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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 2020-21 report on competitions.

Highlights from the 2020-21 report

Our support to merit review committees

Overall views of committee member survey respondents (number=468):

97%

rated the support from SSHRC staff as good (14%) or excellent (83%)

91%

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

Aggregated survey respondent views on SSHRC evaluation processes:

85%

rated the evaluation criteria and sub-criteria as extremely useful (34%) or very useful (51%)

64%

rated the various SSHRC guidelines for evaluation as extremely useful (22%) or very useful (42%), in applicable cases

79%

rated the evaluation tools that SSHRC provides as extremely useful (33%) or very useful (46%), overall

Who were our committee members in 2020-21?

In 2020-21:

  • Number of competitions: 20
  • Number of committees: 104
  • Number of committee members: 896
    • (31 international)
  • Average age: 50
  • Average number of years served:
    • One: 51%
    • Two: 25%
    • Three: 15%
    • Four: 5%
  • Average acceptace rate: 40%
  • Average returning members: 44%
  • Number who withdrew from the process: 44

Equity, diversity and inclusion:

  • 52.1% Women
  • 42.3% Men
  • 2.3% Gender-fluid, non-binary, and/or Two-Spirit
  • 4.7% Indigenous identity
  • 6.2% Persons with disabilities
  • 13.0% Racialized minorities
  • 4.6% Prefer not to answer (average across all designated-group questions)

Language profile:

  • English: 75%
  • French: 25%

Sectoral representation:

  • 98.1% Postsecondary
  • 0.7% Industry
  • 0.6% Not-for-profit
  • 0.7% Public

Institutional representation:

  • 53% large
  • 18% medium
  • 20% small
  • (8% international)

Institutional positions:

  • 34% Associate Professor
  • 29% Full Professor
  • 23% Assistant Professor
  • 13% Other
  • 1% Adjunct Professor
Figure 1
Description of figure 1

Committee member disciplines

This ring graph shows the disciplines of committee members in 2020-21. The percentages are calculated based on member participation and the number of participants who identified these subject areas as one of their main disciplines. Individuals participating in more than one committee during the year are counted each time they participate. 68% of committee members were from the social sciences, 27% were from humanities, 3% were interdisciplinary, and 2% were other.

Committee workload

Demanding volunteer workloads is a key challenge that we monitor and try to reduce in competition processes. Over the last four years, the average number of applications assigned to committee members for review has decreased for most competitions.

58% of survey respondents in 2020-21 (n=468) cited “workload” as a reason that would deter them from serving again as compared to 79% in 2019-20 (n=465).

Number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review (2017-2020)

Figure 2
Description of figure 2

Research Training and Talent Development

This line graph shows the number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review over the past four years (2017 to 2020). In Research Training and Talent Development funding opportunities the number has trended downwards for each funding opportunity. Over this period, applications reviewed per committee member for the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships decreased from about 55 to just over 40; from approximately 38 to 30 for SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships; and from about 18 to less than 10 for the Impact Awards.

Figure 3
Description of figure 3

Insight Research

This line graph shows the number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review over the past four years (2017 to 2020). Workload levels have trended downwards for both Insight Research funding opportunities. The number of applications per committee member for Insight Grants has decreased from about 18 to less than 15 over the past four years; for Insight Development Grants, the number has decreased from about 19 to less than 15.

Figure 4
Description of figure 4

Research Partnerships

This line graph shows the number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review within three SSHRC programming areas over the past four years (2017 to 2020). Within the Research Partnership funding opportunities, the number of applications per committee member has trended downwards for Connection Grants and Partnership Engage Grants. The number of applications per committee member has stayed even for Partnership Grants and slightly risen for Partnership Development Grants. The number of applications has stayed around 18 for Partnership Grants and between 18 to 22 for Partnership Development Grants. The number decreased from 14 to less than 10 for Partnership Engage Grants and from approximately 13 to less than 10 for Connection Grants.

Application language of applicants, overall

  • English: 84%
  • French: 16%

Correspondence language of committee members, overall

  • English: 76%
  • French: 24%

Application rates by application language

  • English: 83.5%
  • French: 16.5%

Award rates by application language

  • English: 82.1%
  • French: 17.9%
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