Peer Review in Canada

Donald Forsdyke forsdyke at
Sat Jul 1 13:36:14 EST 2000

Results of last competition on MRC (now CIHR)
grants posted yesterday (

381 are funded out of 1203 applicants
Success rate (overall)  32 %

Of those:

Renewal applications success rate 60 %

New applicants success rate 22 %

Tough to get into the sand box, new kids.
(22 % is not much). Better dump your hard
earned biomedical PhD and get a used car
salesman licence instead.

Easy to get to the junkyard, older kids.
(60 % success rate scaps some 40 % to the
trash basket at each new funding cycle.
What a waste!).

Average value of the awarded grant is
close $ 100,000 (Can) per year with
not much difference for new grants
( $ 94 K) and renewals ( $ 102 K).

No "baseline grants" anywhere on the

To repeat my PRIME question asked earlier:

(or, at the very least, FLOOD of letters
to the newspapers, etc).

(above figures indicate a crowd of
some 800 unfunded in just this cycle

Alex Berezin

On Thu, 29 Jun 2000, Geoffrey Hunter wrote:

> Dear Minister:
>                A prime example of the failure of Peer Review
> to support innovation, is reported in Peter Calamai's article:
>      "Funding brush-off costs Canada spot in limelight"
> printed on page A10 of the Toronto Star of June 27, 2000,
> and available on-line at:
> .html
> As you will read, not only did the repressive bigotry of peer-review cost
> Canada a "spot in the limelight" - it cost us of the order of a billion
> dollars in annual sales of DNA sequencing machines.
> Yet in your letter to me of April 6, 2000, you defended peer-review as
> "well-accepted", and summarily dismissed Professors Gordon and Poulin's
> representations to the House CIHR Committee for an innovative way of
> distributing CIHR's budget (designed to stimulate innovation based upon
> solid experience of successful innovation at Bell Labs and the 3M
> How long will it be before you and your Cabinet colleagues wake up to the
> realities of what it really takes to promote innovative research upon
> the future prosperity of Canada depends ?
> Members of CARRF have recognised the failure of MRC and NSERC to support
> promote innovation for more than 20 years, and yet all of  our
> representations for changes designed to re-vitalise Canadian research have
> been shrugged aside by the complacency of paper-shuffling bureaucrats and
> the myopic perspectives of the well-accepted, well-funded, promoters of
> their own "safest research".
> A proposal to NSERC (similar to Gordon and Poulins for CIHR) was dismissed
> without proper consideration just a few years ago.
> Back in 1984 I proposed (to the Minister and the NSERC President)
> dynamic distribution of funds based upon current needs, so that
> research developments would be promoted by innovative ideas and scientific
> opportunities, rather than being restricted by fixed funding as at
> 25 years ago I conceived of a superior computer design, that had it been
> funded might well have created a Canadian Microsoft.  Like Norman
> idea for a DNA sequencer, it was denied funding on the grounds that I
> "in the mainstream" of my research discipline.
> No doubt Selectivity by Peer-Review (Gordon McNabb's death sentence on
> Canadian innovation) will continue, but please disabuse yourself of the
> delusion that it promotes and supports innovation.  It is politically
> expedient and bureaucratically satisfying, but it is counter-productive of
> innovative research.
> Geoffrey Hunter, President,
> Canadian Association for Responsible Research Funding,
> Department of Chemistry
> York University,
> Toronto, Canada M3J 1P3
> Tel: 416-736-5306
> Fax: 416-736-5936
> Email: ghunter at

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