How was this COVID-19 research funded?

To support the research showcased in this collection of stories, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and a number of partners organized and ran a special funding competition to support science projects across the country.

These types of funding competitions are part of CIHR's core business. As the federal health research investment agency, CIHR runs over one hundred of these competitions each year. While every competition has specific eligibility guidelines (in terms of who can apply for funding and what type or area of research the competition is meant to support), the funding process typically follows the same broad steps:

  1. CIHR launches a funding opportunity, which is a call for applications that contains all of the pertinent details that an applicant would need to know (deadline, eligibility, funding available);
  2. Researchers based at universities and hospitals across Canada submit applications to compete for the funding;
  3. CIHR processes the applications and arranges for them to be peer reviewed by a committee of experts (typically other independent researchers who evaluate and debate the merits of each application);
  4. Applications are ranked from highest to lowest, based on the results of peer review; and
  5. CIHR awards funding to the top-ranked applications, continuing down the ranking list until the budget for the competition is spent in full.

These competitions rely heavily on the help of the research community, as the peer reviewers who evaluate each application are volunteering their time to support the research funding process. (Applications are not evaluated by CIHR staff, so the funding decisions for any competition are based on the recommendations from these expert reviewers.)

In February 2020, CIHR and partners launched the Canadian 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Rapid Research funding opportunity.Footnote 1 As the title implies, it was a very rapid competition. Canada's research community mobilized quickly to submit their best applications and to volunteer as the right experts to review them, which made it possible to award funding within a one-month timeframe.

A total of 99 projects were funded through the first Rapid Research funding opportunity. Similar application and adjudication processes are also being used to fund research into clinical epidemiology, sex differences in the COVID-19 immune response, and mental health and substance use in the face of COVID-19. CIHR and partners will also support clinical trial research, as well as additional projects related to social, policy, and public health responses.

New stories about the projects funded through these competitions will be posted in the weeks and months to come. Thank you for taking the time to read about the fantastic work of Canadian researchers across the country.

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