Appeals of decisions based on merit review

On this page


SSHRC is committed to the integrity of its merit review processes. For this reason, the merit review process for many SSHRC funding opportunities includes an appeal process. Applicants can ask that a funding decision be reviewed when evidence suggests that an error occurred during the merit review process, which resulted in the application being unsuccessful.


Decisions not to fund an application can only be appealed if there is evidence an error occurred in the merit review process.

An error is a departure from SSHRC’s policies and procedures, for example where:

SSHRC will not accept appeals based on:

  • decisions pertaining to applicant, subject matter or program eligibility;
  • a difference in scholarly opinion between merit review committee members and/or external assessors;
  • disagreement with the interpretation or analysis of facts by merit review committee members and/or external assessors;
  • the content of external assessments, unless an assessment contains unprofessional, discriminatory or biased comments and, where applicable, from  which the merit review committee did not distance itself in its own comments;
  • the number of external assessments;
  • the composition of a merit review committee, including the subject matter expertise of members;
  • a funding decision not made by SSHRC, such as decisions made during institutional reviews; or
  • the amount awarded.

Appeal decisions are final.

Funding opportunities eligible for appeal


Appellant submits a request for an appeal

Applicants seeking further information about the review of their application are strongly encouraged to first communicate with SSHRC at the email address provided in the letter of decision. If, after discussion with program staff, an applicant wants to pursue an appeal and has the necessary evidence of an error as outlined above, they can submit a formal letter of appeal to SSHRC.

Appeals can only be submitted by the applicant, project director or nominated principal investigator named in the application. An appeal should be based on compelling demonstration that an error occurred in the merit review process.

Applicants must submit their appeals in writing, postmarked or emailed no later than 65 calendar days after the date indicated on their decision letter. Late appeals will not be accepted.

Appeal letters must be no more than two pages and cannot include supporting documents. If additional information is needed to process the appeal request, SSHRC staff will contact the appellant.

To submit by mail To submit by email

Mail appeal letters to:

Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
125 Zaida Eddy Private, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, ON K1R 0E3

Email a PDF of the appeal letter to:

Process to determine whether there are grounds for appeal

The appeal process is managed by employees in the office of the vice-president, Corporate Affairs, who were not involved in the original management or review of the application.
Once SSHRC receives an appeal letter, it determines whether there are grounds for appeal, as follows:

  1. Corporate Affairs employees acknowledge receipt of the appeal;
  2. Corporate Affairs employees analyze the appeal request and, where appropriate, any SSHRC documents relating to the application and its review. They consult the relevant program staff and ask them to provide any applicable documentation and information;
  3. Based on their analysis, Corporate Affairs employees recommend to the vice-president, Corporate Affairs, whether there is sufficient evidence to support an appeal;
  4. The vice-president, Corporate Affairs, makes the final decision on whether there are grounds for appeal;
  5. If the vice-president, Corporate Affairs, finds there are:
    1. no grounds for appeal, SSHRC notifies the appellant and the file is closed;
    2. grounds for appeal, SSHRC notifies the appellant that the appeal will be referred to the appeals committee.

Process to determine the impact of an error

The appeals committee determines the potential impact of an error on the application’s score.

Appeals committee members are former SSHRC merit review committee chairs or members well versed in SSHRC’s merit review processes. The committee cannot include individuals who were involved in making the original funding recommendation to SSHRC or individuals who would be in a conflict of interest with the application.

The committee reviews the documentation provided to the original merit review committee, feedback provided to the appellant and the appellant’s letter of appeal. The role of the appeals committee is not to re-evaluate the merit of the application, as the appeals process adheres to the principle of no parallel assessment described in SSHRC’s principles for merit review. Rather, the committee assesses the impact of the identified error(s) on the original merit review process and scoring of the application.

Based on its review of the documents, the appeals committee provides a recommendation to the vice-president, Corporate Affairs. The appeals procedure results in:

  • the committee recommending the score(s) remain unchanged, if it determines the error(s) did not affect the original merit review process and scores; or
  • the committee recommending new score(s), if it determines the error(s) did affect the original merit review process and score(s).

The vice-president, Corporate Affairs, approves the final appeal outcome.

A decision to change the application’s score will not necessarily result in funds being awarded. Awarding of funding depends on the application’s final ranking after the adjusted score has been applied.

Appeals are normally resolved within three to four months from the time SSHRC receives them. However, SSHRC may need more time depending on when the appeal is received and, if referred, moved forward to the appeals committee.

Successful appeals for applications to funding opportunities that support time-sensitive events or activities (e.g., Connection Grants) are handled on a case-by-case basis. SSHRC will determine whether any funding resulting from the appeal would be appropriate and feasible.

SSHRC will keep appellants apprised throughout the appeal process and will email the appeal results to the appellant.

Future applications

Appellants are encouraged to re-apply for funding if they are eligible after or during an appeal process, as there is no guarantee an appeal will move forward to the appeals committee or result in funding. SSHRC does not provide information on any appeals to merit review committees assessing an appellant’s subsequent applications for funding.

Date modified: