Revised Grants Evaluation Criteria – Interpretation Guidelines

The revised grants evaluation criteria apply to all operating, catalyst, team and emerging team grant applications, effective with the July 2009 funding opportunity launch. The factors listed under each criterion may be supplemented by additional factors, and the relative importance of the criteria varied, in order to align the review process with the funding opportunity objectives. Please refer to the Review Process and Evaluation section of the funding opportunity details in question, for a full description.

Guidelines for the interpretation of the individual criteria:

Criterion #1: Research Approach

This criterion concerns the description of the research plan and can encompass whether the writing style facilitates understanding of the plan (clarity of the research question) and whether the proposed research can be successfully concluded as described (feasibility of the research approach and anticipation of difficulties). Clarity of rationale for the research approach and methodology refers to whether the reasoning behind the overall strategy is clearly presented. Appropriateness of the research design refers to whether the best strategy was chosen to yield the desired knowledge and whether alternative approaches to the research question(s) were considered. Appropriateness of the research methods refer to whether the methods chosen were consistent with the research design and the best for achieving the desired research outcomes.

Criterion #2: Originality of the Proposal

For this criterion, original research is defined as research that will yield new knowledge. Typically, this refers to research that has not been carried out previously. However, there are times where replicative studies will yield new knowledge that may be crucial to progress within a field, for example by conclusively verifying or refuting a central or novel hypothesis. In these cases, applicants should not be penalized for a perceived lack of originality. In addition, originality as defined here should not be equated with innovation. While CIHR encourages innovative research, many important research questions can still be addressed with existing technologies and methodologies. It is the originality in how these technologies and methodologies are applied that is important. Note that specific funding opportunities may have innovation as a program objective, in which case additional factors will be included under this criterion in the funding opportunity description to support the evaluation of innovation.

Criterion #3: Applicant(s)

This criterion evaluates the ability of the applicant or the assembled team to accomplish the proposed research. The track record of the applicants (productivity, experience, etc.) must be viewed in context. For example, new investigators should be judged more on their training and demonstrated potential rather than their track record. Productivity can be demonstrated in many ways and should be judged against the applicants' peers and the norms for the field. The quality of individual publications and other forms of research dissemination should be considered, rather than simply the number of peer reviewed publications and/or the impact factors of the journals in which they are published.

Criterion #4: Environment for the Research

The research environment should be evaluated in terms of whether the applicant(s) can accomplish the research as proposed, based on their access to needed resources. Care must be taken not to exercise bias against smaller institutions: in today's environment the capacity to communicate, collaborate and access resources is greatly expanded, and as such the research environment often extends well beyond the applicant's research institution. Suitability of the environment (milieu, project and mentors) for the training of personnel (if applicable) is only relevant if the applicant is requesting support for trainees (students and post-doctoral fellows). Typically, this would only be considered as a factor in the evaluation of the budget request for the requested personnel. However, specific funding opportunities may include the training environment as a factor for evaluation of excellence if an element of capacity building is included in the program objectives (for example, an emerging teams grant) and would therefore be considered in the scientific rating of the proposal.

Criterion #5: Impact of the Research

This criterion refers to the ability of successful outcomes of the research to meaningfully impact on the current state of knowledge or the Canadian health care system, especially as related to the CIHR mandate. It also asks the question of whether the proposed research is significant, in terms of the need or gap addressed and the contribution to the body of health research knowledge. To have an impact, research results must be disseminated; thus, an evaluation of the impact must also include an evaluation of the knowledge dissemination plan. Methods for disseminating results can vary greatly according to the field of study. For many fields, an adequate knowledge dissemination plan is simply the publication of the results in high impact peer-reviewed journals. For other fields, dissemination plans with more ambitious goals and comprehensive strategies to reach the relevant knowledge users may be required. Knowledge dissemination does not necessarily imply or require commercialization of the results, unless that is an objective of the funding program, in which case this factor will be elaborated in the evaluation criteria of the funding opportunity. For more information, see More About Knowledge Translation at CIHR.

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