Coronavirus: Canada’s rapid research response

Dear colleagues:

On behalf of all partners – the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Genome Canada (GC), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) – we would like to express our sincere gratitude to Canada’s research community for mobilizing so quickly in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Thanks to the incredible response from the community, in less than a month, we were able to work with our international colleagues to assess the situation in China and around the world, develop a research response focused on the urgent areas of need, launch the funding opportunity, adjudicate the applications, and award funding to the successful applicants.

When fast-breaking challenges strike, every moment counts, and it is at times like these that we see the altruistic spirit of our Canadian researchers. We have often witnessed the community’s passion for science and dedication in addressing such global and national crises, and those qualities were once again on full display during this public health emergency.

We would like to thank the 1,195 applicants who submitted their research ideas within a nine-day window; the diversity of research ideas and quality of the science was impressive. We would also like to thank the 150 individuals who considered our request and volunteered to put their lives and work on hold in order to serve as peer reviewers. This group of individuals reviewed 227 applications, completing 681 high quality reviews, within five days. The response we received from our call for reviewers was truly remarkable, and we are deeply appreciative of all who volunteered to serve in this capacity.

We would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the close collaboration between Canada’s federal agencies in supporting a rapid launch of this funding opportunity. By working together, we were able to bolster Canada’s response to the outbreak and provide approximately $26.7M to fund 47 research projects while delivering the competition in approximately 3 weeks. This collaborative effort was yet another example of the strong relationships amongst Canada’s federal agencies, and in our shared belief that we can further strengthen our research funding impacts when working together.

Finally, we wish to extend our deep appreciation to our CIHR staff and Institutes. The team worked around the clock to take leadership roles in international meetings, develop the funding opportunity, and get the grants out the door. Further, they were supported by colleagues who ensured that CIHR’s regular business was not adversely impacted. Our team’s dedication to public service sets the standard and it is a privilege to work with such devoted people.

Science has the power to solve societal challenges and there is no question that Canada’s research community will make significant contributions to the global effort on COVID-19, and is ready to respond quickly to future emergencies.


Tammy Clifford
Vice-President, Research Programs, CIHR

Adrian Mota
Associate Vice-President, Research Programs, CIHR

Dominique Bérubé
Chair, NFRF Management committee and Vice-president Research, SSHRC

Dominique Charron
Vice-President, Programs and Partnerships, IDRC

Danika Goosney
Vice-President, Research Grants and Scholarships Directorate, NSERC

Cindy Bell,
Executive Vice-President, Corporate Development, Genome Canada

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