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This Week in Research – NSERC Leader Report

Report on the activities of the NSERC leader at Laurentian University for the 2016/17 NSERC funding cycle

NSERC Leader Report
Dr. Thomas Merritt, Laurentian University Tri-Council NSERC Leader

Report on the activities of the NSERC leader at Laurentian University for the 2016/17 NSERC funding cycle.
NSERC Discovery Grant Program

1) NSERC Discovery Grant application process discussion. On July 25th, The NSERC Leader and Dr. Sean Parsons (Research Activities Manager, Office of Research Services) co-led a one-hour discussion on how to submit and NOI for a Discovery Grant (DG). Topics covered included the importance of the NOI to direct your application to the proper evaluation panel, as well as making sure that it is gets sent to the proper external reviewers. They also reviewed the overall process for applying to a DG, including internal and external deadlines, the intent of the DG Program, and eligibility requirements. Afterwards, there was a question and answer session. The session was well-received and provided valuable information to participants. This session is planned again for the 2017-18 application cycle.

2) Peer and Mentor-based peer review. Throughout the summer, the ORS and the NSERC leader, in collaboration with Dr. James Watterson, coordinated a process of internal peer review of grant applications. Of the 24 applicants to the fall 2016 DG competition, six participated in the peer review, which included an additional six “mentors” who were not applying to the fall competition.  Feedback on the mentoring process was generally positive feedback and program will be run again in the 2017-18 application cycle. Responding in part to constructive comments, review in this cycle will focus on getting more senior applicants to participate, and a peer-to-peer model, in addition to a mentor-peer model.

3) External speaker series. Over the course of the fall, and leading up to the DG application deadline, the ORS and NSERC leader hosted a series of three speakers with DG grant review experience.  Each panellist was currently, or had previously been, a review panellist or Session Chair for NSERC Discovery Grants. On September 23rd, 2016, we were pleased to host Dr. Brian Branfireun, from the University of Western Ontario, who has been a previous member of the Geosciences panel at NSERC. Dr. Branfireun spoke to Laurentian faculty about the Discovery Grant application and review process, and provided a very structured and detailed overview of how decisions are made when it comes to funding grants. Dr. Brian Ingalls, from the University of Waterloo, visited on September 30th, 2016. Dr. Ingalls had just finished a three-year mandate reviewing for the Genes, Cells, and Molecules panel. Finally, Dr. Chris Pim, from the University of Western Ontario, visited Laurentian on October 7th, 2016, where he engaged in a more in depth conversation with attendees, and was able to answer specific questions about how to properly format a Discovery Grant application in order to maximize the chances of success. Dr. Pim had reviewed for the Genes, Cell, and Molecules Panel and had served as a Session Chair for that panel.

Throughout all three of these strategy sessions, Laurentian faculty were given the opportunity to engage with actual review panel members, an opportunity that is not afforded to most people who apply to the competition. All three speakers shared critical advice on what to include or exclude in an application in order to improve the chances of success, how to make sure your grant application lands at the proper review panel, and also fielded specific questions from the Laurentian faculty who were in attendance. All sessions were chaired by the NSERC leader. Attendance to these three sessions was limited, but attendees were enthusiastic and engaged. All three speakers were able to share myriad advice, tips and tricks for increased success in the Discovery Grant program, garnered through their experience as reviewers. We plan to run this session again, however we will move to having only one external speaker instead of three. 

4) 11th Hour Workshop. For the second year in a row, the NSERC leader, with the help of the
ORS provided an informal “11th hour” advice and question and answer session. There were many questions asked by participants, and answers and advice were provided by the NSERC leader, and also members of the ORS where appropriate. At this session, copies of a “NSERC Dos and Don’ts” document were also made available. For the second year in a row, this session was well attended, and all participants seemed grateful for one last chance to clear up and questions they had prior to submitting their application. This session will be run again this year.

Broad-based Outreach in Fundamental Science
1) Panel Discussion of issues for Aboriginal Peoples around STEM
A pair of panel discussions were organized by group of faculty concerned with diversity in research and sponsored by the NSERC Leader. The panel included Dr.s Sheila Cote-Meek, Joel Dickinson, Tammy Egger, and Ann Pegoraro and the NSERC Leader.

Maamwazing Conference
The Maamwazing Conference included a panel discussion on issues in Science Technology Engineering and Math facing Indigenous and Aboriginal Peoples. The Panel was moderated by Shelly Moore-Frappier, the Director of the Laurentian University Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre, and included Gregory Cajete, Dr. Eldon Yellowhorn, Lorraine Giroux, and Dr Pascale Roy-Leveillée.

Laurentian University Research Week
The Laurentian University Research Week included a panel discussion similar to the Maamwazing discussion, open to the entire university community and the community of Greater Sudbury. The Panel was again moderated by Shelly Moore-Frappier, the Director of the Laurentian University Indigenous Sharing and Learning Centre, and included LU’s Rose McConville, and Dr. Pascale Roy-Leveillée, Dr. Jennifer Walker, and Dr. Patrick Stewart.

2) ICEBATS Science Art Show
The NSERC leader hosted a Science Art (SciArt) show, ICEBATS, as part of the LU Research week. This was the fourth year of the show and the first year that the LU Graduate School had dedicated a Graduate Teaching Assistant to the project. The GTA went in to local high schools and worked with the students on their projects and presentation. The ICEBATS committee consisted of Dr. David Lesbarreres, Dr. Jan Buley, Dr. David Buley, Dr. Chantal Barriault, and the NSERC Leader. R.L. Beattie Primary School, Sudbury Secondary School, Lo-Ellen Secondary School, and St Benedict High School participated in the show.

3) Science Odyssey DNA Isolation Event
The NSERC Leader partnered with the RL Beattie Grade 3 to 6 Science Teacher to set a Guinness Book World Record for the most people isolating DNA at one time. The event included 341 students, from senior kindergarten through sixth grade, and over 60 volunteers from the community. The event was formally registered with Guinness Book and was a part of the NSERC national science outreach event Science Odyssey. Both the CBC and Sudbury.com and Northern Life covered the event.