An update on the College Chairs  
Message from the President

January 5, 2021

Dear colleagues,

As many of you will be aware, when the College Chairs were established in 2016, the singular purpose was to ensure that the peer review system supported the selection of the most innovative and cutting-edge proposals for research and knowledge translation. Central to their mandate was the need to ensure that the peer review process remained fair, well managed and transparent.  While the development of the College Chairs was an integral component of the previous strategic plan (Roadmap II), there was also a critical need for the College Chairs and a College of Reviewers at that moment in the history of CIHR.  Chairs provided strategic guidance in building the College, including the development and oversight of a continuous improvement process.

This singular goal of the College Chairs has been achieved with remarkable efficiency while also helping to steer CIHR's peer-review through challenging times.  As a direct result of their oversight and deep engagement, all applicants can be assured that the peer-review process is not only fair and transparent, but increasingly addressing issues of equity, diversity and inclusion.  Through their collective efforts and personal outreach, we have a robust College of Reviewers. Through their collective advocacy, CIHR can be proud of its increasing focus on early career investigators, Indigenous and racialized researchers and knowledge keepers, and our meaningful and broad-reaching engagement with advocacy groups, health charities and other funding agencies.  And while there will always remain so much more to do to fully engage these health research communities within a larger ecosystem, we can all take pride in noting that meaningfully engaging our community to further advance equity, diversity and inclusion at CIHR is a cornerstone of our new strategic plan that will be released this February.

The College of Reviewers is now directly supported by CIHR by a dedicated team, ensuring that the review process continuously improves, that there is a mentorship program in place, and that there is continuous performance management.  We have also developed a more meaningful interaction with the University Delegates and their executive (UDEC), a relationship that has been instrumental in our reaching out to the academic community as we continue to refine peer review. Our reliance on the peer review panel chairs and scientific officers for advice as we have evolved the peer review process dramatically over the past year has become a cornerstone of how we collectively advance the goals of CIHR to best serve our research community.

It has been a truly remarkable contribution of this group of volunteers to our community.

However, the role of the College Chairs has become less defined as their specific mandate has been accomplished and the College of Reviewers firmly established. Just prior to the Christmas break, the College Chairs elected to resign given this. Over the holidays, we reached out to the Chairs to further explore what a renewed mandate might encompass and to do so in the new year rather than in the midst of holidays. In the months to come as the strategic plan and its accompanying action plan are released, I look forward to also engaging with our research community to examine the role of the College Chairs and if indicated, refining their mandate as CIHR continues to grow.

With best wishes for the new year and for good health,

Michael J. Strong, MD, FRCP, FCAHS, FAAN
President, CIHR

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