2022 Canada Excellence Research Chairs Competition—Assessment Guidelines Multidisciplinary Selection Board

1. Background

The CERC program is funded by the three federal research funding agencies: the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)—together known as the “tri-agency.” The program offers eligible Canadian degree-granting institutions an opportunity to establish highly funded research chairs in the Government of Canada’s science, technology and innovation (ST&I) priorities for the Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) and the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) programs.

The 2022 CERC competition will invest approximately $155 million over 8 years through a highly competitive peer review process to support selected Canadian postsecondary institutions in recruiting the best global talent to Canada. The program also supports the next generation of leaders, making them an integral part of these ambitious core research teams, so they can chart their own paths forward.

The objectives of the program are to:

  • strengthen Canada’s ability to attract the world’s top researchers, in order to be at the leading edge of breakthroughs in ST&I priority areas expected to generate social and economic benefits for Canadians;
  • help Canada build a critical mass of expertise in ST&I priority areas identified by the Government of Canada;
  • create a competitive environment to help Canadian institutions pursue excellence in their research by attracting a cadre of world-leading researchers; and
  • contribute to branding Canada as a location of choice for world-leading research, science and technology development, alongside other federal programs with similar objectives.

Chair awards are for one of two award values and are not renewable. There is no established number of awards at the two award values:

  • $8 million dollars over eight years ($1 million dollars per year) or
  • $4 million dollars over eight years ($500,000 dollars per year).

The two award values recognize the varying costs of research within different research disciplines and aims to include all areas of research. The funding supports expenses related to compensation, as well as research activities for the chairholder, their core team, and up to 25% of the indirect costs of the research.

2. Overview of the review process

The program uses a rigorous and competitive single-phase peer review process to award the CERC awards. All applications submitted to the competition, regardless of award value and/or the career stage of the nominee, will be evaluated using the program’s selection criteria.

External reviewers

All applications will be peer reviewed by external experts in the nominee’s field of research. These external experts will be asked to provide a written assessment of the application, based on the program’s selection criteria. The multidisciplinary selection board will take these assessments into consideration in making its funding recommendations.

External reviewers provide important input into the evaluation process and generally see only one application. Only multidisciplinary selection board members will see a broad range of applications and can compare and assess their relative merit.

Multidisciplinary selection board

A diverse multidisciplinary selection board composed of world-leading national and international researchers will assess all applications using the selection criteria, taking into consideration the expert reviewers’ written assessments and the application materials. Selection board members will carefully consider the ratings of the expert reviewers when evaluating, comparing and assessing the relative merit of all applications in the competition. From an overall ranking, the multidisciplinary selection board will make funding recommendations for consideration and approval to the program’s Steering Committee, along with a ranked reversion list of alternate candidates, in case any awards are declined.

Tri-Agency Institutional Programs Secretariat Steering Committee

The Steering Committee is composed of the presidents of CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC and the Canada Foundation for Innovation (as an observer), as well as the deputy ministers of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada and Health Canada. The committee will ratify the multidisciplinary selection board’s funding recommendations, ensuring that the selection process was rigorous, objective and transparent, in keeping with the standards of peer review excellence expected by the three federal research funding agencies and consistent with the program’s objectives.

3. Equity, diversity and inclusion

Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) are embedded as a foundational principle in the program’s objectives, expected outcomes, and application and reporting requirements. To achieve its research excellence-based objectives and outcomes, the program requires the participation and contributions of students, trainees and researchers from underrepresented or marginalized groups. These groups include, but are not limited to, racialized minorities, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, women, and individuals from LGBTQ2+ communities.

Supporting early career researchers is a tri-agency priority, as it enhances Canada’s position as a world leader in building talent and strengthening the research ecosystem. Chairs and CERC-funded institutions are expected to implement measures that specifically support early career researchers.

EDI in the selection process

The core team members are expected to play key roles in the CERC’s research program. The approach taken by the institution and nominee to constitute the CERC’s core team is expected to be in line with and reflect their proposed plan for establishing and maintaining a diverse core team (sub-criterion in Criterion 1).

The assessment includes the strength of the institution’s overall commitment to EDI in research and academia and the level of support it will provide to the chairholder to establish and sustain an equitable, diverse and inclusive research team and environment that contributes to a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research ecosystem (sub-criterion in Criterion 2).

In terms of EDI within the proposed research itself, the assessment will consider the quality of the proposed research program in terms of how it has embedded EDI considerations (i.e., GBA+ or SGBA+) at each stage of the research process (research questions, design, methodology, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and dissemination of results), as applicable (sub-criterion in Criterion 3).

The proposed research program should include Indigenous research components and Indigenous ways of knowing to extend research knowledge in the field that is significant to First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples and communities, as applicable. This research must be co-created and co-led with Indigenous Peoples, as leaders, investigators, trainees, partners and collaborators, using a distinction-based approach. Institutions are expected to support nominees in integrating Indigenous research into their program. A rationale must be provided in cases where the application considers that no aspect of the research may benefit from the inclusion of Indigenous research components. For applications involving Indigenous research, board members should familiarize themselves with SSHRC’s Indigenous Research Statement of Principles and Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research (specifically, the section describing key concepts for the merit review of Indigenous research).

All reviewers are required to consistently guard against unconscious bias influencing the decision-making process, whether this bias is based on a school of thought; fundamental versus applied research; certain subdisciplines; areas of research or approaches (including emerging ones); size or reputation of an institution; or the age, personal identity factors, sex, gender or race of the applicants. All reviewers are cautioned against judging an application based on these factors. Before board members can view any applications, they must first complete the required Unconscious Bias Training Module. Board members are encouraged to read the following documents that were shared with applicants to help them with addressing EDI considerations: Best Practices in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in ResearchEDI considerations at each stage of the research processStatus of Women Canada’s information on GBA+, and the SGBA+ section of the CIHR website.

The multidisciplinary selection board will include EDI and Indigenous champions, who will help support the program’s EDI priorities in the selection process.

4. Accessing the review material

You must complete your review using the Convergence Portal. The portal is supported only on the latest versions of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox. The portal may appear to function in other browsers, but technical problems can occur, such as information being improperly captured in the system without the user being aware. Use of an unsupported browser is strongly discouraged.

As a selection board member, you will receive an email with detailed instructions asking you to log in (or create an account) in the Convergence Portal to complete your profile and accept the reviewer terms and conditions. After accepting the terms and conditions, you will have access to the reviewer dashboard on the Convergence Portal. From your dashboard, you must first declare any conflict of interest (COI), if applicable. The Ability to review tab will provide you a summary of the application to help you determine whether you have a COI.

Once the applications are assigned to selection board members, you will have access to the Committee Assignments. You will have access to a PDF copy of each applicant’s submission and supporting documents that they prepared according to the CERC application instructions.

The CERC multidisciplinary selection board does not evaluate the CFI application attached to the main CERC application. Only the external reviewers are required to review this additional material. However, the Secretariat will share all external reviews with the CFI to inform their own independent assessment process.

The PDF document is organized as follows:  

  • Application details
  • Nominee
  • Socio-economic objectives
  • Science, technology and innovation research priority areas
  • Fields of research
  • Keywords
  • Summary of the proposed program
  • Certifications, licences and permits
  • Partners, collaborators and core team members
  • Referees/letters of reference
  • Proposed budgets
  • CV (nominee’s profile)
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) – optional for institutions
  • Supporting documents:
    1. Quality of the nominee
    2. Quality of the institutional support
    3. CERC recruitment process
    4. Publicly advertised job posting
    5. Proposed research program
    6. Potential contribution to the excellence of the Canadian and international research ecosystem
    7. References
    8. Core team biosketches
    9. Letters of support from the host institution
    10. Letters of support from partners contributing financially or in-kind to the CERC
    11. Letters of support from collaborators
    12. Nominees currently at a Canadian institution, if applicable
    13. Environmental Impact Assessment (certifications required, if applicable)
    14. Budget justification

You will also be provided with any external expert reviewer reports, if applicable (these will become available as they are submitted). 

Note: The documents can be downloaded and saved on your computer or device. However, please ensure they are kept strictly confidential. They should not be shared or emailed and should be deleted once the review process is completed. Please review section 10 (below) regarding Handling documents used in peer review.

5. Applications submitted in French

Applications submitted in French are assigned to board members who have a reading comprehension of the French language.

6. Submitting your review (ratings and comments)

Each application will be assigned to three members of the selection board, taking into account expertise, conflicts, language and workload balance. You may be assigned to review proposals that are slightly outside your area of scientific expertise. This approach will help calibrate ratings across a spectrum of proposals, as well as balance the workload across this multidisciplinary selection board.

After reading the guidelines and the proposal, follow the instructions provided in the Convergence Portal to complete and submit your ratings and comments for each of the four (4) selection criteria.

To assign ratings, please refer to the Definition of Ratings. In the comment boxes in the Convergence Portal, please provide objective feedback describing both the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal for each element of the criteria. Your written comments should be clear and concise, using objective and non-inflammatory language. Because your comments will be provided as feedback to the applicant, you should ensure that you provide sufficient detail to explain your ratings. To ensure the confidentiality of the review process, please do not provide information that identifies you.

When you are ready to submit your assessment in the Convergence Portal, review your ratings and comments to ensure they are complete. Click the “Submit Assessment” button to complete the assessment of each assigned application. The status of your submission will change to “Assessed.” Once all assessments are completed, select “CERC-2022-1” from the Competition dropdown list, then select “Application” from the Stage dropdown list. Finally, click the “Submit All Assessments” button. The status of your submission will change to “Submitted.” No changes can be made after that point.

7. Multidisciplinary selection board meeting (virtual)

A virtual meeting, moderated by the multidisciplinary selection board chair, will be held to discuss individual proposal scores, especially where there is divergence among the assigned members (significant discrepancy/disagreement). The meeting provides an additional forum to discuss the proposals, share perspectives and consider various opinions. All board members will be invited to participate in the discussion of the proposals.

Ratings will be considered divergent if ratings provided by the assigned members do not accord ― for example, a mix of fully satisfies (FS) or fully satisfies and exceeds (FSE), together with mostly satisfies (MS) or does not satisfy (DNS).

To resolve divergent ratings, assigned members will not be required to modify their individual ratings, but the board will be asked to reach a consensus rating for each criterion. In addition to the expert review ratings and comment, applicants will receive both individual board member ratings and consensus board ratings.

8. Selection criteria and rating scale

The selection of successful nominees is based on the highest standards of research excellence. The program will use a rigorous and competitive review process to award CERC grants. All applications submitted to the competition, regardless of award value and/or career stage of the nominee, will be assessed using the selection criteria for the program.

The Definition of ratings detail the four (4) selection criteria and the rating scale to score the applications assigned to you. CERC application instructions provide the instructions given to applicants, for your information.

Applications must meet a minimum rating of “Fully Satisfies” and align with the Government of Canada’s science, technology and innovation (ST&I) priorities for the CERC program to be considered for funding.

Rating scale and final ranking

The following rating scale will apply for each criterion:

  • Fully satisfies and exceeds (FSE)
  • Fully satisfies (FS)
  • Mostly satisfies (MS)
  • Does not satisfy (DNS)

The final ranking of the proposals will be based on the final consensus rating.

Allocation of Chairs

The program is exclusively excellence-based, and awards will be allocated on the basis of a competitive review. No special consideration is given to nominations based on region, size of applying university, or factors other than the selection criteria.

There is no established distribution of chairs based on career stage, award value ($500,000 annually and $1 million annually) or alignment with one of the three granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC). However, once the competition budget has almost entirely been allocated, if there are only enough funds to recommend funding for the next ranked nomination at the $500,000 annual award value, the selection board may decide to recommend funding a nomination at that award value to maximize the use of the funds.

The two award values aim to allow for greater participation in the program from research disciplines with varying costs of research. The funding supports expenses related to compensation, as well as research activities for the chairholder, their core team, and up to 25% of the indirect costs of the research.

Selection criteria

The multidisciplinary selection board will conduct an in-depth review of the assigned nominations based on the following selection criteria:

Criterion No.1: Research/academic merit and leadership skills of the nominee

  • Nominee is a top-tier researcher whose accomplishments have made a major societal impact (as appropriate, based on career stage) and who is recognized internationally as a leader. In cases where the nominee is a Canadian Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit or Métis) researcher based in Canada, the impact can be at the international level and/or at the community, regional or national level. Quality and impact of the nominee’s research track record, including their record of service to the research community (e.g., service on peer review committees, faculty recruitment committees, advisory committees).
  • Nominee’s record of attracting and mentoring a diverse group of students, trainees and research personnel, and establishing an equitable and inclusive research environment.
  • Plan for establishing and maintaining a diverse core team (at the student, trainee, personnel and early career researcher levels), and an environment that is safe and inclusive and allows all team members to reach their full research potential (e.g., through the recruitment and outreach strategy, equitable training opportunities, professional development and mentoring).

Criterion No. 2: Quality of institutional support

  • Quality of the institutional environment (existing or planned) that will support the chairholder and the CERC core team throughout the tenure of the award, to ensure the success of the research program. This assessment will include the activities planned to support the Chair, such as establishing governance committees and advisory bodies, stewardship plans, etc., and the core team throughout the award.
  • Ability to sustain the research advantage created by the proposed Chair after the term of the Chair ends, including retention of the Chair beyond the period of the award.
  • Institution’s research strengths in the proposed field, assessed against global standards of excellence.
  • Strength of the institution’s overall commitment to EDI in research and academia, and the level of support it will provide to the chairholder in helping to establish and sustain an equitable, diverse and inclusive research team and environment that also contributes towards a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research ecosystem.
  • Quality of the institutional support in terms of its ability to leverage additional resources to promote knowledge mobilization and translation through partnerships with the private sector, public sector, international research institutions, academic and/or philanthropic organizations.
  • Level of additional support that will be provided to ensure the success of the research program, protected time for research (e.g., release from certain teaching or administrative duties), mentoring (if applicable), training, additional funds, office space, administrative support, and hiring of other faculty members.
  • Quality of the outreach and selection processes used by the institution to recruit the nominee, in terms of the institution’s demonstrated commitment to open, transparent, fair and equitable processes and to identifying and addressing systemic barriers (e.g., strategy used to identify a diverse pool of applicants, advertising venues, accommodations). For more information, refer to the recruitment requirements   in the application instructions.

Criterion No. 3: Quality of the research program

  • Extent to which the proposed research program aligns with one or more of the Government of Canada’s ST&I priorities for the CERC and CFREF programs.
  • Promise of the proposed field of research for the Chair, measured in the context of leading global research in the field.
  • Extent to which the proposed research program enhances knowledge mobilization and translation so that all sectors of society (industry, government, academia, not-for-profit, etc.) benefit from the research and data generated.
  • Extent to which the Chair fills a gap within existing expertise at the institution or in Canada.
  • Quality of the proposed research program in terms of how it has embedded EDI considerations (i.e., GBA+ or SGBA+) at each stage of the research process (research questions, design, methodology, data collection, analysis and interpretation, and dissemination of results), as applicable.
  • Quality of the proposed research program in terms of how research is co-created and co-led by and with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples, as investigators, trainees, partners and collaborators, and its recognition of Indigenous ways of knowing (as applicable).

Criterion No. 4: Potential contribution to the excellence of the Canadian and international research ecosystem

  • Likelihood that the work associated with the proposed research program will be recognized as globally relevant and will advance the frontiers of research in the field on a global scale.
  • Opportunities for collaboration with other researchers working in the same or related areas at the nominating institution, in the same region, within Canada and abroad.
  • Likelihood that the work of the proposed Chair will advance Canada’s reputation as a global centre for science, research and innovation excellence.
  • Plan of the Chair and core team members to communicate the research results and their impacts to the world and a variety of audiences.
  • Potential to apply the research results from the Chair to advance public policy and/or the potential to commercialize research discoveries from the Chair in order to create social and economic advantages for Canada.

9. Budget

CERC grants are awarded for a period of eight years, with funds disbursed over the duration of the grant, based on a payment schedule established by the program.

The different award values are intended to allow participation from a greater range of research disciplines and continue to support core teams that include students, highly qualified personnel, and early- and mid-career researchers. There is no established distribution between the two award values within the program’s budget envelope. The two award values acknowledge the varying costs of research objectives. The award value that is applied for must be justified in terms of research costs.

Applicants are instructed to include a budget justification for their proposed CERC grant. This budget includes:

  1. Funding from the CERC program: How the CERC funds will be used according to the line items (eight years). Actual expenditures may deviate from planned expenditures as long as the program guidelines on the use of funds are respected.
  2. Contribution from the university: Funds (cash and/or in-kind) committed in support of the chair by the institution (eight years).
  3. Contribution from other sources: Funds (cash and/or in-kind) committed in support of the chair by sources other than the CERC program or the institution (eight years).

Board members are invited to consider the budget request when evaluating the different criteria and comment on the appropriateness of the budget to reach the objectives of the Chair program.

10. Handling documents used in peer review

Review documents contain personal information as well as information that, if disclosed in an unauthorized manner, could reasonably be expected to cause serious injury (such as prejudicial treatment or loss of reputation or competitive advantage) to an individual, organization or government. Therefore, these documents are subject to regulation under the Privacy Act, the Access to Information Act and the Policy on Government Security. Protocols must be followed to ensure that information contained in applications, internal and external reviews, and panel discussions remains strictly confidential. Improper or unauthorized collection, use, disclosure, retention and/or disposal of this information can result in a privacy breach. Please refer to the Guide on Handling Documents Used in Peer Review for further details.

11. Legal and ethical information

Responsible conduct of research

Canada’s federal research funding agencies—CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC—are committed to fostering and maintaining an environment that supports and promotes the responsible conduct of research. The Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research sets out the responsibilities and corresponding policies for researchers, institutions and the agencies that, together, help support and promote a positive research environment.


Members appointed to the board must read and agree to the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers, describing expectations and requirements.

Privacy Act

Personal information refers to any information about an identifiable individual. Based on the Privacy Act, personal information provided by applicants must be used only for assessing applications, making funding decisions, and related uses describing applicants at the time that their personal information is collected. Members are reminded that the use or disclosure of this information for any other purpose is illegal. It is important for board members to adhere strictly to the guidelines set out in the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers.

Canadian Human Rights Act

The activities of CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC are subject to the Canadian Human Rights Act. See Purpose of the Act. The purpose of the Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect to the principle that all individuals should have opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have. They should also have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, family status, genetic characteristics, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.

Official Languages Act

All members and program staff must be aware of their obligations and rights under the Official Languages Act.