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SSHRC Award Holders (Past and Present): looking for advice on grant extensions in the time of COVID // working full-time while on SSHRC


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Hi everyone. I am looking for some guidance re: SSHRC extensions in the time of COVID, particularly whether or not it would be okay to work 35 hrs/wk at my dream job while also having accepted the single term extension that was recently announced. Please try to reserve judgment. 

For context: I was fortunate enough to win a 36-month SSHRC CGS-D in September 2017. It was set to expire August 2020, but I and many others with that deadline are getting a one-term extension due to COVID-related research disruptions. Basically, those of us whose grants were supposed to expire anytime between March and August 2020 will be getting one additional instalment of funding in September. What a relief, right?!

Anyway, I recently interviewed for my dream job with a nonprofit that does really meaningful work, and I was wondering if you all had any idea how this might affect my eligibility for the SSHRC extension. If I do get the job, I would still work to complete my PhD in my off time. I am mostly in the writing stage, with just a bit more archival data to collect once the archives have reopened. Plus, with my ADHD and severe back problems (thanks, grad school!), I really don't have it in me to be writing more than 15 - 20 hours per week anyway. I know the expectation is that SSHRC award holders be working on their research full time, but at this point in my degree I am so burnt out that there's no way I would be able to do that, with or without my dream job. (I will always be jealous of those who did not have to sacrifice their mental health for the PhD.) The SSHRC website indicates that working while holding the CGS-D is fine, as long as you can still be doing your research "full time." Honestly though, of the many SSHRC award holders I know personally, only one has the stamina to be researching on what is truly a full-time schedule. Plus, with him being in second year, this could very well change. It seems that most of us with SSHRC are kind of flouting the rules, and I have yet to learn of anyone getting into trouble for this. I know it is also a rule at my institution, though I can't find anything specific online. That said, I am curious to know if you've ever heard of a SSHRC award holder having to pay the money back for employment-related or similar reasons. I am trying to find out if there would be any major risk in my accepting the final instalment in September if I do get this job.

I understand that my inquiry may come off as selfish, but I really could use the money to pay off my student loans. It's not like the nonprofit job is going to be paying the big bucks, but it is exactly the kind of job I would hope to get post-PhD so I would have been silly not to apply. Plus, the money has already been allocated for COVID-related extensions. It was part of the federal government's ~$19 million COVID support package for grad students, so I doubt it could later go to a new applicant with an even greater need.

Alternatively, I could put in a request for a one-year "Interruption of Award," with the plan to re-enrol if the job doesn't work out after a year and I want to go back to school full time. I just feel like this request would probably be denied, since I would essentially be requesting an extension on an extension that's being given solely because of the very unique circumstances we are in now. The government is far less likely to agree to provide such financial support 12 months down the road, even if the economic impacts of COVID will be felt for years to come. Of course, I haven't been able to find anything about this possible option on the SSHRC website. I also hesitate to ask my department's administrator just yet for fear of being flagged as a potential rule breaker. If I'm going to try to get away with accepting the additional instalment of funding, it's probably best to feign ignorance. Again, I know this probably sounds shady as hell, but as someone who has lived in economic precarity for so long, it kills me to think about declining an $11k instalment that could literally change my life by finally getting me out of debt. Or worse, declining the instalment and later being fired/laid off from the nonprofit job, with no funding to fall back on were I to go back to school full time. 

What would you do if you were me? Again, please try to be kind in your replies. In all likelihood I won't get the job and this inquiry will be moot. Or, if I do get the job, my conscience will get the best of me and I will end up declining the extension. I just want to know if there would be any way for me to take advantage of the additional support, either in September 2020 or later down the line. 

Thanks so much!

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To me this seems more like an ethical concern rather one of the 'rules' per se. If I were you? I wouldn't take the SSHRC on the basis that I was taking funding that is given to individuals for the purposes of advancing their research and the opportunity to devote all their time and efforts to those pursuits. I personally don't think it's ethical to take funds - much less publicly funded ones - that are designed to support research when I am working full-time and merely finishing my PhD requirements. That's not to mention that you intend to use these funds to cover your own personal debts, which seems even more antithetical to what they are meant for.

But evidently I am not you. 

Edited by polsciguy88
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  • 2 weeks later...
On 7/18/2020 at 1:19 PM, polsciguy88 said:

To me this seems more like an ethical concern rather one of the 'rules' per se. If I were you? I wouldn't take the SSHRC on the basis that I was taking funding that is given to individuals for the purposes of advancing their research and the opportunity to devote all their time and efforts to those pursuits. I personally don't think it's ethical to take funds - much less publicly funded ones - that are designed to support research when I am working full-time and merely finishing my PhD requirements. That's not to mention that you intend to use these funds to cover your own personal debts, which seems even more antithetical to what they are meant for.

But evidently I am not you. 

Goodness this is harsh. The SSHRC award requirements are much less stringent than your ethics

If I were the OP, I'd take the funds. It isn't a tax issue and the person is not breaking the tri-agency rules. I know this from personal experience. 

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Go ahead and take the funds OP.

The only time I'd advise not doing so is if you don't plan to defend. But assuming you do plan to defend and graduate, at some point in the future, you should take the money.

I don't think it matters what you intend to do with the money. I view fellowship funding transactionally - you're paid it with the expectation that you put in the work it's buying (e.g., defending the PhD thesis). Who cares how you spend it? Who cares if your timeframe is 7 years instead of 5, and those last 2 years you work full time? That's your business alone.

Canada's grad education system is wildly exploitative. The fact we have to pay tuition at all, but especially in upper years once we're out of classes, is ludicrous! Not to mention the poor funding - IMO every single grad student should have funding comparable to a CGS, or at least a SSHRC.

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