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Dear SSHRC: Researchers Write Back to the Federal Funding Agency

March 14, 2019

By Lisa Smith

stacks of journals

The experience of receiving written feedback from SSHRC is a common one among academics in Canada. But the feedback is one-way—few academics write to the federal funding agency to give feedback on its procedures. In a journal article comprised of a series of unsent letters to SSHRC, four researchers do just that. Together, these relatable letters highlight the intensive, often invisible labour behind applications for collaborative research projects.

The article, which was funded in part by SSHRC, represents the professional experiences of authors Michelle McGinn, interim Associate Vice-President Research and Professor of Education at Brock University, Sandra Acker, Professor Emerita, Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto, Marie Vander Kloet, Assistant Director of the Teaching Assistants' Training Program and the Center for Teaching Support & Innovation at the University of Toronto, and Anne Wagner, Associate Professor, Department of Social Work, Nipissing University.

"Our efforts were informed by the following guiding research questions," the authors explain: "How do Canadian social science researchers with social justice commitments experience research grant writing? What are the intellectual and emotional consequences of efforts to secure research grant funding? What messages do we as researchers have for funders and for other grant applicants?"

While noting their gratitude for the support SSHRC provides, the authors conclude that "the process of applying for funding is too much like an endurance test or a guessing game" requiring immense effort, sometimes to little effect. The article calls for a streamlining of the application process and is a must-read for grant applicants as well as for support staff and potential funders.
Read the full article online in Forum: Qualitative Social Research.