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Annual report on competitions

Enriching the merit review process

As part of SSHRC’s commitment to continuous improvement, we analyze data on adjudication results as well as feedback from our staff, merit reviewers and observers in an annual report on competitions.

All findings in the report are reviewed at the program level and by governance committees, helping us build on successes and make informed changes to improve our programs. The report represents our dedication to transparency and facilitates positive change to address challenges in the merit review process.

Past merit reviewers have shared their thoughts on their experience working with us. Here is what some of them have to say:

“I think this work is important for a vibrant scholarly community. My time on the committee and the quality of discussion around each application reassured me that my own grant proposals are treated with respect and rigour.”

—Committee member, Insight Development Grants

“I found the process fully inspiring. It not only made me feel good about the fairness of the adjudication, it made me feel good as a Canadian taxpayer that so much care and thoughtfulness goes into the allocation of research funds.”

—Committee member, Partnership Development Grants

“SSHRC staff were excellent and extremely helpful through the whole process.”

—Committee member, Doctoral Awards

We are grateful for the thousands of experts who contribute to the merit review process, giving their time and sharing valuable insights into their experience.

For details, visit Open Government to read the 2019-20 report on competitions.

Highlights from the 2019-20 report

Our support to merit review committees

Overall views of committee member survey respondents (number=465):


rated the support from SSHRC staff as good (16%) or excellent (82%)


were satisfied (49%) or very satisfied (42%) with the quality of SSHRC’s merit review process

Aggregated survey respondent views on SSHRC evaluation processes:


rated the evaluation criteria and sub-criteria as extremely useful (36%) or very useful (52%)


rated the various SSHRC guidelines for evaluation as extremely useful (26%) or very useful (49%), in applicable cases


rated the evaluation tools that SSHRC provides as extremely useful (35%) or very useful (45%), overall

Who are our committee members in 2019-20?

In 2019-2020:

  • Number of competitions: 20
  • Number of committees: 100
  • Number of committee members: 818
    • (31 international)
  • Average age: 50
  • Average number of years served:
    • One: 53%
    • Two: 31%
    • Three: 11%
    • Four: 5%
  • Average acceptace rate: 32%
  • Average returning members: 42%
  • Number who withdrew from the process: 40

Equity, diversity and inclusion:

  • 51.4% Women
  • 42.7% Men
  • 2.3% Gender-fluid, non-binary, and/or two-spirit
  • 2.7% Indigenous identity
  • 6.3% Persons with a disability
  • 9.9% Visible minorities
  • 9.8% Prefer not to answer (on average, to designated group questions)

Language profile:

  • English: 75%
  • French: 25%

Sectoral representation:

  • 97.8% Postsecondary
  • 0.1% Industry
  • 1.2% Not-for-profit
  • 0.9% Public

Institutional representation:

  • 57% large
  • 19% medium
  • 20% small
  • (4% international)

Institutional positions:

  • 40% Associate Professor
  • 36% Full Professor
  • 17% Assistant Professor
  • 7% Other
  • 1% Adjunct Professor


Average number of applications read by committee members (range=3.5 to 45, depending on the funding opportunity)

Application language of applicants, overall:

Figure 1
Description of figure 1
  • English: 83%
  • French: 17%

Correspondence language of committee members, overall

Figure 2
Description of figure 2
  • English: 75%
  • French: 25%

Success rates by application language:

  • English: 43%
  • French: 42%
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