Message from the Acting President of CIHR

April 13, 2017

Dear colleagues,

This past week has been a whirlwind, but I want to thank the research community and CIHR staff for the warm welcome and encouragement. We have a lot of work ahead of us, but I ask for your patience as we examine problems and address them as quickly but thoughtfully as possible, with input from appropriate experts and groups of you. I promise that we will keep you informed of our progress.

On that note, I already have some news to share. My first priority as the President of CIHR has been to assess the state of peer review for the Project Grant competition and implement immediate improvements. Given that we are weeks away from launching the next competition (with the application deadline in mid-June), there is a limit to what we can do in this short timeframe.

That said, Jeff Latimer and I feel that some important improvements can be made now, and many of you have suggested these over the past weeks (thank you!). I am pleased to announce the following changes to the Project Grant: Spring 2017 competition:

  • We will cluster reviewers—not just applications. For the Fall 2016 competition, the nature of the application-focused review process meant that the majority of reviewers were participating in multiple application clusters (most were on 3-4). This posed a number of logistical challenges for Stage 2, but it also created a heavy workload for the Chairs and Scientific Officers (SOs) assessing reviewer matching and assignments. By clustering reviewers , we'll create a more manageable workload for Chairs and SOs, but we'll also be able to provide better advanced notice of the exact face-to-face meeting dates for reviewers since their role won't be spread across clusters.
  • Reviewer matching will be led by scientists. The research community expressed a number of concerns about reviewer matching, and CIHR staff took note. For the Spring 2017 competition, Chairs and SOs will lead the matching of reviewers to applications and will be engaged earlier in the competition process.
  • Applications will be ranked within their clusters, not across the competition. For the Fall 2016 competition, CIHR compared the top 30% of applications across clusters (i.e., across the whole competition) to the top 30% of applications within each cluster. The overlap was significant enough to warrant the shift to ranking within clusters only.

I also have some good news to share about the current Project Grant competition (the Fall 2016 competition):

  • Additional funds will be moved to the Fall 2016 competition. Discussions about the budget split between the Foundation Grant program and the Project Grant program have been taking place at CIHR over the last few months, as staff have been considering different scenarios to find the right balance. We all agree that having a 20% success rate in one competition and a 10% success rate in the other is not the right balance. Approximately $25M will therefore be shifted from the 2016-17 Foundation Grant competition to the Fall 2016 Project Grant competition.
  • The success rate for Early Career Investigators (ECIs) will be equalized. Last summer, there was unanimous support from the Peer Review Working Group for equalizing success rates for ECIs in the Project Grant program. Equalizing success rates means ensuring that the proportion of ECIs funded equals the proportion of ECI applicants to the competition. We can now confirm that this will be done for the Fall 2016 competition.

We are beginning to tackle more substantive issues. We will do this through an iterative process with community leaders—beginning with Dr. Paul Kubes and the College of Reviewers Chairs, the Scientific Directors of the CIHR Institutes, and other key stakeholders—to address all issues of concern.

I hope that this information is helpful for everyone. I would like to assure the research community that CIHR staff have been listening to your concerns and have brought your feedback to my attention. In particular, I would like to thank Dr. Jeff Latimer, CIHR's Vice-President of Competition Management, for continuing to engage with a number of noted members of the research community and for his collaborative approach.

Finally, before I thank you all again for your kind words and thoughtful feedback, I have a small plea: The invitations to be a reviewer for the Spring 2017 Project Grant competition will be going out shortly, so please consider accepting our invitation. The summer timeline is certainly not ideal, but I am confident that the improvements that I've outlined will make it a smoother process for everyone involved.

Thanks again.

Roderick McInnes CM, MD, PhD, FRSC
Acting President, CIHR

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