Major Collaborative Research Initiatives

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February 2010 Competition

Value and Duration
Evaluation and Adjudication
Administrative Regulations
More Information



The Major Collaborative Research Initiatives (MCRI) program supports leading-edge research with true potential for intellectual breakthrough that addresses broad and critical issues of intellectual, social, economic and cultural significance through the effective coordination and integration of diverse research activities and research results.

The conceptual framework and research questions of MCRI projects should be of such breadth and scope as to require the participation of many scholars of different perspectives and with different types of expertise working together in an enriching and effective fashion.

The size and composition of the research team should be determined by the complexity of the issues under study. In addition, there should be a mechanism in place to facilitate dialogue among the various disciplines that is necessary to explore fully the multifaceted and complex issues under investigation.

The MCRI program seeks to support research with a strong analytical component, research of such significance and quality that it brings international recognition to the team, involves appropriate partners and stakeholders and produces results that will have a major impact on Canadian scholarship and society.

This issue-driven program seeks to strengthen Canadian research capacity in the humanities and social sciences by promoting broadly based research and unique student training opportunities in a collaborative, inter-disciplinary, inter-postsecondary institution research environment.

The program is intended for leading scholars with solid track records and past experience in collaborative research, student training and grant management, and who demonstrate the leadership and other skills necessary for managing a complex, inter-disciplinary, multi-institutional project.

The MCRI program also seeks to foster unique opportunities to collaborate on important international research in which the Canadian team plays the lead role in the direction of the research. International scholars can be invited to join an MCRI team as co-applicants (co-investigators) or visiting scholars. However, the number of international scholars appointed as co-investigators cannot exceed the number of Canadian co-investigators on the research team. Funding allocations should also reflect this balance.

The specific objectives of the MCRI program are to:

  • support leading edge, collaborative research that meets high standards of excellence, promises a significant contribution to the advancement and transfer of knowledge in the humanities and social sciences, and encourages discussion and debate from a broad perspective on critical issues of intellectual, social, economic and cultural significance for Canadian scholarship and society;

  • promote broadly based collaborative research as the central mode of research activity—both within and among disciplines, departments and faculties, as well as with other sciences, at universities across the country and abroad;

  • promote the development of active partnerships with private or public sector groups to ensure their participation in the design and conduct of the research project and in the dissemination of research results;

  • promote the development of links with appropriate stakeholders;

  • provide unique opportunities for training students and postdoctoral fellows in a collaborative, interdisciplinary research environment;

  • support research that achieves integrated and comprehensive syntheses of the issues under study;

  • encourage dynamic and innovative approaches to disseminating research findings that will have a major impact on Canadian scholarship and society by reaching both traditional and new audiences, including Canadian and international scholars, policy makers, stakeholders and the general public; and

  • involve postsecondary institutions in long-term commitments to the development of unique, large-scale, inter-postsecondary institution research initiatives.



For this program, collaboration is defined as an ongoing, active and integrated working relationship among the members of a broadly based team of researchers, each of whom brings different perspectives to complex research questions requiring long-term funding.

The research should be of such scope as to require broadly based collaboration among researchers from various disciplines, sectors and institutions.

The application should clearly identify, from the outset, the critical issues the proposed research will address.

The main thrust of the proposed research must be in areas falling within the humanities and social sciences disciplines and within SSHRC's mandate.

The MCRI program does not provide ongoing support to research centres, major editorial projects, reference works, research tools, data banks or basic networking. However, the latter three may receive support as a funded component of a proposal. SSHRC encourages applicants to discuss their proposals with a program officer before submitting their application.

Value and Duration

Grants are awarded for seven years. This is subject to a satisfactory site visit by a SSHRC-appointed committee that reviews the project's progress at its mid-point. If the review committee deems progress to be unsatisfactory, SSHRC may suspend or cancel funding.

Eligible proposals must be of such a scope that they require a minimum budget of $100,000 for each of the seven years. The maximum budget is $2.5 million over seven years.

Grant holders normally receive a "start-up" visit in January, the month after SSHRC announces competition results. Funds are released shortly thereafter—once team membership and non-SSHRC funding sources are confirmed.


Extensions beyond the seven-year period of the grant are possible, but they are not automatic: at least three months before the end of the grant period, the project director must request an extension in writing, outlining the reasons for, and financial implications of, the request.



Project Director

Applications must be submitted by the project director on behalf of the research team. The project director must satisfy all the regular eligibility requirements for an applicant (principal investigator) as set out in the definitions.

Institutions that propose to administer any grant awarded under this program must meet the requirements for managing SSHRC funds and must hold or obtain institutional eligibility.

SSHRC regulations no longer prevent a researcher who holds an MCRI grant as project director from holding a Standard Research Grant as principal investigator at the same time (or vice versa). Nevertheless, evaluation committees may well raise questions about the feasibility of undertaking other research projects at the same time as fulfilling the heavy demands of leading an MCRI team. In any case, no researcher can hold the position of project director on two MCRI grants at the same time.

Research Team

The research team must represent a minimum of two Canadian postsecondary institutions (including the Canadian host institution), and must include sufficient members to cover the diverse perspectives and expertise required by the breadth of the research questions outlined in the proposal. The team may include co-applicants (co-investigators) and collaborators in accordance with SSHRC definitions.

Foreign Researchers

In accordance with SSHRC’s policy of encouraging international collaboration, provided that their benefit to the project is demonstrated, researchers affiliated with a foreign institution may be invited to join MCRI teams as co-applicants and have access to research funds for work carried out as part of Canadian-led teams. During the seven-year period of the grant, researchers affiliated with a foreign institution may also be brought to the research site as visiting scholars for up to three months. Applicants and project directors should nevertheless bear in mind that the majority of co-applicants (co-investigators) must be affiliated with a Canadian institution, and that the project’s funding allocations should reflect this fact.


Evaluation and Adjudication

All applications are adjudicated, and available funds awarded, through a competitive process. All applications are evaluated by the MCRI adjudication committee, a broadly based, multi-disciplinary, peer-review committee of leading Canadian and international scholars. The committee provides detailed comments on its recommendations, but does not invite resubmissions, nor does it provide scores and ranking.

The MCRI program involves a two-stage application process:

Stage 1: Letter of Intent

For the letter of intent (LOI) stage, the applicant completes a Web-based application. This includes an outline of the proposal that clearly identifies the critical issue or issues to be addressed and that takes into account all the program's evaluation criteria. The project director and all co-investigators and collaborators must complete Web CVs. Detailed application instructions are provided with the application form.

Unsuccessful Applicants: Reapplying for an MCRI Grant

Applicants who were unsuccessful at either stage of the competition, and who decide to reapply, should devote adequate time to revising the project proposal. In particular, it is essential to take full account of the adjudication committee's comments, as these are made available to any subsequent adjudication committee. Applicants who were unsuccessful at the formal application stage of the most recent competition will receive a three-week extension (i.e., February 21 deadline, rather than January 31) if they decide to submit a letter of intent in the very next competition.

Successful Applicants: Applying for a Second MCRI Grant

SSHRC’s adjudication committees consider applications for a second MCRI grant on an equal basis with new applications. Adding knowledge or disseminating research results as a follow-up activity to a previously funded MCRI project do not constitute grounds for receiving a second MCRI grant. To compete with new applicants, second-time applicants must present persuasive arguments for the leading-edge nature of their proposed research and its major impacts. They must also demonstrate their capacity to deliver promised outputs from their first MCRI grant.

In addition to the other requirements, applicants who have received and completed an MCRI grant, and who wish to apply for a second grant, must include with their letter of intent a supplementary three-page document that describes: the nature and impact to date of the research results from their first grant, the partnerships developed, and the links made with stakeholders. This supplement should specifically report on progress made in the period after the mid-term site visit and respond to any recommendations made by the site visit committee. Committee members receive copies of the mid-term report and any follow-up correspondence. The letter of intent should explain the links between the completed and proposed research. The applicant should also append to the supplement a list of publications that have resulted directly from the first MCRI grant.

Stage 2: Formal Application

Only those applicants successful at the letter of intent stage are invited to submit a formal application. These applicants and their research teams will also receive a $20,000 development fund to help defray the cost of planning and preparing the formal application and bringing team members to the interview.

Please note that the project director cannot be changed between the letter of intent stage and the formal application stage.

For the MCRI program, SSHRC consults external assessors only at the formal application stage. The adjudication committee considers, but is not bound by, the judgements of the external assessors. Applicants may indicate in a covering letter potential assessors who, in their opinion, might not provide an impartial review. The committee decides which proposals to recommend to proceed to the formal application stage, and which formal applications to recommend for funding.

Applications allow 20 pages for a detailed description of the proposed program. The description should first and foremost identify the critical issue or issues to be addressed. This description should take into account all adjudication committee comments and should address all of the evaluation criteria set out below.

The project director and up to three members of the research team attend a one-hour interview with the adjudication committee to respond to questions.

The final level of funding, and any conditions of funding, are negotiated through consultation with SSHRC, the project director and the host institution.

All applicants receive a copy of the adjudication committee's comments on the letter of intent and formal application, including, in the latter case, the external assessments.

Evaluation Criteria

In its deliberations concerning both the Letters of Intent and the Formal Applications, the MCRI adjudication committee uses the following main criteria:

Quality, significance, breadth and scope of the proposed research:

  • overall quality and significance of the proposed research;
  • promise of leading-edge research with potential for intellectual breakthrough;
  • necessary breadth and scope to address broad and critical issues of intellectual, social, economic and/or cultural significance; and
  • potential for major impact on Canadian and international scholarship.

Strength and skills of the Project Director:

  • capacity to provide the necessary intellectual leadership for a large, diverse multi-institutional team of researchers;
  • ability to establish and maintain a solid management structure that will ensure the effective integration of team members, students and research results; and
  • proven record of solid research as well as previous experience in collaborative research and grant management.

Strength and expertise of the team:

  • degree to which the team has the different perspectives and necessary expertise to shed new light on, and cover the multiple facets of, the research issues;
  • individual strengths of each team member and his/her potential for successful collaboration and effective student training and mentoring; and
  • involvement of appropriate partners and stakeholders in the design and conduct of the research.

Student training:

  • potential to attract the best students and provide unique training opportunities for them in a well-structured, cross-disciplinary research environment;
  • number of students and the overall quality of the proposed training activities; and
  • career development opportunities for postdoctoral fellows and other research assistants.

Dissemination strategies:

  • degree to which the scholarly results will offer an integrated and comprehensive analysis of the issues under study;
  • impact on the scholarly community and on the Canadian public;
  • breadth of outreach to new audiences, including policy-makers, partners, stakeholders and the general public;
  • number, significance and effectiveness of concrete deliverables by the end of the grant period; and
  • plans for knowledge transfer.

Budget justification:

  • overall financial planning;
  • justification of the expenditures proposed; and
  • level of institutional and partner funding secured.


Administrative Regulations

All applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide.

All direct costs related to the conduct and communication of research as identified in the Guide are eligible expenses. Given the vital importance, for large-scale research projects, of effectively managing and integrating research activities and team members, applicants may request funds for both the financial and research administration of the project.

More Information

If you have any questions about the MCRI program, please contact:

Brenda Werrell
MCRI Program Coordinator

Tel.: 613-947-9659
Fax: 613-992-7635