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The Black Hole

Quick Hit: News about trainee stipends from grants

BY BETH | JUL 14 2011

A quick break from our summer series on the STIC report to bring you some news about rules around paying trainee stipends from CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC grants. From the CIHR e-newsletter I just received:

Tri-agencies harmonizing policies on stipends paid from grants
The three federal granting agencies — CIHR, NSERC, and SSHRC — are harmonizing their policies on support paid to students and postdoctoral fellows from research grants. Beginning September 15, 2011, the agencies’ existing regulations on minimum and maximum stipend levels paid from grants will no longer apply. The agencies will also no longer restrict researchers from using some of their grant money to provide supplements to scholarship holders. These changes respond to concerns expressed by institutions and researchers about the different approaches taken by the agencies.

The removal of tri-agency regulations will offer professors more financial flexibility to pay students and postdoctoral fellows at levels that reflect the variations in costs between departments and between regions. It should be noted that stipend levels will still be governed by applicable collective agreements and labour legislation. Also, many universities have established minimum support packages, varying by department, where stipend support can be assembled from teaching assistantships, research funds, university graduate scholarships, external scholarships, and bursaries.

I think this will be welcome news to many trainees!

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  1. Dave / July 16, 2011 at 13:12

    True enough from one respect Beth – but we do have to watch out to see if the lack of a minimum standard starts screwing some people over… If our readers have legitimate fears of this or hear stories, it would be great to be able to draw attention to them.

  2. science girl / July 21, 2011 at 03:53

    Hi, I just read this too, and wonder if you have any thoughts on this question:
    The CIHR masters award stipulates that if awardees can only hold additional grants from other sources up to 50% of the value of the award. As the masters award is $17,500, the total additional funding a student could hold would be $8,750, or a total of $26,250.
    So does this CIHR announcement mean that we can hold more than the 50%? I am very grateful and honoured to have been selected to receive one of these awards (VERY!!), but I also realized that I will have to turn down close to $10,000 if this is the case 🙁
    I worked really hard to apply for all of these grants, so this makes me very sad!! I was just wondering what your thoughts were on it.

  3. science girl / July 21, 2011 at 16:29

    Hi Dave,
    I think you are right here – trainee stipend top ups can only be used if the student is being paid out of another cihr grant. Don’t get me wrong, I am ecstatic to have the money that I do, but why is CIHR requiring students to turn down any outside funding sources…except CIHR money? It seems unfair as I am studying at a small university with little CIHR funding so no chance of receiving any CIHR stipend money from my supervisors. Because of the lack of stipends, I worked very hard to get the scholarships I have.
    I notice that SSHRC does not have any such restrictions…why don’t the tri-council agencies harmonize that policy too?

  4. Dave / July 21, 2011 at 13:05

    Hi science girl,
    If I’m correct on this one, the announcement only applies to students and trainees paid from grants. If you are the holder of a scholarship/fellowship it would likely have the same rules as it did prior to this announcement. You could always check with the CIHR to confirm/deny this.
    That being said, if I was being paid $26,250 to do a Masters degree, I would be quite satisfied as this is well beyond the amount that the vast majority of Canadian students would be getting. Many students work equally as hard and come up with much much less.
    PS: For those curious about the lack of a minimum, the Canadian Association of Postdoctoral Scholars is aware of the situation and will be preparing a response to the announcement, stay tuned!

  5. science girl / July 21, 2011 at 19:54

    Thanks for your comments, Dave and Beth. Dave, what is CAGS? Are you involved with CIHR?
    My university is very small and is only just becoming established in the research world. In fact I think I am only the 3rd student at my university to ever receive a CIHR masters award. Given the lack of experience with CIHR at my university I doubt that the GSS would have the capacity to do any advocating on my part. If either of you are involved with CIHR, it would be wonderful if you could point out to them how this policy seems to discriminate against less established, smaller universities.
    I just wondered why most other granting programs don’t have these restrictions…. so why does CIHR (but not SSHRC), and why does CIHR only allow students to hold additional CIHR money specifically, but not funding from other sources?
    I would be very interested in hearing what the answers to these questions are. I think you can appreciate it is a delicate matter that I find very difficult to discuss!

    • Dave / July 22, 2011 at 09:33

      CAGS is the Canadian Association for Graduate Students. Also, neither of us is formally involved with the CIHR brass.
      I actually think that you are in a pretty good situation to bring it up with CIHR though, and despite it being difficult to bring up, you are evidence of someone who is negatively affected by their policy and would be a very good person to write them and ask why they have such a preference for CIHR-funded supervisors to get this extra leverage to supplement students vs. those supervisors funded on other grants. I would consider writing them, copying your local grad student society and CAGS (and maybe the VP Research at your institution) to see how they respond.