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

Reviewer assessments – 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 top (competitive) / bottom (non-competitive) group selection is also used to inform which applications will be discussed at the committee meeting. 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 subject to the equalization exercise (for early career researchers, female applicants and applicants submitting applications written in French), or if it is a request for a large grant. Furthermore, the range for applications that are focused on Indigenous Health Research (IHR) and go through the iterative review process will be different.

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.

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

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