SSHRC – Budgets as Part of the Merit Review

Communication from SSHRC:

Over the past months, SSHRC has been reaching out to the research community to better understand the ways in which our renewed program architecture is being “lived” by applicants and post-secondary institutions.   We welcome the engagement from our community on the impact of the changes that have been made to our programs, policies and processes as we are work to realize the goals of the new program architecture While this outreach will continue going forward, one issue that has arisen to date has been the treatment of proposed budgets within the merit review process.

An appropriate and well-justified budget is an integral part of an excellent research proposal.  At the same time – and consistent with the 2008 Blue Ribbon Panel report — SSHRC continues to stress that the role of merit review committees is to assess the relative merit of individual proposals, rather than to engage in detailed discussion and revision of budgets.  As a result, SSHRC relies on the collaboration of applicants and their institutions to ensure that requested budgets are realistic and properly justified – with sufficient funds to enable the success of the proposed research, and avoiding exaggerated budgets that would constrain the ability to fund other meritorious proposals.

In this light, we wish to reiterate the following parameters for the work of our merit review committees in the upcoming competitions, as set out in the merit review manual posted on our web site :

  • Committees can and should consider assigning a failing score on the Feasibility criterion in the case of proposals where they deem that 30 percent or more of the proposed budget is either not appropriate or not sufficiently justified.
  • Where this is not the case, committees may nonetheless recommend specific budget reductions if they feel that a particular request is inappropriate or inadequately justified, and if they are confident that savings could be achieved without jeopardizing the project objectives. They are instructed to refrain from proposing “across the board” cuts to all recommended projects, a practice which may put at risk the viability of individual research projects, and increases the likelihood of inflated budget requests in future competitions.

Once again, we thank applicants, institutions and committee members for their collaboration in safeguarding the integrity and sustainability of the merit review process, and in ensuring appropriate stewardship of public funds.  SSHRC will continue to monitor this and other aspects of our business processes, and if necessary will consider additional administrative measures in future years to ensure that proposed budgets are appropriate, well-justified and sustainable in light of SSHRC’s overall budgetary resources.


Brent Herbert-Copley, PhD
Vice-President | Vice- président
Research Capacity| Capacité de recherche
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
Conseil de recherches en sciences humaines du Canada
350 Albert Street | 350, rue Albert, Ottawa, ON  K1P 6G4
E | C :
T : 613.995.5457    F | T : 613.944.4077


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