Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Project Grant competitions: What's new for these competitions?

August 11, 2020

The Fall 2020 Project Grant competition is now live. During our recent engagement with the community, we heard that during these unprecedented times stability is critical. Many important considerations were also raised regarding the Project Grant program during our extensive consultations around our new Strategic Plan. We will be working with the community to explore these opportunities in the future.

In the meantime, for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 competitions, CIHR has kept the key components of the program the same; however, there are a few changes that we want to bring to your attention. Some reflect the context of COVID-19, and all are designed to make the competition work better for all applicants and reviewers.

What’s new: At a glance

  • Timelines shifted for Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Project Grant competitions
  • Additional page to highlight COVID-19-related impacts
  • Expanded eligibility criteria to include Indigenous organizations
  • Updated instructions around attaching previous reviews

Firstly, we have shifted the timelines for the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Project Grant competitions. We made this decision to ensure that a gap continues to exist between when applicants receive their results from the Spring 2020 Project Grant competition and the registration and application deadlines for the Fall 2020 competition. The same will apply to the results of the Fall 2020 competition and the application deadline for the Spring 2021 competition. This gap will allow researchers to take stock of reviewers' comments if they choose to resubmit unsuccessful application(s) to the following competition.

We recognize that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted many people's work and personal lives. To that end, applicants to the Fall 2020 Project Grant competition will have the option of completing a COVID Impact Statement (one additional page in their application) to highlight how COVID-19 has affected their work (e.g., reduced productivity).

Applicants will be required to address within their research proposals any potential impact on the feasibility of research to be undertaken. CIHR will create guidelines for reviewers when considering the impacts and delays caused by COVID-19.

CIHR is committed to helping build a healthier future for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples. One way to do this is by increasing Indigenous health research capacity. Following consultations with representatives of Indigenous communities, and in the spirit of being more inclusive, CIHR has updated the eligibility criteria for the Project Grant competition. Starting with the Fall 2020 competition, individuals affiliated with Indigenous non-governmental organizations in Canada with a research or knowledge translation mandate will be eligible to apply to the Project Grant competition as Nominated Principal Applicants. Our Contact Centre staff will be standing by to help these applicants create a ResearchNet account, register for a CIHR PIN, and navigate the application process more generally, as required.

Related to the issue above, CIHR is aware that the Canadian Common CV (CCV) requirements are a barrier to application for some groups, including Indigenous Peoples, knowledge-users and international applicants. To address this issue, we have developed a new PDF CV template, based on the NIH Biosketch, that has been refined with input from various stakeholders including Indigenous community members and researchers. This template, referred to as the Applicant Profile CV, was piloted in several recently delivered and ongoing COVID-19 competitions. This pilot has allowed CIHR to gain valuable insights about the process and template. Our intent is to begin to implement the Applicant Profile CV more broadly for those in knowledge-user roles in 2021. If you have any questions or feedback about the Applicant Profile template, please share them with the CIHR Contact Centre.

Going forward, applicants who choose to respond to previous reviewer comments will be required to include all of the reviews they received on their previous application—not just those to which they have responded, as has previously been the case. CIHR made this decision following the feedback we received from peer reviewers who participated in the Fall 2019 Project Grant competition. We have updated instructions to applicants to reflect this change.

Beyond these modifications, CIHR will be seeking advice and input about how to best respond to the needs of early career researchers (ECRs) who have been impacted by the pandemic. As we are all aware, the pandemic has served to highlight a number of critical issues of equity within our research ecosystem. One challenge that continues to be highlighted within the literature and through our discussions more broadly is the significant impact that the cessation of research is having upon ECRs and the need for us to temporarily “pause the clock” for these individuals. We share these concerns, while also recognizing that the impact of the pandemic is being felt across all aspects of the academic research enterprise. CIHR will be reaching out over the next several weeks to many of our academic partners and others to more fully understand how measures to support ECRs in the upcoming Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 Project competitions will impact them. We expect to complete this consultation quickly and commit to providing details on our approach by August 31, 2020.

Finally, we would like to thank all of our colleagues who have contributed to the unprecedented delivery of granting programs over the last several months, and who are deeply involved in delivering our current competitions. The changes that are described above reflect our commitment to listen carefully to your feedback and to be prepared to make adjustments based on a very fluid research funding environment and on evolving best practices. Together we are strengthening the Canadian health research ecosystem during these challenging times.


If you have any questions about these changes, please do not hesitate to reach out to CIHR's Contact Centre at support-soutien@cihr-irsc.gc.ca or 1-888-603-4178.

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