Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Application Administration Guide

Summary of Changes (effective date November 15, 2019)

Table of Contents

  • Part 1: About the Guide

    1.1 Introduction

    As the Government of Canada's health research funding agency, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is committed to funding excellence across all aspects of health, in accordance with the CIHR Act and Government of Canada legislation, policies and requirements. Integral to this commitment is the assurance that the underlying administrative requirements, practices and processes that pertain to funding applications are transparent, consistent, effective and efficient. To this end, the CIHR Application Administration Guide (the Guide) serves as an important resource for applicants and administering institutions to ensure understanding of the applicable roles and responsibilities and overarching requirements that govern the administration of CIHR funding applications.

    1.2 Effective Date and Review

    This Guide takes effect on (November 15, 2019).

    CIHR may review and amend this Guide from time to time, as deemed necessary.

    Refer to the Summary of Changes section for recent amendments to this Guide.

    1.3 Scope and Applicability

    The Guide is applicable to applications submitted in response to CIHR funding opportunities. It does not apply to the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships Program; Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships Program; Canada Graduate Scholarships-Master's Program; Canada Graduate Scholarships – Michael Smith Foreign Study Supplements Program.

    This Guide must be read in conjunction with the funding opportunity, for information regarding the funding objectives, funds available, critical dates, assessment criteria, specific eligibility rules and how-to-apply instructions.

    For requirements pertaining to administration of funded grants and awards and the use of funds, refer to the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide and the Tri-Agency Research Training Award Holder's Guide, as applicable.

    For information regarding International and global health; Knowledge translation; Sex, Gender and Health Research, refer to the Collaboration section on the CIHR website.

    1.4 Order of Precedence

    Additional restrictions prescribed in the funding opportunity take precedence over this Guide.

    1.5 Compliance and Consequences

    Applicants should refer to, and must comply with, the latest version of this Guide. Compliance with the applicable responsibilities and requirements set out in this Guide is a condition to apply for, hold, and/or administer CIHR funds. Actions to be taken in response to a confirmed breach of agency requirements will be determined on a case-by-case basis and will be commensurate with the severity of the breach.

    For information on how CIHR addresses allegations with respect to a breach of requirements, refer to the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research.

  • Part 2: General Requirements for CIHR Grants and Awards Applications

    CIHR's application process relies on collaboration and a common understanding between CIHR, the applicants and their administering institution (if applicable) of their respective roles and responsibilities. To strengthen understanding, CIHR has established broadly applicable requirements and high-level, role-specific responsibilities that pertain to applying for funding, with the aim of supporting the integrity of the application process and the funding of excellence.

    2.1 General Requirements

    In order for a funding application to be accepted by CIHR, it must meet the following requirements:

    1. align with CIHR's mandate;
    2. be complete with respect to the submission requirements outlined in the applicable funding opportunity;
    3. meet the applicant eligibility criteria and have obtained all necessary consent and approvals, as prescribed in this Guide and the funding opportunity;
    4. not already be funded by CIHR, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) or Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC);
    5. not include applicants or collaborators who:
      • have been deemed ineligible to apply for Tri-agency funding for reasons of breach of standards of ethics or integrity (including financial or scientific misconduct);
      • are subject to conflict of interest requirements that prohibit them from applying;
      • have outstanding amounts owing to CIHR.

    2.2 Role-Specific Responsibilities

    2.2.1 Responsibilities of CIHR
    1. Establish and implement requirements, practices and processes that:
      • facilitate transparent and equitable treatment of funding applications;
      • reduce undue administrative burden on peer review;
      • allow some flexibility to mitigate unforeseen and uncontrollable circumstances, when appropriate;
      • ensure CIHR fulfills its obligations in respect of applicable government of Canada legislation, policies and regulations.
    2.2.2 Responsibilities of Administering Institutions (where applicable)
    1. Approve the submission of funding applications under their purview, thereby affirming endorsement of the application, as follows:
      • the nominated principal applicant as meeting the eligibility criteria, as set out in the funding opportunity;
      • the research/activities proposed in the application and agreement to provide adequate physical and organizational infrastructure for conducting the proposed research/activities, should the application be approved for funding.
    2. Inform CIHR immediately should they withdraw their endorsement of the application during the course of the funding competition.

    Note: Training Awards only – The statements outlined above in section 2.2.2 are also applicable to the institution where the research will be conducted, if different from the administering institution.

    2.2.3 Responsibilities of Nominated Principal Applicants (or role equivalent)
    1. Coordinate the financial and administrative aspects of the application, as set out in the funding opportunity and this Guide, thereby affirming that the application meets the general requirements stated in section 2.1.
    2. Lead the intellectual direction of the proposed research/activities.
    3. Ensure compliance with CIHR’s general conditions of funding where relevant to their research, for the tenure of the grant/award. Refer to the applicable document for more information: General Conditions of Funding: CIHR Grants; General Conditions of Funding: CIHR Awards.
    4. Receive all related correspondence from CIHR.
    2.2.4 Responsibilities of All Applicants, including the Nominated Principal Applicant, and Collaborators
    1. Ensure compliance with CIHR's ethics and integrity regulations and standards, thereby affirming:

    2.3 Intellectual Property and Patents

    • CIHR does not pass judgement on the eventual commercial success of research, nor does it retain or claim any ownership of, or exploitation or proprietary rights to intellectual property, copyright or inventions developed/resulting from research supported with agency grant funds.
    • The onus is on the Nominated Principal Applicant (or the Institution or both, depending on the Institution's policy on ownership of Intellectual Property) to seek patent protection, in collaboration with the partner where applicable, for inventions or developments arising from CIHR-supported research.
    • Administering institutions are required to disclose to grant recipients their policy on intellectual property rights and ownership arising from supported research.
    • Grant recipients that decide to pursue commercialization of any results of the research are required to adhere to institutional and agency policies governing the assignment of intellectual property.
  • Part 3: CIHR Applicant Eligibility

    The following details the general eligibility requirements for standard applicant roles for CIHR funding opportunities.

    Important Note: The funding opportunity may further restrict eligibility and outline additional requirements to align with specific program objectives.

    For the eligibility requirements to administer funds, refer to Part 4 Administration of CIHR Grants and Awards Funds.

    3.1 Nominated Principal Applicant

    Certain categories of individuals and organizations are eligible to apply for CIHR grants and awards. Eligible individuals include but are not limited to researchers, knowledge users, scholars, health professionals, undergraduates, graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. Among eligible organizations that CIHR may fund are non-governmental organizations with a research or knowledge translation mandate. Specifics regarding eligible applicants for a given competition will be specified in the funding opportunity.

    Additional Requirements for Grant Programs Only:

    • Individuals in the nominated principal applicant role must be affiliated with a Canadian postsecondary institution and/or their affiliated institutions; individuals working with municipal, provincial and territorial governments are also eligible where the research proposed is not already funded by that government sector. In addition, they must have their substantive role in Canada for the duration of the requested grant term.
    • Appointments/positions that can be renewed prior to the end of the requested grant term are eligible at the discretion of the administering institution.
    • Federal government employees are subject to the Tri-agency policy on the use of funds for federal government employees applying to granting agency programs.

    For more information, refer to:

    3.2 Principal Applicant (grant programs only)

    The principal applicant role is open to individuals who have the skills, knowledge, and resources necessary to lead the direction of the proposed research/activities. This responsibility is shared equally among all principal applicants on the grant.

    Their qualifications for leading the proposed research/activities are subject to peer review evaluation accordingly.

    Individuals in the principal applicant role may not be a trainee or be in a subordinate position (i.e. directed or supervised by another), with respect to the subject matter of the proposed research/activities.

    3.3 Co-Applicant (grant programs only)

    Individuals expected to actively participate in but not direct the proposed grant activities may be named in the role of co-applicant, at the discretion of the nominated principal applicant and other principal applicants. This may include graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and research associates.

    A co-applicant’s participation may span the full duration of the grant or may only be required for a portion of the funding period. Such individuals are officially recognized as part of the applicant team and will be named on the funding decision documents.

    3.4 Collaborator (grant programs only)

    Individuals who provide a specific service to support the proposed grant activities (e.g. access to equipment, provision of specific reagents, training in a specialized technique, statistical analysis, access to a patient population, etc.) may be named in the role of collaborator, at the discretion of the nominated principal applicant and other principal applicants.

    A collaborator’s participation may span the full duration of the grant or may only be required for a portion of the funding period. Such individuals are not officially recognized as part of the applicant team and, as such, they will not be named on funding decision documents.

    3.5 Supervisor (training awards only)

    Individuals, who assume the role of mentoring the nominated principal applicant and supervising the proposed research training, may be named in the supervisor role, on the application. When there is more than one supervisor, only one can be designated as the primary supervisor.

    Individuals in the supervisor role must hold an independent research appointment with a status that permits the supervision of trainees (Masters, PhD, Postdoc) in an area of investigation related to the proposed research training.

    3.6 Compensation Eligibility (grant programs only)

    As per the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration, any individual, including those participating on the applicant team (e.g., principal applicant, co-applicant), may be compensated from grant funds, provided they do not conduct research independently as part of the terms and conditions of their employment or they are not themselves the recipient of an agency grant (i.e., the Nominated Principal Applicant or equivalent). Consult the relevant funding opportunity for program specific requirements and allowable cost restrictions that may apply.

  • Part 4: Administration of CIHR Grants and Awards Funds

    The following details the requirements for an institution or organization to administer CIHR grant and award funds on behalf of the nominated principal applicant, as well as the conditions under which CIHR issues funds directly to the nominated principal applicant, in support of upholding accountability for the appropriate stewardship of public funds.

    For more information about CIHR's payment practices, refer to the Guidelines on CIHR Payment Practices for Grants and Awards.

    4.1 Requirements for Institutions or Organizations

    It is important to note that eligibility to administer funding is distinct from funding opportunity eligibility. While a nominated principal applicant may satisfy the eligibility requirements for a given funding opportunity, their institution or organization may not necessarily meet institutional eligibility requirements to administer the funds.

    In most circumstances, CIHR grants and awards are paid to CIHR-eligible institutions, through a CIHR account, from which the nominated principal applicant draws funds. The requirements for CIHR-eligible institutions are detailed in the Institutional Eligibility Requirements for the Administration of Grants and Awards. A high-level summary is provided below:

    1. be a financially viable Canadian institution/organization;
    2. have a health research or knowledge translation mandate that can be substantiated;
    3. have effective policies, administrative systems, procedures, and controls in place to ensure the funds are used appropriately and that the activities supported are conducted  in accordance with the highest ethical and financial standards;
    4. sign the Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions.

    Institutions and organizations that cannot fully comply with these requirements are not deemed eligible to administer the funds through a CIHR account, but may still be permitted to administer the funds under special terms and conditions, as determined by CIHR, following an eligibility review.

    4.2 Institutional Eligibility Review

    CIHR will only release grant and award funds to an institution or organization following an eligibility review, as outlined in the Institutional Eligibility Requirements for the Administration of Grants and Awards.

    This may require the institution or organization to sign a one-time administration of funds agreement with CIHR, or through a specific accountability instrument.

    Note: Some funding opportunities may require the “Institution Paid” on the funding application to be authorized to administer CIHR funds by the application deadline.

    Institutions or organizations seeking to become authorized to administer CIHR funds are encouraged to contact the Contact Centre in advance of submitting a funding application, to ensure their understanding of the eligibility review process and timelines.

    4.3 Conditions for Direct Payments to Nominated Principal Applicants

    Under limited circumstances, CIHR may consider paying the funds directly to the nominated principal applicant.

  • Part 5: Administrative Management of CIHR Applications

    The following details the general administrative requirements and conditions that enable effective and efficient management of CIHR funding competitions and the equitable treatment of applications.

    5.1 Relevance to CIHR's Mandate

    An application may not be recommended for funding if CIHR determines the subject matter of the proposal to be more appropriately reviewed by one of the other federal funding agencies (i.e. NSERC or SSHRC). In such cases, the applicant may be required to prepare a new application to the appropriate agency.

    CIHR recognizes that some areas of research could be eligible for support by more than one federal granting agency. Such applications will be permitted to continue through CIHR's peer review process.

    For more information on the eligibility of subject matter at CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC, refer to the Tri-agency Guidelines on Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency.

    5.2 Identical or Essentially Identical Applications

    Unless stated otherwise in the funding opportunity, once an application has been submitted to CIHR, the nominated principal applicant or members of the applicant team, must not submit identical or essentially identical applications to CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC until after they have been notified of the funding decision for the application.

    CIHR will monitor for identical (or essentially identical) applications submitted to CIHR funding opportunities, as well as allegations of non-compliance. Consequences will be determined on a case-by-case basis, which may include the withdrawal of all application submission(s) that are determined to have been submitted after the original application.

    In addition, once an application is funded by CIHR, the nominated principal applicant or members of the grant team, must not subsequently submit the identical or essentially identical application to CIHR, NSERC or SSHRC, if the start date of funding, as presented in the funding opportunity, is prior to the end date of the active grant.

    For more information, please refer to the CIHR Guidelines on Identical or Essentially Identical Applications.

    5.3 Multiple Funding Sources

    5.3.1 Grant Application Restrictions

    With the exception of Tri-agency funding sources (see section 5.2), CIHR grant recipients may apply for and hold funds from more than one funding source to accomplish the same research objectives, provided any resulting funding overlap (i.e., funding more than 100% of the actual research costs), is appropriately addressed. For example, the CIHR funds can be used to expand the scope of the original research project. However, if any portion of the CIHR grant is no longer required, in light of the additional funding, CIHR must be immediately notified and arrangements made to return the unused funds to the agency.

    Depending on the funding opportunity, applicants may be required to justify the funds requested in their CIHR application by disclosing all past, current, and applied for funding relevant to the study, including Tri-agency and other funding sources, for consideration by peer review. 

    5.3.2 Salary/Chair Awards Restrictions

    A CIHR salary/Chair award holder is prohibited from holding their award concurrently with:

    There are no restrictions on applying for and holding a CIHR salary/Chair award concurrently with grant funds.

    5.3.3 Training Awards Restrictions

    Unless stated otherwise in the funding opportunity, a CIHR training award holder is prohibited from holding their award concurrently with training awards funded by other Canadian federal funding sources.

    There are no restrictions on applying for and holding a CIHR training award concurrently with other training awards from non-federal funding sources.

    There are no restrictions on providing a CIHR training award holder with additional stipend support paid from CIHR grant funds.

    For more information, refer to the Tri-Agency Research Training Award Holder's Guide.

    5.4 Application Completeness

    CIHR expects application submissions to contain all required information and documentation, as prescribed in the funding opportunity. The nominated principal applicant is responsible for ensuring that the application is complete prior to its submission to the agency. Requests to amend an application after the submission deadline has passed will only be considered under exceptional circumstances or when explicitly permitted by the funding opportunity.

    For more information, please refer to the CIHR Guidelines on Complete Applications.

    5.5 Extensions to Application Deadlines

    Under certain circumstances CIHR considers requests for an extension to an application deadline on a case-by-case basis. The nominated principal applicant (or role equivalent) must submit a written request to CIHR, providing clear justification for the extension. Competition timelines will be factored into the decision and the rationale for each decision will be formally documented.

    In instances of systems interruptions, refer to the CIHR policy on Electronic Systems Service Standards.

  • Part 6: Electronic Application Submissions – CIHR Applicant Consent and Institutional Approval

    The following details the applicant consent and institutional approval requirements for applications submitted to CIHR funding opportunities using ResearchNet (CIHR's Application Submission Web Portal).

    Applications submitted to CIHR, regardless of the medium (electronic or paper), require applicant consent and institutional approval (if applicable), in order for CIHR to accept the application. The consent and approval requirements for applications submitted using ResearchNet, are dependent on whether the electronic consent/approval functionality are available for the funding opportunity.

    For paper-based applications (i.e. applications not required to be submitted through ResearchNet), consent/approval is provided by way of a signature (original or copied), where indicated on the application. Refer to the relevant funding opportunity for consent and approval instructions.

    6.1 Applicant Consent Requirements

    The nominated principal applicant, principal applicant(s), co-applicant(s) and supervisor(s) must acknowledge/consent to the conditions governing grants and awards and to the use and disclosure of personal and application information, as outlined on ResearchNet, inorder to submit the application. This includes consent to the disclosure of personal information in the case of breach of agency policy.

    Consent must be provided electronically when indicated on ResearchNet. Otherwise, consent must be provided by way of a signature (original or copied), where indicated on the application.

    Refer to the relevant funding opportunity for any specific instructions regarding applicant consent and the submission of applications.

    6.2 Institutional Approval

    Where applicable, CIHR requires an authorized official who can bind the administering institution to CIHR's conditions, as outlined on ResearchNet, to approve the submission of the application to the funding opportunity.

    CIHR-eligible institutions must provide electronic approval using the ResearchNet e-approval tool, when the functionality is available for the funding opportunity. CIHR assigns access to the ResearchNet e-approval tool to designated representatives at CIHR-eligible institutions under the terms and conditions of the E-approval Tool User Agreement, which is posted on ResearchNet.

    When using the e-approval tool, the institution may define an internal application deadline that is earlier than the application deadline indicated in the funding opportunity. Institutions are responsible for submitting electronically approved applications within 2 business days after the application deadline specified in the funding opportunity. Refer to the funding opportunity for any specific instructions (if applicable).

    When the functionality of the ResearchNet e-approval tool is not available for the funding opportunity or when the institution is not a CIHR-eligible institution, institutional approval involves the authorized official providing their signature (original or copied), where indicated on the application. Under such circumstances, the nominated principal applicant is responsible for ensuring the required institutional signatures are appended to the application on ResearchNet and for submitting the application by the deadline specified in the funding opportunity. Refer to the funding opportunity for any specific instructions (if applicable).

  • Part 7: Peer Review Grievances

    The following details CIHR's stance on peer review grievances and informs expectations as to their possible outcomes, with the aim of facilitating their appropriate handling and with reference to those aspects of peer review for which CIHR assumes responsibility.

    7.1 Statement

    Peer review is the internationally accepted benchmark for ensuring quality and excellence in scientific research. Peer review is also a human process, dependent on a reviewer's self-assessed ability to review and subject to their professional opinions and judgments. While peer review is the accepted method for review of funding applications, CIHR recognizes that there are human factors to the process. As such, CIHR has committed to supporting peer reviewers in addressing such factors like bias and ensuring a process that is "fair, transparent, and equitable" and to "champion a more inclusive concept of research excellence" in our CIHR Strategic Plan. Furthermore, CIHR Standards of Practice for Peer Review have been put in place in order to uphold the highest standards in our practices and management of peer review.

    7.2 Enquiries

    Applicants are free to enquire or voice concerns to CIHR through the Contact Centre regarding their peer review results which includes review comments and Scientific Officer notes. CIHR will conduct an investigation and assessment of all enquiries or concerns and will use this information towards education, continuous improvement of our processes and inform future recruitment. Any further response or recourse by CIHR will be dictated by the nature of the enquiry or complaint.

    7.3 Review Quality Issues

    All enquiries pertaining to review quality will be investigated as per CIHR's Review Quality criteria, including instances of bias and discrimination.

    CIHR will conduct a review quality assessment to determine if the review meets the standard expected of a high quality review in CIHR peer review processes. If relevant, this will include an assessment of bias based on gender, language, racism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, or other forms of bias. Such cases will not be tolerated and CIHR will take action on a case-by-case basis, including reaching out to reviewers who would benefit from mentorship or an increased awareness of specific review issues.

    In severe cases, CIHR may determine that a reviewer is excluded from future CIHR peer review.

    Findings are then disclosed to the applicant and will be used to inform CIHR's ongoing policy development.

    7.4 Non-Reviewable Aspects of Peer Review

    CIHR will not rule on any aspect of the review process stemming from a peer reviewer's scientific assessment of an application, the applicants, or the proposed research program.

    7.4.1 Relevance review process

    Where relevance review is conducted, CIHR will not review or overturn the determinations of relevance made based on scientific opinion; such decisions are at the sole discretion of CIHR Institute staff and/external funding partners.

    7.4.2 Peer review process

    CIHR will not review or rule on cases where the various reviewers differ in their assessment of the proposed research, or where the applicants believe that the reviewers have mischaracterized the application or the proposed research, or where applicants believe reviewers did not have appropriate expertise to assess the application.

    7.5 Funding Decisions

    CIHR will only review a funding decision if there was a procedural error in the delivery or peer review process that demonstrably affected the peer review recommendation. CIHR staff will therefore investigate enquiries to determine whether a procedural error took place and had a negative effect on the peer review recommendation.

    Examples of procedural errors are (including, but not limited to):

    1. Incomplete applications sent to peer reviewers due to CIHR processing/system errors; or
    2. Incorrect peer review ratings/rankings due to errors in calculation or data entry.

    CIHR staff will not pursue any grievances related to those matters covered in Section 7.4 or further investigate any errors that did not have an effect on the funding recommendation. Overturning a funding decision will only be considered under exceptional circumstances.

  • Appendix A: Definition of Terms

    For definitions of the terms used in this guide, refer to the CIHR Glossary of Funding Related Terms.

Contact information

For questions regarding this Guide, please contact

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