2011 Quinquennial Review - Terms of Reference

December 2009

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Background
  3. Goal of External Review
  4. Requirements for External Review
    1. Blue-Ribbon International Review Panel
    2. Timing of Review Sources of Information for the Review
    3. Sources of Information for the Review
    4. Accountability and Project Management

1. Introduction

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) was established in June 2000 to transform Canada's federal approach to health research. When CIHR completed its first five years it engaged an international blue-ribbon panel led by John Bell to review whether CIHR had delivered on its transformative vision, and whether it had added value to the health research agenda in Canada. A copy of the panel's report can be found online.

As the CIHR Act requires a quinquennial review, at its meeting on June 18-19, 2008 the CIHR Governing Council decided:

To undertake an external/international review of CIHR as a whole in 2010-2011 at its 10th year mark including a review of the slate of Institutes. The need for future reviews will be assessed after that time.

The purpose of this document is to provide terms of reference for this Quinquennial review of CIHR, reviewing in particular performance since the prior external review undertaken in February 2006 and finalized in June 2006, which is for the period 2006-2010.

2. Background

CIHR's objective is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Its vision is to position Canada as a world leader in the creation and use of knowledge through health research that benefits Canadians and the global community.

Parliament established CIHR to transform health research in Canada by creating a national agenda and supporting programs that: are responsive to the health needs of Canadians; embrace all relevant perspectives and disciplines; develop research capacity in neglected or emerging fields of health research, as well as geographically underrepresented areas; position Canada internationally as a strong participant in the global research community; and ensure that the results of research are converted more rapidly and completely into action to benefit Canadians and the global community.

CIHR's mandate and structure are unique in the world. The organization is structured around 13 virtual geographically distributed Institutes that each supports health research in biomedical, clinical, health systems and services and population health. The Institutes are based in universities or teaching hospitals across the country, but may also have staff located in a variety of other venues. The Institutes are part of a larger national health research network that links researchers and other stakeholders across the country.

CIHR strives to address its mandate by ensuring transparency and accountability to Canadians for its investments of public dollars in all its health research programs and activities. The CIHR Act specifies that the Governing Council shall review the mandate and performance of each Health Research Institute at least every five years after it has been established and determine whether its mandate or the policies respecting its role and functioning should be amended or whether it should be merged with another Health Research Institute or terminated [S. 21].

The CIHR Act also requires the Governing Council to evaluate the overall performance of CIHR (S.14.b). In keeping with its legislated responsibility, the Governing Council passed a motion in 2000 to undertake an external review of CIHR's performance relative to its mandate within five years.

Summary of Observations from the 2005 External Review

The International Review Panel (IRP) was impressed by the progress made in developing a more unified model of health research funding. They stated that the capacity to fund research across all health related disciplines had clearly been enhanced and new strategic initiatives had strengthened multidisciplinary research and training. Together, these changes had all occurred in a remarkably short timeframe, evidence of the commitment and success of the management team. The IRP felt that CIHR should take stock and ensure that it has the necessary governance and management structures in place to further progress its mandate and vision.

IRP impressions of the CIHR during the review were intended to provide insights into its structure and function that would allow the successful development of its novel vision. The challenges in achieving objective evaluation of the outputs of the CIHR so early in its expansion and transition led the IRP to make comments on some of the key components of a successful organization, particularly sound governance and management. The success of the CIHR in rapidly implementing many aspects of the new mandate over the first five years led to a much larger and more diverse organization. The speed at which this transformation had occurred was remarkable and clearly had required extraordinary effort and energy. The CIHR in the view of the IRP was at an important inflexion point in its development. New structures needed to be imbedded, transparency in decision making and process would be crucial and sound governance would become increasingly important. The IRP suggested this represented a natural progression in the growth of the new entity but nevertheless a crucial one for the long-term viability of the organization. The panel made 14 observations including that Institutes seemed to be functioning well, the peer review system seemed to be under strain, there were challenges in KT, evaluation, communications and governance and that the organization may have created excessive complexity.

3. Goal of External Review

CIHR will appoint an international panel to conduct the external review of CIHR as a whole and its individual Institutes. The review will address the following overarching question(s):

Has CIHR been effective in fulfilling its mandate as outlined in the CIHR Act?
How can CIHR improve at achieving its mandate?

Without limiting the potential extent of this review, CIHR Governing Council seeks an authoritative, objective assessment of, and recommendations on:

How well is each institute achieving its mandate?
How effectively does each institute collaborate with each other on advancing research and knowledge translation?
How can the impact of each institute be improved?
How well are the institutes collectively contributing to achieving CIHR's mandate?

Does CIHR have the correct slate of Institutes to meet current and future health research needs and to enable CIHR to meet its mandate?

The international panel conducting the review will also be asked to comment on unmet opportunities identified during the course of the review that will help CIHR chart its course for its future evolution.

4. Requirements for External Review

a) Blue-Ribbon International Review Panel (IRP)

A blue-ribbon international panel will be established to conduct the review. The panel will have eleven (11)1 members including a Chair. The panel will include members that represent the full breadth of CIHR's mandate including: experts of international standing in health research and knowledge translation; members that have experience in/knowledge of research organizations; research users and community sectors; and members that have played a major role in a transformation of the approach used to support research.

Institute Review Teams (IRT)
There will be 13 IRT composed of two experts (n=26) and one member from the IRP (n=4). Each review team therefore will be comprised of a total of three members.

Four (4) members of the overall IRP blue-ribbon panel will participate in the Institute Review Team meetings in addition to the subsequent meeting of the IRP. One member will participate in 4 Institute Review Team meetings and three members will participate in 3 Institute Review Team Meetings each. (See the diagram entitled "2011 Institute Review Teams and International Review Panel"). Although these 4 IRP members will not be chairing or writing Institute Review reports, as part of these Teams they will be charged with presenting their reports at the March 2011 meeting of the IRP. This should foster enhanced understanding, multiple perspectives, and integration of these 13 reviews within the overall review.

b) Timing of Review

The target date for completion of the review report will be June 2011. Work will be scheduled (see table below) to permit submission of final reports by July 2011 and to ensure that findings from individual Institute reviews are available for integration, as appropriate, into the review of CIHR as a whole.

Activity From To Responsibility Result
Select Chair of Panel Jan. 2009 March 2009 GC GC approval
Select International Review Panel (IRP) June 2009 Dec 2009 GC after broad consultation for potential names GC approval
Evaluations, data collection projects Dec. 2009 Oct 2010 CIHR Staff Documentation for IRP
Institute review panel meetings and submission of Institute review reports Feb 2011 Feb 2011 Institute review teams Institute review reports for IRP
Review of CIHR overall March 2011 March 2011 IRP Conduct of CIHR – wide review.
IRP Report to GC March 2011 June 2011 Chair of Panel Final report

c) Sources of Information for the Review

Information for the review will include, but not be limited to:

d) Accountability and Project Management

The Governing Council (GC) is accountable and responsible for undertaking the external review, for establishing the terms of reference of the review and for receiving and responding to the preliminary and final reports. A GC Standing Committee has the mandate to oversee and guide the review process.

International Review Panel (IRP): The panel is responsible for conducting the review. This includes reviewing and adding value to materials, meeting with CIHR representatives, analyzing and interpreting results, drawing conclusions, and making recommendations through preliminary and final reports to the Governing Council.

Institute Review Teams (IRT): Are responsible for conducting reviews of individual Institutes. Each panel shall include a member of the IRP.

External Consultants: Under the guidance of the IRP, and with the support of CIHR staff, the work of the consultants will include gathering, analyzing and presenting information and options, and drafting of working papers and reports.

CIHR Corporate Affairs Portfolio: The Portfolio will organize and support the external review process including support the GC and its working group in selection of the International Review Panel, and provide operational support and advice to the IRP throughout its operation. The Portfolio will appoint a project manager for this project and will be responsible for ongoing project management and quality control.

CIHR Management: High-quality, relevant, concise, accessible information will be required in advance of the on-site meetings.

Annex A - CIHR Act, Section 4

The objective of the CIHR is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system, by:

  1. exercising leadership within the Canadian research community and fostering collaboration with the provinces and with individuals and organizations in or outside Canada that have an interest in health or health research;
  2. creating a robust health research environment in Canada, based on internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence and a peer review process, that will attract, develop and keep excellent researchers and provide them with the opportunity to contribute to the improvement of people's health in Canada and the world;
  3. forging an integrated health research agenda across disciplines, sectors and regions that reflects the emerging health needs of Canadians and the evolution of the health system and supports health policy decision-making;
  4. encouraging interdisciplinary, integrative health research through the creation of Health Research Institutes that
    1. together pertain to all aspects of health,
    2. include bio-medical research, clinical research, research respecting health systems, health services, the health of populations, societal and cultural dimensions of health and environmental influences on health, and other research as required,
    3. work in collaboration with the provinces to advance health research and to promote the dissemination and application of new research knowledge to improve health and health services, and
    4. engage voluntary organizations, the private sector and others, in or outside Canada, with complementary research interests;
  5. promoting, assisting and undertaking research that meets the highest international scientific standards of excellence and ethics and that pertains to all aspects of health, including bio-medical research, clinical research and research respecting health systems, health services, the health of populations, societal and cultural dimensions of health and environmental influences on health;
  6. addressing emerging health opportunities, threats and challenges and accelerating the discovery of cures and treatments and improvements to health care, prevention and wellness strategies;
  7. fostering the discussion of ethical issues and the application of ethical principles to health research;
  8. promoting the dissemination of knowledge and the application of health research to improve the health of Canadians;
  9. encouraging innovation, facilitating the commercialization of health research in Canada and promoting economic development through health research in Canada;
  10. building the capacity of the Canadian health research community through the development of researchers and the provision of sustained support for scientific careers in health research;
  11. pursuing opportunities and providing support for the participation of Canadian scientists in international collaboration and partnerships in health research; and
  12. ensuring transparency and accountability to Canadians for the investment of the Government of Canada in health research.

  1. Subsequent to Governing Council Approval of these Terms of Reference in March 2009, the Chair of the IRP, Dr. Zerhouni asked that the number of members on the panel be increased to eleven.
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