Project Grant: Review process

Peer review process

Project Grant applications follow a single-stage committee-based peer review evaluation process.

During the registration process, applicants suggest up to two committees whose mandates most closely align with their research project. Applicants are encouraged to review the committee mandates before applying in order to correctly identify the best committee(s) for the review of their application. The final list of committees held for a given competition may differ from the list of committees available at the time of the registration.

The evaluation of applications is conducted by a group of reviewers who have (individually or collectively) the required experience and expertise to assess the quality, the potential impact of the proposed research and the research-related activities, within the context of the funding opportunity objectives.

These reviewers are grouped into Peer Review Committees based on their expertise and the topics of applications submitted to these committees.

Peer Review Committees (PRCs) are responsible for:

  • evaluating individual applications;
  • rating each application;
  • discussing applications at committee meeting;
  • recommending a budget and term to support the proposed research if the application is approved.

For a step-by-step walk through of the peer review process and for information about the roles and responsibilities of committee members, please consult the Peer Review Manual – Project. Applicants may wish to consult this document in order to better understand how reviewers will be instructed to evaluate their application(s).

Sex- and Gender-Based Analysis (SGBA) and Health Research

CIHR expects that all research applicants will include sex and gender into their research design, methods, analysis and interpretation, and/or dissemination of findings within their research proposal, where appropriate. Sex- and gender-based analysis (SGBA) is an approach that systematically examines sex-based (biological) and gender-based (socio-cultural) differences between men, women, boys, girls and gender-diverse people. The purpose of SGBA is to promote rigorous science that is sensitive to sex and gender and therefore has the potential to expand our understanding of health determinants for all people. The SGBA section of the CIHR website contains helpful resources for applicants and peer reviewers alike, providing CIHR's definitions for sex, gender and SGBA, as well as information on applying SGBA to the development and assessment of research proposals.

Indigenous Health Research

Applications that focus on carrying out ethical and culturally competent research involving Indigenous Peoples, with the intent to promote health through research that is in keeping with Indigenous values and traditions may be reviewed by the Indigenous Health Research (IHR) Committee. The IHR Committee may deem an application eligible for the Iterative Peer Review Process. The objective of the Iterative Peer Review Process is to allow applicants whose applications have been deemed excellent, the opportunity to provide minor clarifications that would see the application improve to become outstanding. For an application to be considered for review by the IHR committee specific requirements need to be met (please see funding opportunity).

Recruitment to Peer Review Committees (PRCs)

CIHR will extend invitations to members of the health research community to join specific Project Grant Peer Review Committees (PRCs), based on their area(s) of expertise. Reviewers will be recruited based on a set of selection criteria and in consultation with Committee Chairs and Scientific Officers. The Chairs also play a role in the selection of Scientific Officers.

Standing peer review committees have been established for the Project Grant competition. Committee core membership will be recruited for a specific term of service (typically 3 years, or 6 competitions). To maintain stability in membership, while providing a mechanism for membership renewal, a rotational system has been established for one third of the membership on a yearly basis. The membership may also be supplemented by additional members as required for a specific competition, based on the applications received and expertise needed for their review. These membership terms also address the benefits of renewing the membership so that new perspectives are continually incorporated into the peer review process.

Application assignments to PRCs

Applications are initially assigned to the applicant’s first choice committee. Based on information provided at registration, CIHR staff review the initial committee assignments; if the application pressure is too high in a particular committee, the committee will be split in consultation with the Committee Chair and Scientific Officers. Chairs and Scientific Officers are then asked to review the assignment of applications to their committee based on the committee mandate. Applications may be reassigned if they are more appropriate (or more closely aligned) to the mandate of another committee and can be better assessed by that committee. The assigned committee may not be their 1st or 2nd choice committee. The final authority for the assignment of applications to a peer review committee rests with CIHR.

Application assignments to reviewers

After confirming the assignment of applications to PRCs, applications are considered by the reviewers who identify any conflicts of interest that they may have and declare their ability to review the applications, in accordance with the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Policy of the Federal Research Funding Organizations.

The Committee Chair and Scientific Officers, along with CIHR staff, assign each application to three reviewers based on their declared level of expertise.

Peer review recruitment process

CIHR strives to ensure panel diversity and aims to recruit members along several criteria including:

  • representation from institutions of varying sizes and regions;
  • committee membership that ensures an appropriate review of applications submitted in both Official languages;
  • a balanced membership in terms of sex, where possible;
  • Members at different career stages, including early career researchers.

All committee members are expected to complete:

  • a training module on bias in peer review
  • a learning module on sex- and gender-based analysis in health research

Committee Chairs and Scientific Officers

Significant* Peer Review Experience

  • Previous experience as a grant program Committee Chair or Scientific Officer; or significant previous experience as a peer review committee member for a grant program; and
  • Past peer review performance met high standards (Chairs and Scientific Officers were engaged, followed appropriate policies, fulfilled their role well).

Independent Investigator status at a University or Research Institution.

Tri-council funding (or equivalent) has been held within the last 5 years.

*Significant experience includes participation in multiple review activities.

To meet the requirement of knowledge translation applications, a Committee Chair and the Scientific Officers may be recruited using a combination of the criteria above, as appropriate.

Peer Reviewers

Research Experience

  • Independent Investigator status at a University or Research Institution
  • At least one recent federally funded (or equivalent) peer reviewed grant as a Principal Investigator

Review Experience

  • At least two peer review roles at CIHR or other recognized organization

Knowledge, Expertise and Lived Experience

  • Expertise within CIHR’s mandate

Knowledge Users will be recruited using a combination of the criteria above, as appropriate. If you meet the reviewer criteria and wish to state your interest in becoming a reviewer in the upcoming competitions, or if you have any questions about the peer review process, please contact CIHR at: CIHRProjectGrantProgram-IRSCProgrammesubventionsProjet@cihr-irsc.gc.ca.

Learning for participants in Peer Review

All committee members are expected to complete the following learning modules:

*If your role does not require methodological expertise (e.g. knowledge user), we recommend you complete Assessing Sex and Gender Integration in Peer Review (5 min.)

Peer review committee membership lists

Peer Review committee membership lists for Project Grant competitions are posted online approximately 60 days after the competition funding decisions have been published on the CIHR website.

Date modified: