Appeals of decisions based on merit review

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SSHRC is committed to the integrity of its merit review processes. For this reason, the merit review process includes an appeal process for applicants. Applicants can ask that a funding decision be reconsidered where evidence suggests an error occurred during SSHRC’s merit review process that resulted in an unsuccessful application.


Decisions not to fund an application can be appealed only where there is evidence of an error in SSHRC’s merit review process. Appeals can be submitted only by the applicant named in the application.

Errors are departures from SSHRC’s policies and procedures, for example:

  • a conflict of interest was undeclared or unaddressed within the merit review process;
  • SSHRC staff failed to provide the adjudication committee with required information; or
  • the adjudication committee’s decision to not recommend an award is based on a conclusion that is contrary to information provided by the applicant in the application.

SSHRC will not accept appeals based on:

  • decisions pertaining to applicant, subject matter or program eligibility;
  • a difference in scholarly opinion between adjudication committee members and/or external assessors;
  • disagreement over the interpretation or analysis of facts by adjudication committee members and/or external assessors;
  • the contents of an external assessment, unless it contains unprofessional, discriminatory or biased comments from which the adjudication committee did not distance itself;
  • the number of external assessments;
  • the composition of an adjudication committee; or
  • the amount awarded.

Decisions on appeals are final.

Programs 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 the applicant wishes to pursue an appeal after initial discussion with program staff and has the necessary evidence of an error as outlined above, the applicant can submit a formal letter of appeal to SSHRC.

The appeal should be based on a compelling demonstration that an error occurred in the merit review process.

Appeals must be submitted in writing, postmarked or emailed no later than 65 calendar days after the date indicated on the applicant’s decision letter. Appeal letters must be no more than two pages. SSHRC staff will ask appellants if additional information is needed to process the appeal request. Appellants cannot submit with their appeal supporting documents that were not included in the original application.

To submit by mail To submit by email

Appeal letters must be addressed to:

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

Appeal emails must include a PDF version of the appeal letter and be addressed to:

Corporate Affairs determines if there are grounds for appeal

The SSHRC appeal process upholds the principles of merit review. The appeal process is managed by individuals who were not involved in the original management or review of the application, specifically, by employees in the office of the vice-president, Corporate Affairs.

Once an appeal is received, SSHRC determines whether there are grounds for appeal.

  1. Corporate Affairs employees acknowledge receipt of the appeal.
  2. Corporate Affairs employees analyze the appeal and, where appropriate, SSHRC documents relating to the application and its review.
  3. The vice-president, Corporate Affairs, makes a final decision as to whether there are grounds for appeal.
    1. If there are no grounds for appeal, SSHRC notifies the appellant and the file is closed.
    2. If there are grounds for appeal, the appeal is referred to an appeals committee.

Appeals committee reviews the error(s)

The appeals committee determines the potential impact of the error(s) on the score of the application.

Appeals committee members are former SSHRC adjudication committee chairs or members who are well versed in the SSHRC merit review process. The committee cannot include individuals who were involved in making the original funding recommendation to SSHRC and/or individuals who would be in a conflict of interest with the appellant.

The committee reviews the documentation provided to the original adjudication committee, feedback provided to the appellant, and the appellant’s letter of appeal. The committee will assess the impact of the identified error(s) on the adjudication and scoring of the application.

Appeals committee makes a recommendation

Based on its review of the documents, the committee will provide a recommendation to the vice-president, Corporate Affairs, on whether the error(s) affected the scores:

  • scores remain unchanged if the committee determines the errors did not affect the scores; or
  • the committee recommends new score(s) if it determines the errors did affect the original score(s).

A decision to change the score of an application does not necessarily result in funds being awarded. Funding would still depend on factors such as the final ranking of the application.

The appeals committee normally meets only once a year, which is why appeals that are referred to the committee can take some time to be resolved. Appeals are normally resolved within three to four months from the time SSHRC receives them.

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 the resulting funding would be appropriate and feasible.

SSHRC advises appellants of appeal results in writing.

Future applications

SSHRC does not provide information on any appeals submitted to adjudication committees reviewing an appellant’s future applications for SSHRC funding. Applicants can choose, however, to comment on any differences in scholarly opinion among prior adjudication committee members and/or external assessors that relate to their application.

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