PhD Students' Excellence Scholarships and Their Relationship with Research Productivity, Scientific Impact, and Degree Completion

By Larivière, Vincent | The Canadian Journal of Higher Education, June 1, 2013 | Go to article overview

PhD Students' Excellence Scholarships and Their Relationship with Research Productivity, Scientific Impact, and Degree Completion


Larivière, Vincent, The Canadian Journal of Higher Education


Abstract

This paper examines the relationship between excellence scholarships and research productivity, scientific impact, and degree completion. Drawing on the entire population of doctoral students in the province of Québec, this paper analyzes three distinct sources of data: students, excellence scholarships, and scientific publications. It shows that funded students publish more papers than their unfunded colleagues, but that there is only a slight difference between funded and unfunded PhD students in terms of scientific impact. Funded students, especially those funded by the federal government, are also more likely to graduate. Finally, although funding is clearly linked to higher degree completion for students who did not publish, this is not true of those who managed to publish at least one paper during the course of their PhD. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implication of the findings for Canadian science policy.

Résumé

À partir de trois différentes sources de données relatives à l'ensemble de la population de doctorants du Québec (listes d'étudiants, de boursiers et d'articles savants), le présent article examine les liens qui existent entre les bourses d'excellence et la productivité en recherche, l'impact scientifique et l'obtention d'un diplôme. Il démontre que les étudiants financés publient davantage que ceux qui ne le sont pas, mais qu'il n'existe qu'une infime différence entre les deux groupes d'étudiants en termes d'impact scientifique. Par ailleurs, les étudiants financés sont plus susceptibles d'obtenir leur diplôme, et cette relation est encore plus forte si le financement provient du gouvernement fédéral. Enfin, bien que le financement soit clairement associé à un taux plus élevé d'obtention de diplôme chez les étudiants qui n'ont rien publié pendant leurs études doctorales, cette relation disparaît chez les étudiants qui ont publié au moins un article. Une discussion portant sur les conséquences des résultats obtenus sur la politique scientifique du Canada conclut le présent article.

Analysis of the relationship between researchers' funding and their research output has typically been performed on established researchers (Ali, Bhattacharyya & Olejniczak, 2010; Boyack & Börner, 2002; Campbell et al., 2010). However, they are not the only group of researchers receiving money for research: graduate students, either at the MA, MSc, or PhD level, account for a significant proportion of research funds in Canada. More specifically, in 2008--2009, about a third of federal research council research funding in the social sciences and humanities, 15% of their funding in the natural sciences and engineering, and 6% of the funding in the medical sciences went to fellowships and scholarships.1 Overall, more than C$300 million was granted by federal research councils in 2008--2009. At the provincial level, roughly 20% of all research funding goes to scholarships (CNCS-FEUQ, 2008).

Despite the magnitude of this funding and the importance of graduate programs to the scientific community, no study has yet analyzed the relationship between this funding and students' research productivity, scientific impact, and degree completion in Canada. This paper aims to provide such analysis for the entire population of PhD students enrolled in Québec universities during the 2000--2007 period. Three datasets are used: (a) all graduate students enrolled in a PhD program at a Québec university, (b) the list of "excellence" scholarships granted by the three federal research councils, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and the three provincial research councils, Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec (FRSQ), Fonds québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture (FQRSC), and Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT), and (c) Thomson Reuters' Web of Science bibliometric database of papers authored by Québec researchers. …

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