Summary of June 2020 CIHR “Ask Me Anything” webinars

Recap of webinars held on June 2 and June 4

CIHR held two “Ask Me Anything” webinars related to the recent announcement about the reinstatement of the Spring 2020 Project Grant competition. These webinars were hosted by Adrian Mota, Associate Vice-President of Research Programs, and all available members of the health research community were welcome to attend.

The following information is provided as a summary of the key details discussed during the webinars including updates that have become available since the webinar dates.

If you have additional questions or need more information, please get in touch with the CIHR Contact Centre.

Area of interest Discussion topics Information available

Spring 2020 Project Grant competition – for applicants

  • Timelines
  • Options for investigators initially offered a financial extension
  • Possibility  of application updates and/or supplements
  • Anticipated success rate
  • Reintroducing the Notice of Recommendation (NOR)
  • COVID-19 impacts on research

At the time of the webinars, a number of these elements were still under discussion at CIHR.

The anticipated Notice of Decision (NOD) date for this competition will be in mid-September, but the funding start date will remain October 1, 2020 (as originally planned for the Spring competition).

CIHR acknowledges that individuals are affected differently by COVID-19 across the country. CIHR is working with the Chairs and SOs to ensure that all applicants receive a fair review and that assumptions about feasibility related to the COVID-19 context will not be considered in the scientific review of the applications.

There are a number of factors that influence competition success rates, including total budget available, grant size, and application pressure (i.e., number of applications under review). Given this variability, CIHR does not set a target success rate for any competition—and avoids making projections until the final data is available.

CIHR’s emergency funding for COVID-19 research was not taken from the Project Grant funding envelope. It is specifically a component of the Government of Canada response to this crisis.

Update: On June 8, CIHR released a new message with important information for Spring 2020 Project Grant applicants, which addresses most of these details.

Spring 2020 Project grant competition – for reviewers

  • Peer review process, including expectations and timelines

The approximate timelines for the Spring 2020 Project Grant competition are as follows:

  • Confirm panel member participation and recruit as needed: mid-June
  • Ability to review (ATR) and application assignments: mid- to end of June
  • Application review period: July
  • Peer review committee meetings via videoconference: August

Confirmed peer reviewers will receive specific details about timelines for their panel (e.g., review deadline, meeting dates) and instructions for joining the video conference. CIHR staff will be in touch with everyone via e-mail.

Spring 2020 Project Grant competition – from the early career research (ECR) perspective

  • Anticipated support for ECRs in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic
  • Observer program

CIHR maintains its commitment to equalize the success rates of ECRs in the Spring 2020 competition, as it has done for recent Project Grant competitions.

A number of participants raised concerns about the impacts of the pandemic on productivity and on the opportunities for ECRs to launch their careers. These points are currently under discussion with CIHR senior leadership. We will provide an update at a later date.

A decision regarding the Spring 2020 Observer program will be released soon, but it is unlikely that CIHR will be able to support it for the current competition.

Fall 2020 Project Grant competition

  • Timelines

The Fall 2020 competition deadlines and peer review timeframes will shift slightly from our typical Fall competition dates in order to not overlap with the Spring competition.

Update: On June 8, CIHR released a new message with details about the Fall 2020 competition dates. We anticipate a mid-September registration deadline and a mid-October full application deadline. All details will be available when the funding opportunity launches in July.

Foundation Grant holders

  • Eligibility to apply in Spring 2021

As planned, eligible Foundation Grant holders will still be able to apply to the Spring 2021 Project Grant competition.

COVID-19 and Mental Health (CMH) initiative

  • Operating Grant competition
  • Knowledge Synthesis Grant competition

The Operating Grant: COVID-19 Mental Health & Substance Use Service Needs and Delivery for CIHR’s COVID-19 and mental health (CMH) initiative was launched on June 4, 2020. The results of the Knowledge Synthesis Grant: COVID-19 Rapid Research Funding Opportunity in Mental Health and Substance Use competition were published on June 3, 2020.

Support for research trainees

  • Direct and indirect supports for students and postdoctoral fellows

On April 22, the Government of Canada committed $291.6M to support students and postdoctoral researchers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest details on direct support and indirect support for students and postdoctoral fellows are now available on CIHR’s website. More details will follow in the near future.

Trainees may also benefit from COVID-19 exceptions to the tri-agency post-award regulations.

Eligible grant expenses

  • Childcare
  • Personal protective equipment

The agencies encourage grant recipients to consider their obligation to practice physical distancing and self- isolation requirements, imposed by government and health authorities, as pre-eminent to pursuing their funded research activities during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Given the ever-evolving circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC recognize that grant recipients and/or research team members may continue to incur ongoing research costs, as well as incremental costs that would not normally be incurred, related to agency-funded research activities. The agencies would like to remain as flexible as possible to support grant recipients during this time and acknowledge that some of these costs may be eligible to be paid from agency grant funds.

The agencies will therefore defer to administering institutions to determine if incremental costs are consistent with the principles and directives set out in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration.

Therefore, the purchase of personal protective equipment (PPE) may be an appropriate use of grant funds, should the expenditures meet all requirements as assessed by your administering institution.

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