-style CV over simply
    attaching a pdf.

    Thankfully I am not in this round… but it seems that NSERC should be
    far more aware of the “hidden” costs of producing applications and how
    much time is wasted in doing so. Maybe a more specific version of
    these sorts of things

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19247851
    http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v495/n7441/full/495314d.html

  14. Peter says:

    As a senior researcher with some 450 works shown in over 3,000 public presentations, I was entirely in agreement with my two undergrad assistants who refused to work on the cv after they had logged 55 hours of labour. So I phoned SSHRC and was told that the people who are devising the cv and its input system refuse to allow any of the client organisations to beta test it on “real” academics, nor even to give feedback to the people who are designing the thing! I then called a senior person at SSHRC who told me that they were trying (as a test) to input their own cv and was in complete agreement with all the complaints that they have been deluged with.

  15. Mike says:

    I was forced to select ‘Numbers Theory’, as my field of research, from a drop down list. However, the word ‘Numbers’ should be singular, i.e. ‘Number Theory’. I would have liked the option to type it in correctly rather than have what appears to be a typo on my CV. Or better, I would have preferred to spend 30 seconds attaching my beautifully formatted CV containing all the information relevant to my career rather than spend three days (a few hours each day) filling in boxes, and looking up too much detail on the internet (ex very specific dates for various activities), only to end up with something that looks pretty ugly. What a colossal waste of time, and energy.

    But if they are going to insist on everyone using one system, they should allow us to enter things in a spreadsheet style, rather than click click click click click click click all week long, i.e. I would have liked the option to enter all my presentations on a single page, perhaps also allowing importation from some standard spreadsheet format. Rough dates should also be allowed. Wouldn’t a year be good enough for presentations. Or, at most month-year. Who actually bothers to record the specific day of the month a talk was given?

    When I finally finished, I thought that suicide would be a nice way to relax, but then realized I had some research to do. 🙂 for the sarcastically impaired.

  16. I just listed “Numbers Theory” [sic]; it seems that this is classified under “abstract structures”. I wonder who created these classifications. I made a printout for all to see.

  17. By the way, having to select my speciality from a fixed list gives a very totalitarian “you must work in an approved subfield” feeling. My current problem is that “Metric Geometry” has been omitted from the list. “Geometry” is there, of course, but that term covers a lot of ground …

  18. tk says:

    Taking some risk, I have decided for now to boycott the “papers” and “talks” part. Instead, I just said “xxxx papers published in the last xxx years”. I wonder how many people did that?

  19. I finally submitted my NOI to NSERC yesterday after much, way too much, frustration. I haven’t read all the other threads here so I apologize for any duplication. Here are my comments (all for the record):

    So, just log into the CCV site. So we choose our granting agency, NSERC, of course and most of us mathematicians apply only to that agency. Next click CV in the menu bar (choose Funding–Why anyone would want to fill their “Generic” CV here is beyond me). Choose NSERC as a Funding Source and click “next” WHY are we asked to choose “NSERC_researcher” as CV-type, since it is the ONLY choice in a pull down menu? This is a waste of time. I now refer to specific CV items:
    Language skills: Why does NSERC want to know whether we can “Peer review” in language “X”? Will we be receiving material from the agency in a foreign language? Why are we being asked? Why is there a “maximum of 6 records” required? This is a virtual form so space shouldn’t be a problem.
    Recognitions: Why the distinction between “Organization” and “Other organization”? is the latter to be treated with lesser importance than the former? Some universities are not included under “organizations” so what is one to make of that?
    Research Specialization Keywords: FACT-You are limited to a maximum of some 40 characters, but you are not told this in the Help window.
    Areas of Research: (minor) You can choose “Numbers Theory” but not “Number Theory” and then “Differential Equation” but not its plural …
    Non-Academic Work Experience: I left this one blank for obvious reasons. I could not imagine spending more time having to put in ALL the jobs I ever held throughout my life.
    Affiliations: Their words from the Help window…”Organizations with which the person is affiliated. These can be work or non-work related. A minimum of 1 record(s) must be submitted. A maximum of 3 record(s) may be submitted”. Your guess is as good as mine here. Why the maximum? We are profs at university X was my minimum contribution to this window.
    Research Funding History: Unfortunately, we can longer put in our previous (not present) NSERC grant information as it would have started more than 6 years ago (they are 5 year grants, after all).
    Event Administration: Their words, “Services contributed in the planning, organization, coordination and staging of a public event.” I guess this should include ALL our outreach activities and pretty much anything else whether governmental or NGO, right?
    Committee memberships: Their words,”Services contributed as part of a committee to perform services not directly related to the person’s research activities.” I cannot imagine putting down ALL the committee work we do on behalf of the university!
    Presentations: One can barely remember the exact title of our talk/presentation somewhere, how is one supposed to recall the month? Is one to be disqualified if one errs here?
    Journal Articles: We should be able to put down journal papers from 2007 (past 6 years) but if the article appeared before July 30, 2007 the system won’t accept it! So some of my colleagues who attended the virtual NSERC info sessions were told by NSERC that we should put in Dec. 2007 so that ALL our 2007 papers appear.
    This is the best one of all…Now click, “Submit”, “I agree”, Check the confirmation in green font. Go to “History” under the menu bar and note the two icons…one pdf and one xml. We are told that the system generates both a pdf and an xml file of our CCV. True, but it actually generates TWO different xml files! The first is here, under “History”. The second xml file is obtained by clicking “Transfer” on the menu bar and then “Export”. Of course this must be exporting the CCV to xml format (it says so!) Click “Export”. Believe it or not, this second xml file must be different than the previous one seen under “History” (as they have different sizes- Mine differed by 45 KB)! The output xml exported to the NOI, as required, and then uploaded to NSERC as required looks pretty bad.
    I’ll stop here.

  20. Seyed says:

    Peace of cake ! I am in Science, more specifically in Mathematics, but I think this is the right thing to do. CCV must be there to unify the structure. It takes time and there still need to be some improvements, but it is way easier than creating various types of CVs when you apply to different organizations. I understand that this is a problem for mathematical community, and more generally for pure science and engineering, but for those of us who are used to apply for CIHR, it is a bless. If you had applied for CIHR prior to 2008, you would know what CV would really mean (ann then CCV would look like a revolution). Do not complaint too much, take your time and do your CCV, and you will appreciate this down the road.

  21. nilimanigam says:

    To echo what AdamVT says: We, the broader science and engineering community in Canada, should be very worried. Have you seen the output of the Common CV, ie, what the thing will look like in the hands of our referees? The formatting is atrocious, and decidedly not how academics universally present their work.

    Imagine what happens when these Common CVs end up in the hands of a serious researcher with an international reputation, unfamiliar with the Canadian system. If they see this (non-LaTexed!) output in their hands, they are likely to discard it as the gibberish of some amateur crank. I have anecdotal evidence of such researchers getting irritated and frustrated in the past because of the clumsy NSERC interface for reviewers. Now imagine they’ve had to install a new browser to even view the files, and there is this document. How will they know it is not you, the applicant, who decided on this awful format?

  22. Federico says:

    hi folks
    I recently started a petition, asking NSERC to stop its current use of the Common CV:

    https://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/nserc-stop-the-use-of-the-common-cv

    since most of you seem to agree that this common cv is a waste of time, please sign the petition and circulate it as widely as possible. We have 257 signatures so far and I hope to reach 1,000 and then start exerting pressure on NSERC.
    I suspect that this common cv initiative is the result of either gross incompetence, or corruption or both. So, once we have enough signatures I will also start talking to the media.
    To Seyed: your attitude is surprising. I think we all agree that the idea of a Common CV is good. What we are complaining about is the way it is being implemented. We dont like having our time wasted and on top of it the outcome is difficult to read making us all look like fools in the eyes of the reviewers, especially those from abroad.

  23. Wade C says:

    Speaking as a computer scientist, the CCV site feels like a student web project from the 1990s. Which old fart’s brainfart was this piece of hell from?

  24. Andrew Irwin says:

    It’s still slow and painful, although the output is much better than before. I’ve spent about 4 hours to add three pages of information to my ccv today. This is on top of hours and hours of work done last year and last summer. What a painful experience.

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