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Mock Review Toolkit: Introduction

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1.1 Peer Review at CIHR

Please note, while the College will continually update the Toolkit, information provided through the CIHR website will always be the most up-to-date and should be used in cases where information differs from that provided in the Toolkit.

Peer review refers to the process used by CIHR to review applications submitted for funding. Applications are assigned to Reviewers who have, individually or collectively, the required experience and expertise to assess the quality and the potential impact of the proposed research and the research-related activities, within the context of the funding opportunity objectives. As applicable, CIHR invites experts with various perspectives from the health research community (e.g. health researchers, health related professionals, policy makers, community leaders, patients, citizens, etc.) to become members of a Peer Review Committee (PRC) to:

PRCs make recommendations for funding to CIHR and partners, who in turn make the final funding decisions. For more information on Peer Review at CIHR, please visit our website.

Types of Peer Review Processes

Committees typically run using two fundamental review processes: an in-person/teleconference meeting or a virtual review.Footnote 2

The in-person meeting is typical of the Project Grant competition – Reviewers are assigned applications to review at-home before they convene to discuss and rate the applications via a face-to-face meeting, teleconference, or video conference.

The virtual review is typical of the Doctoral Awards competition – Reviewers complete an electronic, at home review only. Virtual Reviewers do not discuss applications unless there are sufficient discrepancies in the Reviewers’ scores.

Adjudication Models

Committees also use a variety of adjudication models to evaluate applications, with each funding opportunity usually incorporating more than one.

  1. Relevance Review is used when it is important for applications to be relevant to, or in alignment with, targeted research components of the Funding Opportunity (FO). The relevance review process typically takes place prior to the peer review process. Applications will be assessed using specific criteria and then those deemed relevant will proceed to the next step.
  2. Scientific review is the standard review mechanism for assessing the scientific excellence of proposals submitted to a competition. It uses a clear set of evaluation criteria to measure key aspects of the proposals in relation to the main scope and objectives of the FO.
  3. Merit review is a type of review that uses separate scores or ratings for potential impact and scientific merit. In general, the potential impact score of an application reflects the importance of the project to the knowledge-users and the likelihood that it will have a substantive and sustainable impact on health outcomes, practice, programs and/or policy in the study context.Footnote 3
  4. Iterative review is a process used in the Project Grant competition to review applications with a central focus on carrying out ethical and culturally competent research involving Indigenous peoples, with the intent to promote health through research that is in keeping with Indigenous values and traditions. These applications may be reviewed by the Indigenous Health Research (IHR) Committee. The IHR Committee may deem an application eligible for the Iterative Peer Review Process. The objective of the Iterative Peer Review Process is to allow applicants whose applications have been deemed excellent, the opportunity to provide minor clarifications that would see the application improved to become outstanding.Footnote 4

Committee Members

A CIHR review committee typically consists of Reviewers and usually a Chair and Scientific Officer, depending on the needs of the adjudication model. Individual committee members are selected for their knowledge, expertise and/or experience. PRC membership as a whole considers one or more of the following aspects:

For more information regarding the Project Grant Competition, please visit our website.

1.2 Overview of the Mock Review Toolkit


Please note, that while this Toolkit focuses on the Peer Review process used in the Project Grant Competition, CIHR recognizes the need for additional resources for those who review for other funding programs at CIHR. Additional resources will be developed in the future to meet these needs.

The Toolkit was designed to raise awareness of the peer review process at CIHR and help individuals improve their peer review skills and grantsmanship. The Mock Review Toolkit contains the necessary resources to simulate the CIHR Project Grant Peer Review Process, including three suggested simulation models – a Light, Full and Internal simulation model – which can be adapted as required. In this regard, the Toolkit can stand alone as a peer review resource or be used as guide to help users run their own mock review simulation or internal peer review process. We strongly recommend that interested parties read the Toolkit in its entirety prior to running any simulation.


Unless otherwise indicated, such as the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement, resources referenced throughout the Toolkit are optional templates that serve as suggestions to help support Facilitators during the process.

The Toolkit collates all necessary Project Competition peer review resources, as well as additional supporting materials, to allow users to conduct a mock review simulation. Additional supportive materials, such as sample emails or templates, can be found throughout the Toolkit and are clearly labelled by an accompanying icon, as shown below for the Facilitator Training Presentation. You can also find a comprehensive list of all supportive materials in the Appendix section, which provides users with a single, easy to access location to quickly identify and locate necessary resources. Resources include:

Intended Audience

This Mock Review Toolkit is designed for Research Institutions, CIHR Institutes, partners and others that are interested in facilitating a Committee meeting to improve understanding of how the peer review process at CIHR works. This Toolkit is appropriate for any researchers who are looking to learn more about CIHR’s peer review process – irrespective of their career stage – including Trainees (pre- and postdoctoral) and new faculty, as well as content experts and knowledge holders and users.


The Facilitator(s) acts as an administrator and is responsible for designing and delivering the simulation from start to finish, including: planning and organizing the simulation, coordinating applications and Reviewers, ensuring that all participants receive necessary pre-simulation training and/or materials, running the Committee meeting proper, and ensuring feedback is collected and collated. The Facilitator(s) can also take on the role of Chair or Scientific Officer if no other person has been appointed to the role(s).


Reviewers are the primary participant in the mock simulation. Reviewers are assigned applications to review, score, and present at the face-to-face meeting. Reviewers will also participate in general committee discussion and provide scores for all other applications.
The committee Chair has the role of moderator during the Committee meeting. It is the Chair’s responsibility to ensure that the review committee functions smoothly, effectively, and objectively. The Chair maintains a positive, constructive, fair-minded environment, in which research proposals are evaluated.
Scientific Officer:
The Scientific Officer (SO) is responsible for supporting the Chair in his/her role during the Committee meeting. The SO take official notes of the committee discussions for each application. The role of SO can also be fulfilled by either the Facilitator or a Reviewer who can switch between roles depending on the application being reviewed.

1.3 Mock Review Simulation at a Glance
High-level overview of how to select, plan, train for, and run one of the three types of mock simulation covered by the Toolkit

Selecting a Simulation
Tasks Light Simulation Full Simulation Internal Simulation
Week 1 Week 1 Week 1
Planning the Simulation
Tasks Light Simulation Full Simulation Internal Simulation

Logistics Planning

Week 1 Week 1 Week 1

Invite Facilitator and Committee Executives

Week 2 Week 2 Week 2

Promote Mock Review Simulation

Week 3-5 Week 3-5 Week 3-5

Select Applications

Week 3-5 Week 3-5 Week 5-6

Select and Invite Reviewers

Week 4-5 Week 5-6 Week 6-7
Tasks Light Simulation Full Simulation Internal Simulation
Week 5 Week 7 Week 8
Running the Simulation
Tasks Light Simulation Full Simulation Internal Simulation

Assigning Applications and At-Home Reviews

Week 6 Week 7-8 Week 8-10

Committee Meeting

Week 7 Week 9-10 Week 11-12
Tasks Light Simulation Full Simulation Internal Simulation
Week 8 Week 10-11 Week 13-15
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