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Sometimes I think economists try too hard to figure things out logically and don't bother to ask people in the field why they do what they do, or don't do. This looks like such a situation to me. Why not ask the other fields why they chose the criteria they chose? You still might not get anywhere, but I suspect you won't be able to deduce it with pure logic and zero empiricism.

The short answer is that people lie. It's possible that not-entirely-noble considerations are at play here, and information about them will not be freely offered.

Thanks for the info - always interesting to hear about inner workings of secretive committees.

But then again, given your comment above, how do we know you're not lying?????

I have witnesses! Okay, their names aren't published yet on the SSHRC site, but they will be. Soon. Any day now.

An interesting paper by Lonnie Magee and Mike Veall on this subject:
http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=357220 or
ftp://repec.iza.org/RePEc/Discussionpaper/dp617.pdf
The fact that 40% (or some fixed percentage) of applications get accepted creates a strong "keynesian" multiplier process (fewer applications means fewer acceptances which means fewer applications next year etc.) which could seriously harm disciplines like Economics, where it is easier to judge the likelihood of success, or where there may be slightly greater opportunity costs of applying to SSHRC.

Draw a diagram, with "number of applications" on the vertical axis, and "number of acceptances" on the horizontal axis. SSHRC behaviour is represented by a ray from the origin with a slope of 1/0.40 (for a 40% acceptance rate). Applicants' behaviour is represented by an upward-sloping curve (more acceptances lead to more applications). Equilibrium (if it exists) is where the two curves intersect, just like the Keynesian Cross diagram from ECON 1000.

First, an interior equilibrium may not exist (or may not be stable). For example, if no economist will apply unless the chances are greater than 40%, the equilibrium has zero applications from economics.

Second, even if a stable equilibrium does exist, small shifts in the applicants' curve will cause large changes in the equilibrium (a multipler). So if economists are just a little bit less likely to apply than other disciplines, you get a large reduction in equilibrium applications and acceptances for economics. (If you look at the data, you see that economics gets a lot fewer SSHRCs than other "crap-shoot" or "low opportunity cost" disciplines.)

Something should be done!

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