Update on peer review meeting format for the Project Grant competition
Message from Christian Baron and Adrian Mota

Dear colleagues,

We are writing to provide an update on CIHR’s plans for the peer review meeting format of the Project Grant competition.

We can confirm that CIHR will continue the use of virtual peer review, via Microsoft Teams, for the next two Project Grant competitions; that is, for the Spring 2023 and the Fall 2023 competitions. With cases of COVID-19 and other respiratory infections rising across the country, we felt this was the most prudent course of action from a public health perspective.

While the public health situation continues to evolve, we wanted to inform you of this decision now, as we appreciate that one of the best ways that CIHR can support you is by providing consistency and predictability in our operations.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, CIHR has delivered five Project Grant competitions virtually, and a sixth is currently in progress. Pivoting to virtual peer review two years ago was a learning experience for us all, but with each Project Grant competition we have delivered, we have worked to refine the process to make it as effective and efficient as possible.

CIHR’s top priority remains the delivery of high-quality, consistent peer review with diverse panel representation, that takes into account considerations of equity, diversity, inclusion, and accessibility. We have analyzed peer review data from 2019-2021 and found that review quality, participation, and responsiveness have remained consistently high, even as we transitioned from face-to-face to virtual peer review meetings. These findings were confirmed by key-informant interviews with reviewers, Chairs, and Scientific Officers following the Spring 2022 Project Grant competition.

However, we also understand that virtual peer review is not perfect. We know that opinions vary as to how engagement and committee cohesion are affected by holding meetings virtually. It is clear that this crucial aspect of the peer review process will need to be considered as we develop future models of peer review. In the meantime, we will continue exploring models for delivering peer review across the broad range of programs that CIHR delivers, including hybrid meetings, and alternating between face-to-face and virtual meetings. In parallel, we will continue to gather data on review quality and engage with national and international funders to learn from their experiences with similar peer review processes. Ultimately, as we refine this into a set of specific proposals, we will return to you as our scientific community for your further input as a decision is made.

Thank you, as always, for your hard work and dedication, and for your advice and guidance. If you have questions or wish to speak with us on this or any topic, please reach out to us, email the CIHR Contact Centre at support-soutien@cihr-irsc.gc.ca, or get in touch with your CIHR University Delegate.

Wishing you all a healthy and safe holiday season.


Dr. Christian Baron
Vice-President, Research – Programs

Adrian Mota
Associate Vice-President, Research – Programs (Operations)

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