Letter from Alain Beaudet, President of CIHR, on the release of the Foundation Grant pilot competition report

May 2016

Dear colleagues,

In my recent open letter to Canada’s health researchers, I promised to keep the community apprised of our progress with the implementation of the reforms of our open programs and related peer review processes.

Today, I am pleased to release the report of the inaugural Foundation Grant pilot competition. This report provides an overview of the competition results and summarizes survey feedback received from researchers, peer reviewers, and research administrators.

CIHR wishes to thank all of you who responded to the surveys. Your input will help to ensure that the new program meets its objectives.

Survey respondents provided positive feedback on many aspects of the inaugural Foundation Grants competition. For example, a majority of respondents appreciated the effectiveness of the structured application process, the clarity of the adjudication criteria and adjudication scale, and the value of the structured review.

Respondents also identified areas for improvement, which have already led to a number of course corrections. For example, in the second Foundation Grant pilot competition that is now underway:

  • New and early career investigators are being assessed separately;
  • Changes were brought to the CV template, so that a greater number of relevant activities could be included;
  • Peer review guidelines were revised to better assist reviewers in applying the adjudication criteria consistently; and
  • Online discussions were more closely monitored, to ensure that meaningful discussions were taking place.

This being said, we are well aware that the scientific community remains concerned about the online peer review process and quality of individual reviews. As we progress with the first Project Grant pilot competition, I want to reassure you that we are entirely focussed on ensuring the best quality of peer review through both optimal matching of applications to reviewers, as well as monitoring of online discussions. This process will be greatly facilitated in future competitions by the development of the College of Reviewers, which is progressing thanks to the collaborative efforts of many among you.

There have been many requests for CIHR to seek feedback from an independent panel of experts on the quality and efficiency of its new peer review processes. It was our intent to proceed with such an evaluation at a later date, but given the concerns expressed by the community, we decided to advance this review by commissioning a panel of external peer review experts in 2017, after we have collected a reasonable amount of data on the new peer review processes.

As you know, health research funding would not be possible without the work of hundreds of volunteer peer reviewers. I wish to take this opportunity to thank all of our peer reviewers for their invaluable contributions to Canada’s health research enterprise. CIHR will continue to keep you informed as we finalize the implementation phase of the new open programs.

Sincerely,

Alain Beaudet, MD, PhD
President, Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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