Survey Results: Impacts of the lockout on research activities

About a week ago, we sent a survey to ULFA members that focused on the impact of the Board of Governors’ lockout on research activities. We received responses from 135 members and we are planning a series of blog posts and infographics unpacking the key messages discussed below. 

  1. Before the lockout, 33% of respondents were planning to submit grant applications this winter/spring for a total value of ~$20 million. 
  2. The estimated value of grants that will not be submitted due to the lockout is ~$9.3 million. These applications included ~250 positions for trainees (e.g., GAs, postdocs, etc.) at the UofL and other institutions.
  3. We made 2 scenarios to estimate the value of grants and trainee positions actually lost based on the assumption of a 15% success rate (typical of Tri-Council applications). Based on our scenarios, the lockout will result in losses in research funding ranging from $1,396,575 to $4,655,250 as well as in 37.5 to 125 trainee positions lost at the University of Lethbridge and other institutions. 
  4. 28% of members were planning to host and/or organize a research event that has been affected by the lockout. Many of these events would have involved students, diverse end users, and faculty members from the UofL and other institutions. Many events were related to disadvantaged groups in society (e.g., Indigenous people, Black people, etc.)
  5. 42% of members were planning to attend a research event that has been affected by the lockout. 
  6. The lockout has affected our members’ research activities in many other ways. Many members expressed the view that the lockout may cause long-term damage to the reputation of the UofL.

Today, we will focus on the impact of the lockout on grant applications (the first three points in the above list). We had the idea to conduct this survey after ULFA members expressed their concerns about whether the Office of Research and Innovation Services (ORIS) would submit grant applications to funders that require institutional review (e.g., CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC). 

As you probably know, ULFA is not requesting that members strike against research and other non-service or teaching duties. In its FAQ (, the Board of Governors indicates, “The labour dispute means you will not continue with any of your job responsibilities, thus support for these activities is not provided. The ORIS team will continue to submit on external funding applications already in process, but cannot provide guidance or input on other applications. Applications requiring university input (such as matching funds or infrastructure requirements) will have to be delayed.”

Our short survey aimed to evaluate the amount of research funding and trainee positions that may be compromised by the lockout. First, we asked respondents to indicate the value of grants that they were planning to submit this winter/spring, before job action began. As shown on this diagram below, a third of members planned to submit grant applications for a total value of $20,187,220. 

Next, we tallied the value of grant applications that members have decided not to submit due to the lockout. Overall, 23 members indicated that they will not submit at least one application that they were working on, for a total value of $9,310,500. Members reported that their budget included funds to hire about 250 trainees (graduate assistants, postdoctoral fellows, etc.) at the UofL and other institutions.

Assumptions: We inevitably had to make some assumptions to arrive at our estimates. We converted funds reported in US dollars to Canadian dollars based on the Bank of Canada Currency Converter. For the estimation of the value of grants and the number of trainees, we used the midpoint value when survey respondents provided a range (e.g., $40,000 to 60,000). If the midpoint was not a whole number (e.g., a range of 1-2 trainees), we rounded down to the nearest whole number. If the respondent mentioned “at least X”, we used X. Therefore, our assumptions are fairly conservative.

Modeling of lost funding and trainee positions

Scenario 1. We assumed that 15% of grant applications dropped would be funded, which is a common success rate for Tri-Council applications.

Research funding = 0.15 * $9,310,500.00 = $1,396,575 lost

Trainees = 0.15 * 250 = 37.5 trainee positions lost

Scenario 2. We assumed again that 15% of grant applications dropped are funded, but generalized our results to the ULFA membership, assuming that about 30% of ULFA members who are active in research completed the survey.

Research funding = $1,396,575 / 0.3 = $4,655,250 lost

Students and PDFs = 37.5 / 0.3 = 125 trainee positions lost

Our simple modeling suggests that the lockout will result in losses in research funding ranging from $1,396,575 to $4,655,250 as well as in 37.5 to 125 trainee positions lost at the UofL and other institutions. 

Caveats: On one hand, it can be argued that members more involved in research were more likely to take part in the survey (selection bias). However, this source of bias was minimized by using conservative assumptions for our estimation of trainee positions lost and by using a low success rate for grant applications (~15% whereas the actual success rate is likely higher with non-Tri-Council funders).
Conclusion: At the end of the day, it is clear that many grants and opportunities for students to gain meaningful research experience and engage in “work-integrated learning” – an important priority for the university and the provincial government – will be lost due to the lockout. Moreover, because a track record of successful grant applications may increase the likelihood of success in future applications, the long-term losses in university-wide research capacity may be larger than estimated.