Project Grant Program: Results

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Project Grant Decisions: What do my results mean?

At the end of a Project Grant competition, all Nominated Principal Applicants receive the comments from each reviewer (including preliminary ratings), the Scientific Officer notes summarizing the committee discussion of their applications (if the application was discussed), a Notice of Recommendation (NOR) and a Notice of Decision (NOD).

Taken together, all these pieces of information provide the full scope of how an application was reviewed (i.e. from initial assessment to committee discussion to final decision) and can be used to inform areas of improvement to the application.

The overview below describes how the results documents fit into the overall peer review process.

Reviewer assessments

Before the committee meeting

Each application is assigned to reviewers (number of assigned reviewers may vary based on committee requirements) who provide the following:

  • a summary of the application;
  • a preliminary rating;
  • a justification of the rating by stating the strengths and weaknesses of the application based on the evaluation criteria;
  • top (competitive) or bottom (non-competitive) group selection;
  • comments on the integration of sex and/or gender in the application.

Reviewers provide these preliminary ratings and comments prior to the committee meeting. Note that reviewers are not bound by their preliminary ratings and can change them during the peer review committee meeting.

Please see section 4.2.1: Conducting reviews in the Project Grant peer review manual for more information.

During the committee meeting

The preliminary ratings from all assigned reviewers are used by the committee members to discuss the application. Following the committee discussion, the assigned reviewers are asked to reach a consensus score. Each committee member is then asked to vote +/- 0.5 of the consensus score, and these votes are averaged to calculate the application’s final score. Furthermore, members calibrate scores based on all the applications being reviewed by their committee. It is possible – and normal – for the preliminary ratings provided by the assigned reviewers in the reviews, to be different from the final scores.

Please see section 4.3: The Peer Review Committee Meeting in the Project Grant peer review manual for more information.

Applications for discussion

CIHR asks committees to focus their discussion on the top 40% of applications based on preliminary ratings.

The remaining applications will be placed on a streamline candidate list and will only be removed from the list of those being discussed at the committee meeting (i.e., removed from committee discussions) if there is no objection from any committee member regarding the fact that they will not be discussed. Please note that, ultimately, the committees can discuss any application. Please see section 4.3.1: Streamlining of Applications in the Project Grant peer review manual for more information.

Notice of Recommendation (NOR)

The Notice of Recommendation is uploaded to ResearchNet before funding decisions are finalized and contains key information about the application’s standing within the competition. It includes the final rating (which may differ from the preliminary ratings provided by assigned reviewers in the individual reviews), percent rank within the committee, and the recommended average annual budget (before the across-the-board cut is applied). The NOR is provided in advance of the Notice of Decision (NOD) to offer applicants approximately two extra weeks to decide whether to resubmit an unsuccessful application to the following competition.

As a rule of thumb, applications ranked within the top 15 per cent of applications reviewed by their committee have a greater likelihood of being funded. For example, in a committee where 40 applications are reviewed, the top 6 ranked applications would have a greater likelihood of getting funded than those applications that are lower ranked. However, every committee is different, and there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration when looking at your percent ranking : the number of applications in the committee, possible score ties within a committee, whether your application is eligible for the equalization exercise or if it is a request for a large grant.

Please note that the applications that are reviewed by the Indigenous Health Research (IHR) committee will have different thresholds for funding than listed above and may also be selected to go through the iterative review process.

Using the NOR to infer if the application will be successful or not is a reasonable approach to determine if the applicant should register for the next competition. However, it is possible that applications will not receive the decision applicants are expecting because of the factors mentioned above.

Notice of Decision (NOD)

The Notice of Decision, including the final recommended budget in the case of funded grants, will be uploaded to ResearchNet at the end of the peer review process, following approval by the President of CIHR. The NOD contains the same information as the NOR but includes final funding decisions taking into account equalization measures.

As noted above, the preliminary ratings in the reviews may differ from the final rating on the NOD. The NOD document represents the final funding decision for the application.

If you have any questions, please get in touch with the Contact Centre at

The Project Grant program funding decision process

The process for selecting applications for funding submitted to the Project Grant competition involves four steps:

  1. Applications are ranked within their committee based on the final ratings (0-4.9) for each application.
  2. Application rankings are then transformed into a percent rank score that enables comparison across committees.
  3. Applications with a final ranking equal to or above 3.5 (i.e., fundable) are then funded across committees in order of percent rank until insufficient funds remain. Streamlined applications are not eligible for full grant funding.
  4. CIHR monitors and equalizes the success rates of certain groups as required.

Percent rank

Any given Project Grant competition typically involves more than 2000 applications reviewed across approximately 58 peer review committees. In order to make funding decisions, CIHR needs to be able to compare peer review results across committees. To do this, CIHR calculates each application’s percent rank.

The percent rank of an application is calculated using its standing within its assigned committee. For example, an application that was ranked 5/57 (based on its score) within its committee has been ranked higher than all but 4 of the other 56 applications in the committee and therefore has a percent rank of 92.9% (percent rank = 1-(4/56)). Percent rank is used in this exercise because it stretches the scale so that the first-ranked application in every committee receives a percent rank of 100%.

For the Project Grant program, scores for each application are converted to within-committee rankings, which are then used to calculate each application’s percent rank. This allows CIHR to account for scoring differences across the committees, and it also allows us to fund an approximately proportional number of applications across each committee. The number is approximate due to a number of factors that are explained in detail below; however, it is important to note that this is not dictated by pillar or area of research. Read more about the relationship between application rank within a panel, the percent rank score, and funding cutoffs.

The number of applications per committee generally ranges between 20 and 80, which accounts for some of the variability (because of the denominator’s impact on the percent rank calculation) of success rate by committee. The committee success rates are close to the overall success rate but fluctuate around it. It is not possible to create committees of comparable size without forcing applications into inappropriate committees (i.e., that are not the best expertise match to review the application).

In addition to the differences in application pressure, a number of factors (large grants, ties, and equalization) may cause individual committee success rates to fluctuate.

Large grants

Within the overall competition budget, there is a specific funding envelope for large grants (i.e., those within the top 2% of the total grant amounts requested). CIHR implemented this policy to strike a balance between investing in highly ranked applications with large budgets and the imperative to maximize the total number of grants funded. The threshold for being considered a large grant fluctuates from one competition to the next; for reference please see the Large grants awarded section of the previous Project Grant: Results.  Large grants are reviewed in their assigned committees; however, they are combined and treated as a separate cohort for the purpose of making funding decisions. Using this methodology means that it is possible for a large grant to be highly ranked in its committee (i.e., the ranking is above the committee cutoff) but ultimately not funded (i.e., the large grant budget gets exhausted before all the large grants above their respective committee cutoffs are funded). In this scenario, such an application would receive a bridge grant—but since bridge grants are not included in the calculation of success rates, this would reduce the committee’s success rate overall.

Example: In the Fall 2017 Project Grant competition, of the 63 applications reviewed by the Systems & Clinical Neurosciences (NSA) committee, 9 would have been funded based on their percent rank score (committee success rate of 14.3%). One of these 9 applications—the 9th ranked application—qualified as a large grant. The funding available to large grants was exhausted by the large grant applications ranked above it in the large grant cohort; therefore, it could not be funded and was awarded a bridge grant instead. Because of this, the NSA committee ultimately funded 8 grants (success rate of 12.7%), even though 9 (14.3%) were above the committee cutoff.


If applications are tied (e.g., two applications have the same final score within a committee and are therefore both equally ranked), it is CIHR’s policy to fund both or neither. Occasionally, a tie will fall right at the committee cutoff. In such a scenario, and if there are sufficient funds, both applications are funded. This would increase an individual committee's success rate, as the committee gets to fund one grant more than it otherwise would have been able to support.

Example: In the Fall 2017 Project Grant competition, of the 44 applications reviewed by the Clinical Investigation – B: Arthritis, Bone, Skin and Cartilage (CIB) committee, 6 would have been funded based on their percent rank score (committee success rate of 13.6%). However, three applications were tied in sixth place in the ranking list (i.e., their final scores were identical). Because of this, the CIB committee ultimately funded 8 grants (success rate of 18.2%).


CIHR monitors the competition results to ensure that the proportion of grants funded is at least equal to the proportion of applications submitted to the competition by the following groups when there are a sufficient number of scientifically meritorious applications:

  • Early Career Researchers (as of Fall 2017)
  • Female Nominated Principal Applicants (as of Spring 2021)
  • Researchers who submit French-language applications (as of Spring 2021)
  • Nominated Principal Applicants who self-identify as a racialized person (as of Fall 2024)
  • Nominated Principal Applicants who self-identify as a person with a disability (as of Fall 2024)

The equalization process for Nominated Principal Applicants who self-identify as a racialized person and/or who self-identify as a person with a disability is completed using responses provided to questions five (5) and/or seven (7) in the Self-identification Questionnaire. Applicants must indicate a response of “Yes” to be eligible for funding equalization in these areas. The equalization process for female Nominated Principal Applicants is completed using data from the Canadian Common CV.

To complete the equalization process, CIHR creates the funding scenario as described above using the competition budget available. At the same time, we assess the proportion of grants funded in each equalization group. If the proportion of grants funded in each group is not equal to the proportion of applications submitted by that same group, additional applications from that group are then funded based on their percent rank. The equalization intervention is completed at a competition level to ensure that the top applicants are selected. This means that applications are combined in their respective equalization groups and the applications with the next highest percent rank, regardless of committee, are funded until equalization is achieved.

Example: The total number of ECR grants funded across all committees in the Fall 2017 competition was less than the proportion of total grants funded. There were 821 (24%) ECR applications submitted to the competition. Of those ECR applications, 106 (13%) were approved for funding prior to the intervention. To address this, CIHR funded the ECR applications with the next highest percent ranks at a competition level, which resulted in 21 additional ECR applications being approved for funding through the equalization process. As a result of the intervention, a total of 123 (24%) ECR applications were approved for funding in the competition.

Indigenous health research

Applications that are adjudicated by the Indigenous health research (IHR) committee are done as part of the iterative review process. Further, CIHR has committed 4.6% of the Project Grant budget to support fundable IHR applications as part of its commitment to invest 4.6% of its total budget in Indigenous health research.

Priority Announcements

CIHR Institutes, initiatives and partners may leverage the Project Grant program through Priority Announcements (PAs). PAs are additional sources of funding for highly ranked applications aligned to specific research areas. PAs are primarily funded by Institutes and initiatives, and do not affect CIHR’s investment in investigator-initiated research. PAs are usually CIHR Institute priorities and initiatives that use the Project Grant peer review process to identify and fund specific areas of research. These will vary from one competition to the next; however, all follow the same funding-decision process. While streamlined applications with a final score in the fundable range (i.e., 3.5 or above) are eligible for funding via PAs, applications that are discussed are prioritized.

The process for selecting applications for funding involves three steps:

  1. Once the preliminary results of the Project Grant competition are established, a list of applications that meet each of the following criteria is produced:
    1. Eligible for a PA;
    2. A final score of 3.5 or above;
    3. Below the Project Grant cut-off (for grants); and,
    4. Above the Project Grant cut-off (for prizes/awards and supplemental funding).
  2. The eligible applications are assessed for relevance to the objectives of the PA.
  3. For each PA, applications that are deemed relevant are funded in rank order as far as the budget will allow. When an applicant is eligible for more than one PA, the PA with the highest value is prioritized.

Bridge grants

CIHR aims to strike the right balance between full grants and bridge grants for the Project Grant program, but the numbers vary by competition as they are not predetermined. The allocation of funding for bridge grants is determined at the competition level based on percent rank after allocating funds to full grants and Priority Announcement grants. While streamlined applications with a final score in the fundable range (i.e., 3.5 or above) are eligible for funding as bridge grants, applications that are discussed are prioritized.

Project Grant: Results

Results from the Project Grant competition are posted in the Funding Decisions once applicants have been notified at the end of the peer review process.

Results by competition


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