Message from Governing Council: Institutes Model Review


The Governing Council of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is pleased to announce the completion of the Institutes Model Review. As mandated in the CIHR Act and as recommended by the 2011 International Review Panel, this review assessed the structure, role, policies, financial framework and slate of the CIHR Institutes. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their contribution to this important process and, in particular, the members of the External and Internal Working Groups for their thoughtful reports and recommendations.

CIHR’s 13 Institutes have made tremendous contributions since the establishment of CIHR in 2000 and they continue to be core strengths of the organization. Research capacity has been strengthened in areas previously under-served, investments in all four pillars of research have increased substantially and inter-Institute collaborations have fostered noteworthy and productive interdisciplinary activities. The Institutes remain key vehicles to engage communities and build innovative partnerships.

Governing Council feels that in order for CIHR to maintain its unique role and leadership position, we must further adapt to an environment in which health research has become more collaborative and interdisciplinary, involving different players with different expectations. There is also a need for increased accountability to the public demonstrating how CIHR-supported research directly contributes to improved health and health care outcomes, and a necessity to adapt to ongoing fiscal constraints.

The decisions of Governing Council are based upon principles of organizational effectiveness and efficiency and are directed towards increased collaboration across the Institutes in order to enhance the impact of CIHRs funded health research programs. The decisions build on the combined themes and recommendations from the External and Internal Working Groups as well as the recommendations from the 2011 International Review panel.  

In summary, the directional decisions of the Governing Council are as follows:

  1. Slate of Institutes:
    The current slate of Institutes will not change at this time. However, an evidence‑based process will be implemented to begin a rolling review, based on relevance, to effect changes to the slate over time, as determined by Governing Council. To this end, Governing Council directs the Executive Management Committee to develop a robust framework for the evaluation of the relevance of the Institutes.

  2. Financial framework:
    The budget to support the remote Institute operations will be maintained (Institute Support Grant: $1 million per Institute per year). Further, the overall research budget envelope of the Institutes ($111.8 million per year) will be maintained. One half of the research budget will reside within the Institutes to be directed towards Institute-specific initiatives. It is recommended that the Scientific Directors strive to design imaginative and impactful research schemes in developing Institute-specific funding initiatives and to move beyond small one-off funding opportunities for delivering on their mandate. The other half of the research budget will be maintained in a common fund aimed at multi-Institute and multidisciplinary initiatives that could have greater impact across sectors and pillars. Any investment originating from this fund will have to be leveraged from external sources and voted on by Science Council. Furthermore, initiatives emerging from this common fund will align with the priorities set out in the CIHR strategic plan.

  3. Institute Advisory Boards:
    The Institute Advisory Boards will be restructured so as to better promote increased Institute collaboration and transversal thinking across the organization. The revised Institute Advisory Boards will be designed to include strong representation across clusters of three to four Institutes. The Executive Management Committee is tasked to oversee this restructuring in consultation with Science Council.

  4. Structure and Role of the Institutes and the Scientific Directors:
    Governing Council will continue to recruit and appoint Scientific Directors who report to the President. The roles of the Institutes and mandates of the Scientific Directors will focus on leveraging scientific expertise, collaboration, creativity, capacity-building, impact and innovation in the research and knowledge translation agendas. In addition, the annual performance review of the Scientific Directors will become more fulsome and transparent to ensure that there is sufficient evidence to better inform the four-year renewal process.

    In order to increase efficiency and effectiveness of CIHR resources, Ottawa-based Institute staff (OBIS) will be integrated into the three CIHR portfolios. A functional reporting relationship will be established between the Scientific Directors and the CIHR portfolio Vice-Presidents to better support the Institutes, namely: the Chief Scientific Officer and Vice-President, Research and Knowledge Translation for science, program design and delivery matters; the Chief Financial Officer and Vice-President, Resource Planning and Management for finance, information technology, human resources and performance and accountability matters; and, the Vice-President, External Affairs and Business Development for government relations, partnerships and communications matters.

In order to implement these decisions, the Executive Management Committee has been tasked to develop action plans in collaboration with internal and external stakeholders. These plans will be announced as they become available.

We are confident that these decisions will sharpen the focus of CIHR and increase its impact and responsiveness. Furthermore, we believe that these changes are necessary to allow CIHR to deliver on its transformational agenda in an effective and efficient manner.

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