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Come on NSERC, really – you’ve completely missed the point…

By DAVID KENT | August 14, 2012

I always knew that bad news was released on Fridays in the summer… but last Friday was pretty ridiculous.  NSERC has just announced that in order to improve its success rate (just clocked at 7.8% in the most recent competition) it will now reduce the number of times an individual can apply for a postdoctoral award from two to one.

…  now that your jaw is back in place,  let’s look at what really matters.  The absolute number of fellowships awarded by NSERC represents how many scholars it supports each year through its program, and no matter how many people are applying, this is the most important number.

Sadly, the last five years have seen NSERC’s funded fellowships drop dramatically (awards / applicants):

  • 250 / 1169 (2008)
  • 254 / 1220 (2009)
  • 286 / 1341 (2010)
  • 133 / 1431 (2011)
  • 98 / 1254 (2012)

This is unbelievable and it cannot be sugar coated with a letter about streamlining or complaints about increased applicants (just a 7% increase in applicants from 2008 to 2012).

The sad facts are that NSERC is awarding 66% fewer fellowships.  As you can imagine, this has had an effect on success rates, but NSERC’s solution is to try and reduce the number of applicants in an effort to bring up the rate so that they can rid themselves of their sub-10% success rates.

I can’t even begin to explain everything that has run through my mind while writing this post other than repeating that NSERC has completely missed the point.

If you would like your comments to be raised at the next CAPS executive meeting, I strongly encourage you to write them below.

David Kent
David Kent holds a PhD in Genetics (UBC) and a BSc in Genetics and English (UWO) and is currently a CIHR postdoctoral fellow at the University of Cambridge, UK. He studies normal and malignant stem cell biology and currently sits on the executive for the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars.
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