Over one month ago, I met with Matthias Neufang after learning that some of my colleagues at Toronto had their grants slashed, two with international stature by more than 50%. Neufang, as co-chair of the Evaluation Group (EG) of Section 1508, forecasted letters from the EG and Executive. He also reported that he had tried (unsuccessfully) to make improvements to the system during the 2009 and 2010 competitions and was frustrated. After no letters appeared, on April 11, I posted a report on the anomalous results for Toronto during the 2011 competition. That same day I sent an email to all members of the Executive of the EG (and cc:ed E. Bierstone, N. Ghoussoub, K. Murty, N. Reid) alerting them to the blog posting and stating “I am explicitly and publicly calling for some kind of report from the executive and evaluation committees of the 2011 NSERC Discovery Grants Competition in Section 1508.”
I continue to wait for a report from the Evaluation Group and its Executive.
The news of Toronto’s anomalous outcomes resonated with earlier reports like D. Fraser’s. Anecdotal exchanges within the mathematical community and a sampling of results obtained through reports of 2011 results by departmental chairs eventually led to a public statement. The jist of the statement is that the research funding infrastructure for Canadian mathematics is broken and needs to be fixed to avoid a loss of talent from Canada.
I anticipate that we will have the official 2011 competition results tomorrow, after the information embargo imposed by Canada’s federal election expires (the election is taking place today). Specific issues I hope will be clarified by the data:
- Was there a change in the overall budget for mathematics in 2011?
- Were there changes in bin funding levels between 2009, 2010, 2011?
- Were the incremental funding steps between adjacent bins uniform?
- Were the bins within statistics and mathematics treated equally in 2011?
In short, what happened?
Here are links to the competition statistics
- 2009 Discovery Grants Program Competition Statistics
- 2010 Discovery Grants Program Competition Statistics
- 2011 Statistics….pending release of data. 2011-05-03 update: 2011 Competition Summary. Preliminary Competition Results.
After the analysis of the 2011 competition is complete, I will turn my attention to the next phase: what should be done to improve the Canadian funding system for research in mathematics?
I encourage anyone with a research program in Canada to closely monitor the developments following the anomalous outcomes of the 2011 Discovery Grants Competition in Mathematics. Further updates can be accessed by following posts made here and reports by:
In the 2010 Competition statistics, there appears the following table describing the bin-to-funding map across disciplines:
The corresponding table for 2011 contains the crucial information for us to understand what happened. NSERC has described this version of the 2011 statistics as “preliminary”. I hope the final official version contains the data necessary to make cross-year comparisons to determine if fairness principles have been violated.