SPOR Capacity Development Initiative

As a partner in Canada's Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR), CIHR is committed to fostering patient-oriented research capacity through the introduction of the SPOR Capacity Development Initiative.

As outlined in the SPOR Capacity Development Framework, patient-oriented research capacity is a collective goal of all SPOR stakeholders. Patient-oriented research capacity means:

  • Patients have the capability and support to meaningfully contribute to and participate in research;
  • The health research enterprise supports viable career paths for patient-oriented researchers and health professionals;
  • All participants in patient-oriented research receive the proper training and support, and all participants should have equitable access to the proper training and support;
  • Patients, researchers, health practitioners, administrators, and policy-makers work collaboratively towards common goals; and,
  • Relevant and transformative knowledge is generated and applied to improve health outcomes.

To this end, SPOR-funded entities (e.g., SUPPORT Units, Networks, the SPOR Evidence Alliance, and Innovative Clinical Trials (iCT) Mentorship Chairs and Multi-Year Grant recipients) provide environments to host trainees and researchers, provide local and/or contextual training and scholarships, and promote and advance the science of patient engagement in health research. These activities target patients, trainees, researchers, health care professionals, and health system administrators, all of whom have different learning needs and goals.

There is a growing opportunity to capitalize on this work to more systematically develop career pathways for patient-oriented researchers and create training opportunities for implementation specialists (decision-makers who implement patient-oriented research principles, practices, and findings within Canadian health care contexts). Efforts to further this opportunity have resulted in the SPOR Capacity Development Initiative.


The SPOR Capacity Development Initiative is expected to increase capacity in patient-oriented research and support viable career paths in patient-oriented research by:

  1. Coalescing the community of patient-oriented research leaders, mentors, coaches and trainees to share and innovate approaches to patient-oriented research capacity building;
  2. Positioning future leaders in the patient-oriented research community;
  3. Integrating patient-oriented research principles, practices, and findings within Canadian health care contexts; and,
  4. Incorporating Indigenous, Western, and other paradigms of patient-oriented research, training, mentoring, and leadership to enrich training opportunities and career development in a culturally safe manner.

Funding opportunities

The SPOR Capacity Development Initiative has two components of funding:

  • A National Training Entity (NTE) to serve as a central body for systematic training and mentoring of patient-oriented research leaders;
  • Patient-Oriented Research Awards:
    • Transition to Leadership Stream: Supports trainees transitioning from their research fellowship into independent patient-oriented research careers; and,
    • Health System Stream: Supports implementation specialists (as defined above).
  1. National Training Entity (funding opportunity launched September 2019)

    The NTE will serve as a central body for systematic training of patient-oriented research leaders and serve as a community-building enterprise in the domain of capacity development. This work involves moving beyond common and/or siloed approaches to training by engaging stakeholders and/or community members from all relevant disciplines, sectors, geographies and cultural perspectives. Core functions will include:

    1. Serve as a central body for systematic patient-oriented research training and mentoring in Canada
      • Collaborate with stakeholder groups and/or community members (e.g., SPOR-funded entities and grant recipients, patients/family/informal care providers, knowledge keepers, Elders, health care professionals, health professional associations, universities, colleges, and other educational organizations) to map existing national and potentially international training resources relevant to patient-oriented research;
      • Identify gaps in existing patient-oriented research training resources and create a national strategy to prioritize and address these gaps;
      • Host, make available, and/or deliver a variety of patient-oriented research training resources.
    2. Cultivate a community in patient-oriented research capacity development
      • Ensure the broader patient-oriented research community (which is inclusive of patients, researchers, mentors, trainees, Indigenous peoples and communities, health care professionals, health system administrators, and employers):
        • Has equitable access to the existing patient-oriented research training resources available;
        • Brings forward an understanding of its various social, cultural and political contexts, as well as the acceptability and appropriateness of training and mentoring interventions within these contexts;
        • Is engaged in the development and implementation of a national strategy to prioritize and address gaps, ensuring diverse and underrepresented perspectives are appropriately sought and integrated.
      • Serve as a think-tank to generate and/or solicit ideas and innovative approaches to capacity development in patient-oriented research.
      • Create a marketplace of high quality patient-oriented researchers and implementation specialists who can be identified and sought by employers in research institutes and other patient-oriented research settings.
      • Host national meetings or workshops.
    3. Support mentors and trainees, including Patient-Oriented Research Award recipients and trainees from other SPOR-funded entities
      • Partner with Patient-Oriented Research Award recipients (i.e., Transition to Leadership Stream and Health System Stream) to:
        • Develop and implement their individual career development plan, including the tracking of progress and updating the plan as required;
        • Create and/or leverage coaching and mentoring opportunities, including preparing individuals for negotiations with future employers, and,
        • Develop key knowledge and skills for patient-oriented research, as appropriate (see Additional Information below).
      • Partner with SPOR-funded entities to support trainees embedded within their programs through some or all of the mechanisms listed above.
      • Provide trainees and mentors with access to training opportunities and resources that are tailored to their individual learning needs. The appropriateness of these opportunities and resources should be considered carefully so as to ensure cultural safety and to support the individuals’ overarching training pathway and training environment.
    4. Develop collaborations and partnerships in capacity development
      • Build on existing relationships and foster new linkages with relevant stakeholders and/or community members to:
        • better connect the broader patient-oriented research community;
        • share patient-oriented research training opportunities and resources;
        • increase the number of highly qualified patient-oriented researchers and implementation specialists; and,
        • lead to sustainable partnerships.

        Relevant stakeholders include:

        • Patients and patient organizations;
        • Universities and training organizations;
        • National health professional associations;
        • Health charities;
        • Health system administrators;
        • First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities, knowledge keepers, Elders, and organizations; and
        • Other CIHR-funded entities, including but not limited to, SUPPORT Units, SPOR Networks, Network Environments in Indigenous Health Research (NEIHRs), which are other entities where partnerships can be fostered.
  2. Patient-Oriented Research Awards

    The following suite of awards will support training opportunities for individuals in patient-oriented research. Awardees will have the opportunity to collaborate with the NTE and with existing SPOR-funded entities.

    • Transition to Leadership Stream (funding opportunity launched July 2019)

      These two-phased, six-year awards aim to support the timely transition of individuals in a research fellowship into an independent research career. Phase 1 of the award will provide a stipend and an allowance for professional development and research. Phase 2 of the award will provide recipients of Phase 1 with salary support and a research allowance to launch their patient-oriented research career.

    • Health System Stream (funding opportunity coming Winter/Spring 2020)

      These two-year awards aim to provide practical training opportunities for implementation specialists to integrate patient-oriented research within Canadian health care contexts inclusive of, but not limited to, health care institutions and community settings. Examples of such individuals include policy analysts, nurse managers in hospitals, managers in different areas of health care administration, etc. These awards will be flexible and tailorable to the specific needs of the individual, community, and host organization.

Additional Information – Knowledge and Skills Essential to Patient-Oriented Research

The SPOR Capacity Development Framework describes common core competencies for all stakeholders in patient-oriented research. Building on these, award recipients will develop the following knowledge and skills over the course of their award.

Research and analytical skills:

  • Knowledge of patient-oriented research
  • Patient engagement
  • Knowledge translation
  • Understanding health systems and the policy making process
  • Management of research programs (human and material resources)
  • Integration of sex as a biological variable and gender as a socio-cultural factor into research
  • Understanding of Indigenous research paradigms and holistic approaches of health and wellbeing
  • Knowledge of Indigenous community-based research

Professional skills:

  • Leadership and mentorship
  • Risk management
  • Project management
  • Interdisciplinary work
  • Networking and collaboration
  • Negotiating and developing partnerships
  • Change management and implementation
  • Team management
  • Communication (oral and written)
  • Career planning

For more information, please contact spor-srap@cihr-irsc.gc.ca.

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