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Show me the money: smart leveraging leads to research funding success

By Rebecca Cohoe | July 26, 2012
It can be tempting for researchers to apply for the grants with the biggest payoff; however, according to Memorial researchers Dr. Charles Mather, head, Department of Geography, and Dr. Barb Neis, a University Research Professor in the Department of Sociology, sometimes taking things one step at a time is a better long-term plan.

The pair has received a coveted Insight Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) to complete a long-term, interdisciplinary study into Canada's Northern shrimp industry. Interestingly, both believe that their participation in other, smaller, funding programs contributed to their successful application.

"The tendency is to think that if you're doing research you should just apply to the councils, but, in fact, in a new area, it's good to do the background research, and build going forward," explained Dr. Neis. "There were three levels of funding that eventually led to our Insight Grant."

First, the Community University Research and Recovery Alliance (CURRA) (www.curra.ca) provided funds to hire a student researcher and a Conservation Corps intern. From there, Drs. Neis and Mather applied to the Harris Centre Applied Research Fund, an annual competition that provides up to $15,000 per research project. Their project assessing the economic development potential of various shrimp industry models was approved, and as a result, they were able to approach the Canadian Capture Fisheries Research Network (CCFRN) to provide the funds needed to hire a postdoctoral fellow, Dr. Paul Foley.

"CCFRN really only had funds for a fellowship, not field research, so the Harris Centre funding was able to close that gap," said Dr. Neis. "Together the funds were able to cover a much broader range of activity than one or the other."

"The previous projects were smaller-sized elements of the bigger question we wanted to address: 'How do we understand this province's fishery, post-cod?'" explained Dr. Mather.

With the preparatory projects under their belts, a group of committed community partners and the validation of the previous funding organizations, the final application to SSHRC fell together quite naturally.

"When the SSHRC reviewers responded to our application, they said that it looked like we had already gotten a lot of the work done . . . the project was likely to be successful," said Dr. Mather. "I think it's a question of impact. SSHRC is under pressure to show that social science research is having an impact."

For more information about Harris Centre funding opportunities, please visit www.mun.ca/harriscentre.

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