The Predator Pit Challenge was a training workshop for students and post-docs in the Canadian Fisheries Research Network (CFRN) to build practical skills in proposal writing and development. Funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), this innovative, student-led workshop was held in conjunction with our 4th Annual General Meeting in 2014.

Roundtable discussion with workshop participants. (photo: Susan Thompson)

Inspired by the television show Dragon’s Den, the idea for the Predator Pit Challenge grew out of a student workshop in 2013 during which training needs were discussed. At the time, students identified that they lacked experience in proposal development, a skill they felt would be important to their future careers. 

On the day of the Predator Pit Challenge, teams of students from across the Network gathered to pitch research proposals that they had developed, based on ideas solicited from CFRN members, to a panel of judges drawn from the fishing industry, academia and government. The proposal topics consisted of real-world problems in fisheries for which solutions required creative thinking, collaboration across scientific disciplines, and cooperation between scientists, fishers and managers. The judges then grilled the students on their proposals and provided them with constructive feedback.  The judges’ comments covered scientific aspects, context, relevance, grantsmanship, and oral presentation skills. 

Students get feedback on their proposal from the judges’ panel (“The Predators”).             (photo: Susan Thompson)


All participants – organizers, students, judges, and invited contributors – learned a great deal from the workshop. The skills gained were applicable whether applying for an academic grant or bidding on a proposal as a contractor or consultant. The proposals that were developed have the potential to form the basis for actual proposals in the future. Those interested in pursuing funding for their proposed research were encouraged to do so with the support of the Network through mentorship and guidance, access to contacts, and a formal letter of support if needed. The NSERC manager in attendance stated that this type of event should become a best practice for other strategic networks or similar groups.  

To read the full report of the Predator Pit Challenge, click here.