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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 merit review 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.

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

“The adjudication process has integrity. It is a fair process. Committee members strive to evaluate applications in the most positive light. Importantly, committee members were always prepared to reconsider their initial thoughts about applicants and their proposals; I viewed this as an especially positive element of the experience. Finally, the program officer plays such an important role in managing the process and guiding committee members.”

Committee member, Insight Grants

“Given the number of proposals that had to be reviewed, it was amazing how efficient the evaluation process was.”

Committee member, Connection Grants

“I had a wonderful experience, and it was a true privilege to witness how well a committee may work and make group decisions (this is much in part to the chair!). But my experience allowed me the honour of learning the extent and quality of research being supported by SSHRC. It was a truly wonderful committee assignment. Thank you.”

Committee member, Impact Awards

We are grateful to the many experts who contributed to the merit review process, giving their time and sharing valuable insights into their experience.

For details, visit Open Government to read the 2021-22 report on competitions.

Highlights from the 2021-22 report

Our support to merit review committees

Overall views of committee member survey respondents (number=475):

98%

rated the support from SSHRC staff as good (11%) or excellent (87%)

91%

were satisfied (43%) or very satisfied (48%) with the quality of SSHRC’s merit review process

Aggregated survey respondent views on SSHRC evaluation processes:

83%

rated the evaluation criteria and sub-criteria as extremely useful (32%) or very useful (51%)

62%

rated the various SSHRC guidelines for evaluation as extremely useful (20%) or very useful (42%), in applicable cases

77%

rated the evaluation tools that SSHRC provides as extremely useful (32%) or very useful (45%), overall

Who were our committee members in 2021-22?

In 2021-22:

  • Number of competitions: 21
  • Number of committees: 103
  • Number of committee members: 936
    • (35 international)
  • Average age: 50
  • Average number of years served:
    • One: 57%
    • Two: 23%
    • Three: 15%
    • Four: 5%
  • Average acceptace rate: 37%
  • Average rate of returning members: 33%
  • Number of committee members who withdrew from the process: 70

Self identification (Equity, diversity and inclusion):

  • 54% Women
  • 37% Men
  • 3% OtherFootnote 1
  • 2% Indigenous identity
  • 10% Persons with disabilities
  • 17% Visible minorities
  • 5% Prefer not to answer (average across all designated-group questions)

Language profile:

  • English: 75%
  • French: 25%

Sectoral representation:

  • 97.3% Postsecondary
  • 0.1% Industry
  • 2.0% Not-for-profit
  • 0.5% Public

Institutional representation:

  • 46% Large
  • 29% Medium
  • 16% Small
  • 1% College
  • (4% International)

Institutional positions:

  • 37% Associate professor
  • 21% Full professor
  • 30% Assistant professor
  • 11% Other
  • 1% Adjunct professor
Figure 1
Description of figure 1

Committee member disciplines

This ring graph shows the disciplines of committee members in 2021-22. 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 on more than one committee during the year were counted each time they participated. Sixty-six percent of committee members were from the social sciences, 27% were from the humanities, 5% identified their disciplines as interdisciplinary, and 2% were from other disciplines.

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.

59% of survey respondents in 2021-22 (n=475) cited “workload” as a reason that would deter them from serving again, compared to 58% in 2020-21 (n=468).

Number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review (2017-2022)

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 five years (2017-18 to 2021-22). For the Research Training and Talent Development program, the number has trended downwards for each funding opportunity, except for the Impact Awards. Over this period, applications reviewed per committee member for the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships decreased from 37 to approximately 24. For SSHRC Doctoral Fellowships, the number decreased from about 55 to 41. For the Impact Awards, the number went from about 16 to less than 20.

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 five years (2017-18 to 2021-22). 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 just under 12 over the past five years; and for Insight Development Grants, the number has decreased from about 19 to 17.

Figure 4
Description of figure 4

Research Partnerships

This line graph shows the number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review within SSHRC programming areas over the past five years (2017-18 to 2021-22). Within the Research Partnerships program, the number of applications per committee member has trended downwards for each funding opportunity (excluding the one-year Race, Gender and Diversity Initiative, which had about 16 applications assigned to each committee member). The number of applications per committee member has decreased for Partnership Grants from about 18 to just under 15; for Partnership Development Grants from approximately 18 to 17; for Partnership Engage Grants from about 13 to just under 9; and for Connection Grants from approximately 12 to just under 11.

Figure 5
Description of figure 5

Future Challenges Directorate

This line graph shows the number of applications assigned to SSHRC committee members for review within the Future Challenges Division over the past three years (2019-20 to 2021-22). The number of applications has slightly decreased for Knowledge Synthesis Grants (multiple competitions combined), from about 16 to 15. For the Imagining Canada’s Future Ideas Lab—Stage 2, about five applications were assigned to each committee member.

Correspondence language of committee members, overall

  • English: 75%
  • French: 25%
Description of figure 7

Correspondence language of committee members, overall

This pie graph shows the correspondence language of committee members for the 2021-22 application adjudication year. The pie graph shows that, overall, 25% of committee members’ language of correspondence was French and 75% was English.

Application language of applicants, overall

  • English: 83%
  • French: 17%
Description of figure 6

Application language of applicants, overall

This pie graph shows the application language of applicants for the 2021-22 application adjudication year. The pie graph shows that, overall, 17% of applications were submitted in French and 83% were submitted in English.

Application rates by application language

  • English: 83.5%
  • French: 16.5%

Award rates by application language

  • English: 81.2%
  • French: 18.8%
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