Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How hard is it to get a NSERC postdoc these days?

...These early training opportunities give rise to skills that are needed to undertake our toughest scientific and social challenges. Given this clear value proposition, the case for far more financial support for our graduate students, from our research-granting councils and provincial sources, seems pretty clear-cut. 
Back when I was a graduate student, scholarship support was relatively abundant, and the top 25 per cent of students could count on being awarded a scholarship to undertake a postgraduate degree. The current situation is much worse, and the time is right to reverse the trend. 
Just a few years ago, only one graduate from our outstanding chemistry doctoral program was able to secure a postdoctoral scholarship. That support from our granting council helped them secure a faculty position at the University of Ottawa, after completing studies at MIT. While financing for scholarships has improved marginally in the past couple of years, the success rate and funds available are not nearly enough.
I've heard rumors that it's very hard for current graduate students in Canada to get a NSERC postdoctoral fellowship. Readers, is this true? 


  1. Most recent success rate was 34% (199 from 594 applications). Applicants may only apply once. This decreases the pool size. In 2011, when applicants could apply twice, the success rate was 9% (133/1431). Chemistry rates are similar to these averages.


  2. Thanks for the data, kind anon. A big problem with the one-shot approach is that it encourages second postdocs, while disadvantaging fresh grads who have fewer papers to their name.

  3. My application for a chemistry PDF was unsuccessful in 2017. However, I received a percentile ranking that was significantly higher than the cutoff listed in the stats by Anon 8:50. I therefore suspect the success rates vary strongly by field.

  4. Well, if you did your PhD in the States and plan on doing your postdoc outside the borders of the frozen wastes as well, then your success rate is guaranteed to be 0% according to eligibility rules. I think they are worried that if you are away for longer than five years, you will stop missing the snow (or rain if in BC). It is a legitimate worry I suppose, although not a perfect experiment since you might breed resentment against ever coming back and I did suggest an extremely small cohort study to see if it holds up, but it got rejected by the human experiment review board. It does save a lot of time on the application though.