CIHR Standards of Practice for Peer Review

CIHR seeks to achieve the highest standards of excellence and integrity in the practice and management of peer review and has put in place mechanisms to ensure that peer reviewers receive the ongoing support necessary to meet these standards.

The objective of the CIHR Standards of Practice for Peer Review agreement is to promote transparency and support review quality excellence by clearly outlining peer reviewer responsibilities. The Agreement consolidates all CIHR Peer Review Principles and Policies, providing individuals with the necessary information to participate in peer review in accordance with CIHR standards of excellence.

Competition Chairs, Scientific Officers and Reviewers will be asked to consent to the CIHR Standards of Practice for Peer Review Agreement prior to participating in peer review. Similar to the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement, committee members who do not consent will not be able to participate in peer review for that competition.

1. Introduction

The CIHR peer review process is the cornerstone of recognizing and funding excellence in health research. The process relies on the contributions of thousands of dedicated volunteers and their efforts are grounded on displaying the highest qualities of professional integrity in all aspects of their CIHR-related activities. The following Standards of Practice outlines the benchmark standards that all participants in the peer review process must uphold.

2. Application of Standards of Practice for Peer Review

The Standards of Practice apply to individuals who participate in any form of peer review managed by CIHR, including, but not limited to: face-to-face, teleconference and virtual interactions and meetings.

3. Principles of Peer Review at CIHR

4. Committee members agree to the following:

  1. Committee Member Preparedness

    Chairs, Scientific Officers and Reviewers are expected to be familiar with and abide by the CIHR peer review process and the roles and responsibilities of each committee member, applicable to the assigned competition, as outlined within the Awards, Grants and Priority Driven Research competitions' peer review manual including policies impacting peer review such as sex and gender and Indigenous health research considerations.

    Reviewers are also expected to have completed the mandatory learning modules prior to participating in one of CIHR’s peer review processes.

    Reviewers are expected to be prepared for face-to-face/virtual committee discussions by being ready to present the strengths and weaknesses in their reviews as well as having knowledge of the scores and comments of other reviewers assigned to their set of applications. At the meeting, reviewers are also expected to become familiar with applications that are not assigned to them in order to participate in discussions and inform their scores.

  2. Committee Member Performance

    It is expected that Chairs, Scientific Officers and Reviewers adhere to the following general tenets that guide the relationship between all stakeholders in the peer review process:

    • Treating applicants, other reviewers, committee executives and CIHR staff with respect and consideration.
    • Supporting a collegial, inclusive and professional environment for CIHR peer review.
    • Fostering an environment for scientific discourse and respectful discussion on the merits of the adjudicated applications.
    • Ensure reliability in the process by being accountable for the accuracy of their communications with their peers and their written reviews to the best of their scientific knowledge.
  3. Committee Member Responsibilities
    1. Responsiveness:

      Reviewers are responsible for meeting the relevant competition timelines established and communicated by CIHR staff. Reviewers are also responsible to inform CIHR staff as soon as possible should they be unable to meet their commitments.

      Examples of competition tasks for which established deadlines are to be met by reviewers:

      • Declaration of Conflicts of Interests and Ability to Review
      • Predetermined dates for submitting scores and reviews
      • Responding to inquiries from Committee Chairs, Scientific Officers, and CIHR staff
    2. Review quality:

      Reviewers are responsible for providing high quality reviews by reading and assessing the applications based on the competition's standardized evaluation criteria and application requirements. Review quality is defined and operationalized at CIHR by the degree to which a written review meets the criteria specified below. Reviews of high quality meet each criterion:

      • Appropriateness: Review comments are fair, understandable, original, confidential and respectful.
      • Robustness: Review is thorough, complete and credible.
      • Utility: Review provides feedback that addresses the needs of reviewers, applicants and funders.
    3. Participation at peer review meetings (various formats and if applicable):
      • Attendance (Face-to-face/teleconference) - Participate in the peer review meeting (in-person, by phone or by computer) and provide advance notice to program staff of changes in attendance (i.e. absences, late arrivals, early departures).
      • Contribution - Contribute constructively to committee discussions and adequately present the identified strengths and/or weaknesses influencing their application rating, when appropriate.
      • Professionalism - Demonstrate appropriate and professional behavior:  
        • Work collaboratively and value a diversity of views and opinions; critiquing ideas rather than individuals.
        • Avoid aggressive behavior, bias and/or discriminatory comments, and comments that could be construed as sarcastic, flippant or arrogant.
        • Maintain confidentiality of the peer review process, including refraining from revealing committee details and reviewer identities through all forms of communication including the use of social media platforms.
  4. Committee Member Evaluation (for select programs)

    Reviewers agree to be assessed on their peer review contributions based on the committee member criteria listed above (4A-C). In certain cases, CIHR will implement strategies to best support reviewers and promote continuous improvement by providing feedback on review quality, participation and responsiveness as well as directing reviewers to resources that outline the criteria of high quality reviewer performance. CIHR will also provide opportunities for reviewers to respond to the feedback provided and work collaboratively to promote, foster and maintain a high standard of peer review.

    CIHR will also capture data to recognize reviewers with outstanding peer review efforts. CIHR is dedicated to supporting, improving and recognizing reviewer performance, as well as ensuring integrity and excellence in the peer review process.

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