Equitable access to health research funding

CIHR is committed to ensuring that its programs, funding opportunities, and evaluation systems result in the fair treatment of all participants. There are many issues and variables associated with distributing research funds equitably, while also supporting a diverse range of excellent health research projects spanning all four health research pillars.

CIHR's Equity Strategy

Equity is an integral part of a sustainable health research ecosystem. Beyond the obvious reality that all researchers should have equitable access to funding for their research, equity also allows for diversity in the system. Diversity has been shown to lead to more creativity, more innovation, and more meaningful research outcomes.

CIHR's Equity Strategy sets a vision for creating an equitable funding system by:

  • Identifying and eliminating systemic biases against any individual or group that would hinder access to CIHR funds; and
  • Influencing the larger health research enterprise to adopt more equitable practices.

There are a number of potential groups/populations, which may experience bias within CIHR's funding systems, and a number of variables that could contribute to potential inequities. Based on preliminary analyses of internal data and available literature, it is hypothesized that the following represent groups that may experience bias in the system. These will be investigated within CIHR's Equity Strategy:

  • Gender
  • Career stage
  • Official languages
  • Indigenous status
  • Size/Locale of institution

Confounding variables under consideration will include:

  • Applicant characteristics (e.g., gender, career stage, language, pillar, etc.)
  • Peer reviewer characteristics (e.g., gender, career stage, language, pillar, etc.)
  • Institutional characteristics (e.g., hiring and promotion practices)
  • CIHR Programs / Processes (e.g., program assessment criteria, instructions to reviewers, etc.)

CIHR is conducting extensive analyses of the results of all of our funding programs as part of our effort to uncover any potential sources of bias and other barriers to equitable access to CIHR funds. While we will conduct in-depth investigations on all variables described above; in the immediate term, we are focusing on gender equity. Please view the data analyses conducted to-date on gender.

CIHR is aware of the importance of other equity dimensions beyond the scope of our current Equity Strategy, including disability, race/ethnicity, and LGBTQ+. We do not currently collect such data from applicants and reviewers, but we are working with other federal research funders and Statistics Canada to determine approaches to collect data on these dimensions in the future.

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