Institute Advisory Boards – Terms of reference

Sections 20 and 22 of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Act
CIHR By-Law Article 3, section 3.07 (e), (f), and (g)


An Institute Advisory Board (IAB) model that strikes a balance between the need for timely Institute-specific advice and cross-Institute advice.

A model centred on one IAB per Institute, with advice aligned with the directions and research priorities of the corporate strategic plan.

A model that fosters Institute collaborations, and strengthens ties to the research and broader health system community, while also supporting each Institute in achieving its own strategic objectives.


The vision is to build on the strengths of cross-Institute collaborations, while addressing the need for timely, Institute-specific advice; enhance Institutes’ overall ability to plan, function, and engage their respective communities; give Institutes access to a collective body of advisors who can be called upon to provide guidance on Institute-specific and where appropriate, cross-Institute initiatives and activities; and increase CIHR’s commitment to Indigenous health research.

The IAB acts in an advisory capacity to the Scientific Director with respect to the full range of Institute activity. The IAB:

  • Provides specific advice on the development and implementation of the Institute’s Strategic Plan and the establishment of research priorities and knowledge translation strategies for the Institute;
  • Ensures corporate research priorities are addressed in order to achieve the long-term objectives set out in CIHR’s strategic plan;
  • Mobilizes members across IABs with background and expertise best suited to provide cross-Institute advice on a matter or potential initiative of interest to several Institutes to form an ad hoc advisory group;
  • Encourages interdisciplinary, integrative health research, including partnerships, community links, engagement of other relevant stakeholders, patient-oriented approaches, and development and implementation of knowledge translation strategies to accelerate beneficial applications of research findings;
  • Communicates the Institute’s activities to the research community and to the public; and
  • Ensures an ethical framework – the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans, including the provisions governing research involving First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples as outlined in Chapter 9 – is applied to all Institute activities and research through consultation with CIHR’s Standing Committee on Ethics.


The Institute Advisory Board (IAB) consists of 8 to 14 members, including the Chair and the Vice-Chair. Members and the Chair are appointed by the Governing Council. The Vice-Chair is elected by the IAB. All IAB members shall serve in a personal capacity and not represent a particular constituency. Members may be called upon, based on their background and expertise, to join an ad hoc cross-Institute advisory group that provides advice to several Institutes on a specific research area, issue or initiative of common interest.

The Governing Council shall appoint individuals who are able to contribute to the achievement of the objective of the CIHR in the overall interest of Canadians. The Governing Council shall consider appointing women and men who reflect the highest standards of scientific excellence and a range of relevant backgrounds and disciplines, such as researchers in the fields of biomedical 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. All members will be appointed to provide independent, expert and relevant advice to the Institute and diversity of views/perspectives.

Three seats on the IAB for the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health will be reserved for representatives of the national Indigenous organizations.

The Scientific Director is a non-voting, ex-officio member of the IAB, and not eligible to serve as its Chair or Vice-Chair. Governing Council members, while not eligible to serve as IAB members, may attend any meeting of an IAB on an ad hoc basis.


Members shall be invited to serve initial terms of up to three years and may be reappointed for a second term of up to three years, for a maximum of six consecutive years of service on any one IAB. In order to maintain continuity, appointments will be staggered so that one-third of members will be considered for replacement or reappointment each year. Under extenuating circumstances, a member’s term may be extended for an additional year.


To be held face-to-face at least twice annually at the call of the Chair, following consultation with the Scientific Director. Additional meetings may be held by teleconference or virtually.


The IABs provide advice and, upon request, specific recommendations to Scientific Directors on matters relevant to their particular domain.


Service as an IAB member is voluntary. IAB members will be reimbursed at the Government of Canada rates for expenses incurred to attend meetings but will not receive honoraria or other financial compensation.

Financial support

Expenses associated with IAB meetings are covered through the Institute Support Grant of each Institute.

Conflict of interest

As members of a CIHR advisory body, all IAB members are required to abide by the CIHR Policy on Conflict of Interest Prevention and Management and to submit a declaration of external interests when first appointed and annually thereafter for the duration of their membership term.


These terms of reference shall be reviewed annually by the Governance and Nominating Committee.

Roles and responsibilities

Individual IAB members

Each IAB member serves in their individual capacity and will be expected to:

  • Attend IAB meetings on a regular basis and prepare in advance of any meeting;
  • Contribute to the IAB’s perspective and wisdom by sharing knowledge and experience while considering the knowledge and comments shared by others;
  • Contribute to the preparation of Institute Annual Reports; and
  • Treat IAB and CIHR matters with appropriate confidentiality.

IAB Chair

In addition to meeting the above expectations, the Chair of the IAB is responsible for:

  • Working with the Scientific Director to develop meeting agendas for the IAB meetings;
  • Chairing the meeting; and
  • Reviewing with the other members of the IAB the record of discussion and action items identified for each meeting to be shared with all Institutes and IABs.

Scientific Director

Scientific Directors are responsible for:

  • Ensuring cross-Institute collaborations and working with other Scientific Directors to strike ad hoc advisory groups with members drawn from across the 13 IABs, based on their background and expertise, to provide cross-Institute advice on specific opportunities/ initiatives involving several Institutes;
  • Reporting to Governing Council annually on success in meeting the objectives of CIHR, and in particular, on the Institute’s progress based on the advice received from an IAB and from cross-Institute advisory groups in the development of strength across the full breadth of the four CIHR research pillars and in the creation of an integrated Canadian health research agenda in the areas of the Institute’s mandate; and
  • Providing updates as required to inform the President’s quarterly report to Governing Council on both Institute-specific as well as cross-Institute activities undertaken following the advice of an IAB or the cross-Institute advice received from an ad hoc advisory group struck for this purpose.

Terms of reference

Approved by the Governing Council on November 15, 2017.

Last revised by the Governing Council on June 20, 2018.

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