Faculty find encouragement through new SSHRC application re-examination process

Lauren Bannon - 08 September 2023

Faculty whose research focuses on social sciences and humanities now have the opportunity to access an innovative service designed to assist SSHRC applicants in refining their unsuccessful proposals. 

Amusingly termed Individual Forensic Reviews, this initiative is part of the personalized research development support provided by the Research Partner Network (RPNet). 

Following Insight, Insight Development or Partnership Development competitions, College of Social Sciences and Humanities research partners reach out to applicants to communicate results, and applicants whose proposals were not funded are offered support to understand the selection committee's evaluation. Though participation is optional, the process has received positive feedback.

“My experience was great and I would suggest that my colleagues participate in this process,” says Alberta School of Business associate professor Ke Wang, whose research focuses on how public firms disclose their carbon emissions when their peers receive negative publicity for their own carbon emissions.

Research partners examine the selection committee's evaluation documents, application materials and external reviewer feedback. They then provide detailed written feedback, followed by a one-on-one Q&A and discussion to go over advice tailored to the subcategories of the merit review criteria and ranking. During these sessions, the emphasis is on offering suggestions for improvement.

“The consultation provided me with useful comments from a colleague with rich experience of reading SSHRC applications but no insider knowledge of my research area, which I found particularly beneficial,” says Wang. “The colleague reviewed my application in detail, without even a single sentence being ignored.”

“My reviewer helped illuminate where I could strategize to avoid misperceptions, and it was great to have that feedback,” says drama professor Melanie Dreyer-Lude, who is in the process of seeking funding for a project aimed at safeguarding Indigenous storytelling in Uganda. “I feel more confident than ever that I've written a strong application with this feedback.”

In addition to individual reviews, the RPNet team also began offering group seminars that delve into the evaluation grid and other sections of the SSHRC application, interpreting the committee’s and reviewers' oftentimes conflicting feedback. One such seminar presented in June was called the Lemons to Lemonade Workshop.

“This workshop was terrific,” says Dreyer-Lude. “It allowed my colleagues and I the opportunity to ask very specific questions about how to address some of the responses to our applications. I found the process to be a real learning moment for me and I expect it will help me with all future SSHRC applications.”

RPnet senior research partner Heather Young-Leslie is excited to see this process become a common procedure for researchers seeking funding.

“I'm thrilled to see these approaches becoming standard practice within our college and to others in the social sciences and humanities research community across the university,” she says. “This process offers applicants the encouragement needed for revision after a proposal is not funded, instilling confidence to take on this challenging process. There's great potential for our research partners from other colleges to adapt similar practices in the future.”


Head here for a full list of research support contacts for the CSSH.