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SSHRC Manual for Adjudication Committee Members 2020-21

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Purpose of the manual

SSHRC relies on the expertise and time its many merit reviewers provide each year, and acknowledges the vital contributions they make toward a vibrant national and international research community.

This manual:

  • provides merit review committee members with a summary of SSHRC’s policies and funding opportunities;
  • sets out policies and procedures for the adjudication of applications for SSHRC funding;
  • encourages uniformity and consistency in applying these policies and procedures; and
  • applies to SSHRC grant, scholarship and fellowship funding opportunities, but not to the programs administered by the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat or Vanier-Banting Secretariat.

Principles for SSHRC merit review

Committee work is based on the ideals of cooperation and mutual respect for diverse viewpoints across sectors of society, as well as the following principles:

  • Transparency: Publish the criteria for assessing proposals, as well as details of the review process, defining how the assessment process will operate and be managed, before applicants submit proposals.
  • Due diligence and appropriateness: Use a merit review process that is appropriate to the type of proposed research and in proportion with the investment and complexity of the work.
  • Managing interests: Ask all participants to declare interests when carrying out review activities, so that any conflicts can be identified and managed.
  • Confidentiality: Treat proposals in confidence, and ask those who advise us to do the same.
  • Expert assessment: Use appropriate expert reviewers to assess the individual merit of all proposals against the published criteria.
  • Separation of duties: Separate the merit review of proposals from funding decisions. Adjudication committees are tasked with the assessment of merit of applications and SSHRC is responsible for funding decisions.
  • No parallel assessment: Avoid assessing the merit of the same proposal more than once.

Principles and guidelines for merit reviewers

The principles set out in the following sections apply to all merit reviewers.

Conflict of interest and confidentiality

The Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality policy states that individuals under investigation for a breach of agency policy—SSHRC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (the agencies)—must temporarily withdraw from participating in agency merit review processes. Individuals under investigation must immediately inform SSHRC staff responsible for the competition that they are temporarily unavailable, although they do not need to reveal the reason for their withdrawal. Individuals must also decline further merit review invitations from any of the agencies. Individuals may continue or begin participating in merit review if, following completion of the investigation, the agency president determines they are eligible to participate.

Managing conflicts of interest

SSHRC recognizes that real, perceived or potential conflicts of interest can and do arise in the adjudication of grant, scholarship and fellowship applications. These situations must be managed in an open and transparent manner to maintain the community’s confidence and trust, and to ensure accountability.

While SSHRC cannot anticipate all potential conflicts of interest, SSHRC staff makes every effort to avoid any conflicts before assigning applications to reviewers.

Before reviewers access their assigned applications, they must read and agree to the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers. Program officers advise the committee in cases where a conflict of interest appears difficult to determine or falls outside the examples listed in this agreement.

In line with the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality policy, committee members are responsible for identifying and declaring any conflict of interest, real or perceived, related to an application, and for informing SSHRC staff of the conflict as soon as they become aware of it.

In adjudication meetings or teleconferences, a member in a real or perceived conflict of interest must recuse themselves (e.g., by leaving the room or disabling their audio in a virtual meeting), when the committee discusses the application in question. In cases where the committee chair withdraws because of a conflict of interest, the committee will designate an alternate chair for its review of the particular applications.

Access to Information Act and Privacy Act

All information provided to SSHRC is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. These acts govern the collection, use and disclosure of information under the control of the federal government and certain federally funded organizations.

The Privacy Act protects personal information about identifiable individuals that government institutions hold, and provides individuals with a right of access to that information. Without the consent of the individual to whom it relates, personal information obtained cannot be used except for the purpose for which it was collected or for a use consistent with that purpose.

To ensure SSHRC is compliant with the act, adjudication committee members sign an agreement to:

  • protect and keep confidential the information in all applications for funding; and
  • keep all review materials secure and use them only in a manner consistent with the purpose for which they were collected—namely, to review applications and to make funding recommendations.

Members must be aware of how materials are accessed and used (e.g., opened, downloaded or saved) and of the potential consequences of working with documents on unsecure sites. Members are strongly discouraged from downloading material onto public computers. Members should ensure that review materials downloaded onto a private or public computer are deleted after use. Failure to follow this procedure may result in an inadvertent privacy breach.

Committee members should direct any questions or concerns about the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act to SSHRC’s manager, ATIP and Corporate Operations, at 613-992-8639 or ATIP-AIPRP@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca.

SSHRC applications

Information in applications is considered confidential and handled in a secure fashion. In handling applicant/application information, committee members must adhere to these requirements:

  • Only use the information for evaluating SSHRC applications. No other use is permitted.
  • Secure all copies of documents to maintain confidentiality, and destroy in a secure manner all material that is no longer required.
  • Leave all electronic and hardcopy files and assessments on SSHRC premises at the conclusion of the meetings.
  • For adjudications by teleconference, securely destroy documents after results have been announced. Similarly, any work saved on a computer or electronic storage device must be securely and permanently deleted.
  • Do not disclose your ID or password for the SSHRC extranet; access to it is limited to the committee members and observers.

Reviewer identity

Applicants to SSHRC funding opportunities have the right to access their own personal information stored in SSHRC files. However, this does not include the right to know the identity of the reviewer. Under the provisions of the Privacy Act, the name or identifying details of a reviewer must be withheld from the applicant.

Applicants have access to the full text of any external assessments obtained for their proposal, except for the assessor’s identity and any comments made about other applicants and their identities. In the scholarships and fellowships opportunities, the full texts of letters of appraisal, departmental appraisals and research appraisals, if applicable, are available to the applicant, except for the names of the individuals who wrote the letters and any comments made about other applicants and their identities.

In the interest of transparency, committee membership is made publicly available on SSHRC’s website.

Committee deliberations

All matters discussed during adjudication meetings or teleconferences are confidential. Committee members must not impart, refer to or consider information about the applicant that does not appear in the application materials. Committee members must not disclose results before SSHRC officially releases them. If approached by an applicant concerning a decision, committee members must decline to discuss the matter and advise the enquirer to contact SSHRC directly.

Release of results

Following SSHRC approval of committee recommendations, SSHRC staff is responsible for notifying applicants of the results of committee deliberations.

Research involving humans

As a condition of receiving an agency award, researchers must comply with the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2).

Institutions are expected to support researchers in complying with TCPS 2 by, among other things, ensuring that a research ethics board reviews and approves all research activities involving human participants.

While the applicant’s institution is primarily responsible for ensuring adherence to TCPS 2, adjudication committees can raise questions for committee discussion if they have concerns.

SSHRC does not require applicants to submit a research ethics certificate with their application.

Responsible conduct of research

The Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research describes the requirements related to applying for and managing agency funds, performing research, and disseminating results. The framework also outlines the processes that institutions and the agencies must follow if there is an allegation of a breach of agency policy.

Committee members are invited to raise any concerns about applicants in potential breaches of agency policy with their committee chair or SSHRC program officer before the committee meeting. The concerns should not be considered nor be part of the evaluation of the scientific merit of an application. The program officer will communicate the concerns, along with all relevant information and available supporting documentation, to the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research, so it can conduct the necessary follow-up.

Open access and data management

SSHRC believes research results produced using public funds belong, to the fullest extent possible, in the public domain. Grant holders must comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, and are encouraged to preserve and provide access to their data as per SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving Policy. The Tri-Agency Statement of Principles on Digital Data Management describes SSHRC’s expectations for research data management—including the responsibilities of researchers, research communities, research institutions and research funders in meeting these expectations.

Non-discrimination

As per SSHRC’s Non-Discrimination Policy, no persons meeting the eligibility requirements will be subject to discrimination under any funding opportunity or activity receiving SSHRC funding.

Unconscious bias

Adjudicators must take an online training module as a guide for preventing unconscious bias in merit review. The short module promotes understanding of unconscious bias, how it can affect merit review, and ways to mitigate biases of different kinds. The three federal research funding agencies developed the module as part of their commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.

Official languages

SSHRC is committed to ensuring that both of Canada’s official language communities have access to its programs and staff in the official language of their choice, and that applications submitted in either official language are treated equitably. To that end, SSHRC ensures that:

  • applications can be submitted to SSHRC in either official language;
  • program officers provide service to research community members in the official language of their choice;
  • there is balanced representation of both official language communities in the adjudication process; and
  • committee members can conduct deliberations in either official language.

Above and beyond these practices, SSHRC supports Canada’s official languages and strengthening and developing official language minority communities (OLMCs). SSHRC does so by informing its broader community about linguistic duality and OLMCs in Canada. SSHRC is also committed to promoting and supporting social sciences and humanities research on issues related to official languages and linguistic duality, and to fostering research capacity in OLMC institutions.

See SSHRC's Official Languages Policy for more details.

Appeals

SSHRC is committed to the integrity of its merit review process. As part of this principle, an appeal process managed through SSHRC’s Executive Vice-President’s Office and Corporate Affairs Directorate allows applicants to seek reconsideration of a funding decision under certain circumstances.

See SSHRC’s Appeals of Decisions Based on Merit Review for more details.

Adjudication committee roles and functioning

SSHRC strives to ensure that the collective knowledge, expertise and experience of its adjudication committees are best suited to reviewing those applications received in a given competition.

Individual reviewers can participate in the SSHRC merit review process in one of the following roles: external reviewer, committee member or committee chair. See Merit Review for information on the selection criteria used in recruiting reviewers.

General responsibilities

Committee chair

The adjudication committee chair is responsible for ensuring that the committee carries out its work with fairness, thoroughness and integrity. In the case of grant competitions, committee chairs should be broadly familiar with the applications. For some funding opportunities (e.g., fellowship and scholarship applications and Connection Grants), committee chairs also act as readers for specific applications.

The committee chair plays a vital role in ensuring that SSHRC’s policies and procedures are observed, including that potential or actual conflict of interest situations involving committee members are avoided. The chair works closely with the program officer, from whom they seek guidance, as appropriate, before and during the adjudication process.

The committee chair also:

  • guides the committee’s discussion of applications;
  • manages the committee’s time efficiently, so that applications can be adequately discussed;
  • ensures that the committee’s final recommendations accurately reflect the consensus of its members;
  • officially approves the final scores; and
  • may lead committee members in a policy discussion to provide feedback to SSHRC on the adjudication process and procedures, and other questions related to the opportunity.

Committee members

Before the adjudication committee meeting, committee members must—except in cases of a conflict of interest—read and provide preliminary scores for all applications assigned to them. Applications must be scored following the funding opportunity’s evaluation criteria and with the scoring table that the program officer provides. Committee members are encouraged to use the full spectrum of the evaluation scale in assigning scores, as this helps establish rank.

Committee members will be provided evaluation tools to help them prepare for the adjudication and for use in assigning preliminary scores. In cases where the full range of expertise required to judge an individual application is not available from within the committee, SSHRC may seek additional expertise. Committee members will also be provided with a form for noting the strengths and weaknesses of each of their assigned applications. These notes will serve as the bases for discussing applications during the committee meeting.

Where grants are likely to be recommended, the committee members assigned to read an application may be asked to suggest, for each year of funding, an amount to be awarded that would be sufficient to successfully conduct the research and/or related activities.

Program officers

Program officers serve as both resource people for committee members and SSHRC’s representatives during the adjudication process.

Throughout the competition, program officers are responsible for ensuring:

  • all members understand fully and apply consistently all relevant SSHRC policies, evaluation criteria and regulations;
  • all members treat each application equitably and fairly; and
  • all applications meet eligibility requirements as described in the relevant funding opportunity description.

Program officers assign applications to the committee members, who act as readers of these applications. Once the members have completed their initial, or “preliminary,” scoring, the officers prepare a provisional rank-ordered list of the applications to help guide the group discussions.

During the committee meeting, the officers serve as secretaries to the committee, recording scores and funding recommendations. Officers will intervene whenever necessary to guide and advise the committee and to help interpret SSHRC policies. If needed, the officers also alert the committee to any problems with specific applications or recommendations and suggest possible solutions.

After the committee meeting, SSHRC staff forward to applicants the results and any available feedback. Officers also respond to applicants’ questions and/or complaints about competition results.

SSHRC observers

SSHRC-appointed observers, may be invited to attend adjudication committee meetings. The observers make recommendations to SSHRC management on SSHRC policies, procedures, evaluation criteria, etc. Observers do not participate in committee discussions.

Evaluation and adjudication

Committee members are encouraged to contact their program officer at any point during the process if they need additional information. Committee members in need of accommodations due to a disability can contact their program officer or SSHRC accommodations for help.

Before the adjudication committee meeting

Reading and assessment

Committee members are asked to do a preliminary check of their assigned applications and immediately inform the program officer of any conflicts of interest, so that these applications can be reassigned to another committee member (see Managing Conflicts of Interest).

Committee members submit their preliminary scores to the program officer before the adjudication committee meeting. In cases where there are significant discrepancies among the scores assigned by members to an application, additional members may be asked to read it. The officer compiles all scores, translating them into an initial overall ranking. This ranking is used during the committee meeting to identify where members differ in their assessments. Depending on the volume of applications, and at the discretion of the committee chair, it may also be used as a tool to determine the order of discussion of applications. Committee members are asked to submit their preliminary scores in a timely manner, so that program officers can provide the initial overall ranking to all members before the adjudication. This allows the members enough time to further review applications for which there are variations in scores.

Committee members may be asked to provide written comments about applications. The committee’s program officer will provide further information, if applicable.

For some funding opportunities, SSHRC solicits external assessments for grant applications to assist the committee in its deliberation. The committee is asked to distance itself from any external assessment received by SSHRC that appears to contain unprofessional, discriminatory or biased comments, and to indicate this in writing when an applicant is provided with feedback.

Orientation

Chairs: For some competitions, committee chairs participate in a pre-adjudication discussion with SSHRC staff to clarify chair roles and responsibilities, and ensure SSHRC policies, practices and evaluation criteria are consistently applied.

Members: Committee members may be asked to participate in a brief orientation call to receive specific details about the adjudication process, timelines, relevant materials, and the review of applications. Committee members can also ask SSHRC staff questions and discuss any issues with their committee colleagues.

Calibration teleconference (grants only)

Most committees conduct a calibration teleconference, which the committee chair leads, several weeks before the adjudication. Members discuss the consistent use of evaluation criteria and the scoring system, time-management strategies for the adjudication meeting, and have a simulation of committee deliberations.

Scores are calibrated using a small sample of applications that the committee chair and program officer choose. Committee members will be asked to read and score these applications for the calibration exercise, although the assigned readers will lead the discussion during the teleconference, as they would during the adjudication meeting.

Members are asked to report their scores for each selected application in advance of the calibration teleconference. The standard deviations of each reader’s scores will be communicated to them. Readers should adjust their scores, if necessary, in light of the calibration teleconference. The committee may revisit the applications selected for the calibration exercise during the adjudication meeting.

During the adjudication committee meeting

Discussing applications

Committee members discuss applications (above the cutoff point, where applicable) based on their preliminary scores. The first reader—or the first committee member, for those funding opportunities where all applications are read by each member—briefly summarizes the proposal, identifies strengths and weaknesses, and makes a preliminary recommendation. The remaining readers or committee members can add any other comments deemed appropriate according to the funding opportunity’s evaluation criteria.

If a committee member’s rationale for assigning a score to a particular application differs significantly from that of other readers, they must be prepared to briefly explain their reasons when reporting on the application at the committee meeting.

Members generally discuss in greater detail any applications for which there is a significant discrepancy between scores. Members may opt to adjust their scores in light of discussions.

For some funding opportunities, once the committee reaches agreement (either by vote or consensus) the program officer, in consultation with the committee, may prepare brief feedback for the applicant / project director.

Ranking applications

After the committee has discussed the applications, it reviews and finalizes the rank-ordered list of applications. The final list divides the adjudicated applications into those that are recommended for funding and those that are not. The committee chair approves the resulting ranked list.

After this step, it is no longer possible to change the ranking of any application.

Some funding opportunities have a cutoff point, meaning applications must have a minimum score or rank to be eligible for funding.

Policy and procedure feedback

Following the adjudication, the committee may hold a policy discussion to inform SSHRC staff of any difficulties encountered during the process, to discuss best practices and to advise on program policy issues. Committee members may also be invited to provide their feedback electronically (e.g., via a survey). SSHRC senior management refers to the committee members’ feedback to improve policies and procedures.

After the adjudication committee meeting

SSHRC senior management approves the funding of applications based on the committees’ recommendations and on the available budget. A list of meritorious applications the committee has recommended for funding is submitted to SSHRC’s vice-president, Research, for approval. As the resources available may not allow for the support of all meritorious applications, a certain percentage may be recommended by the committee but not receive funding. Those applications recommended but not funded may be eligible for support if additional funding becomes available.

Additional information for all committee members

Future Challenge Areas

SSHRC invites all applicants to review Imagining Canada’s Future’s 16 future global challenges, and to consider addressing one or more of these areas in their research proposal. This is not an evaluation criterion for merit review and does not offer additional or dedicated research funds for the funding opportunities.

Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research

SSHRC developed the Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research to ensure that the merit review of Indigenous research upholds SSHRC’s principles for merit review. To support its Indigenous Research Statement of Principles, SSHRC provides these guidelines to merit reviewers to help build general understanding of Indigenous research, and, where applicable, to assist committee members in interpreting SSHRC’s Challenge, Feasibility and Capability evaluation criteria in the context of Indigenous research. SSHRC relies on a community of merit reviewers with experience and expertise in Indigenous research to judge the extent to which the guidelines may be applied to a particular research proposal.

The guidelines further ensure that Indigenous research incorporating Indigenous knowledge systems (including ontologies, epistemologies and methodologies) is recognized as a scholarly contribution and meets SSHRC’s standards of excellence. The guidelines are also designed to encourage that Indigenous research be conducted with sensitivity, and only after consideration about who conducts the research and why and how it is conducted. The guidelines complement information in the second edition of TCPS 2, and, in particular, Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples of Canada.

The Guidelines for Merit Review of Indigenous Research are relevant to Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers who conduct Indigenous research.

Guidelines for effective research training

The Guidelines for Effective Research Training are applicable to research activities funded through any of SSHRC’s programs, and are designed to assist the research community in its efforts to promote effective research training and career development. Committee members are encouraged to use the guidelines to help gauge the quality of research training activities proposed in SSHRC applications.

All SSHRC grant applicants proposing training plans and budgets are:

  • encouraged to use the guidelines as a tool to help identify the elements of effective research training; and
  • asked to include in their training plans the dimensions of research training that are the most relevant to their research projects, and that can be of most benefit to all parties involved.

SSHRC scholarship and fellowship applicants are encouraged to consider the guidelines while completing their programs of study or work, as applicable.

The guidelines are especially relevant for:

  • host institutions preparing the SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowships Institutional Nomination and Commitment form; and
  • committee members to consider when assessing the effectiveness of the overall support provided by the host institution..

Research-creation

SSHRC welcomes research-creation as an eligible activity across its funding opportunities. See the relevant funding opportunity description and SSHRC’s Guidelines for Research-Creation Support Materials for details. In addition, Insight Grants and Insight Development Grants committees may find it useful to consult the research-creation applicant resource materials specific to these funding opportunities.

Career interruptions and special circumstances

SSHRC entrusts its adjudication committees with the responsibility ofto assessing research productivity, while taking into account the impact of career interruptions and/or special circumstances that may have affected the record of research achievement of candidates and co-candidates, where appropriate.

In doing so, adjudication committee members will be able to more accurately estimate the productivity of each researcher, postdoctoral researcher or doctoral student, independent of any career interruptions or special circumstances. Previous productivity is one element that may predict the success of the proposed research project.

Research contributions

SSHRC, along with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and Genome Canada, have signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA). This reaffirms their commitment to excellence in research evaluation and the importance of knowledge mobilization. DORA is a global initiative to support the development and promotion of best practices in assessment of scholarly research.

DORA’s principles are reflected in SSHRC’s overall approaches to research assessment and in its commitment to continually improve assessment practices. Along with SSHRC’s commitment to re-examine research excellence through the Tri-agency Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Plan, a number of initiatives and policies outlined in this guide support research excellence and align with the recommendations in DORA. These include research data management practices, open access publishing, responsible conduct of research, ethical conduct of research involving humans, the Guidelines for Effective Research Training and the Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research.

Committee members are asked to consider a variety of research contributions, both traditional academic publications and other kinds of services and relevant experience. Research contributions can include, but are not limited to:

  • refereed contributions, such as:
    • books, monographs, book chapters, articles in scholarly refereed journals, conference proceedings, etc.; or
    • papers presented at scholarly meetings or conferences, articles in professional or trade journals, etc.;
  • non-refereed contributions, such as book reviews, published reviews of the applicant/co-applicant’s work, research reports, policy papers, public lectures, etc.;
  • forthcoming (submitted, revised and submitted, accepted, or in-press) contributions;
  • creative outputs (to be evaluated according to established disciplinary standards, as well as creative and/or artistic merit), e.g., exhibitions, performances, publications, presentations, film, video, audio recordings, etc.; and
  • other contributions to research and advancing knowledge to non-academic audiences (e.g., general public, policy-makers, private sector, not-for-profit organizations, etc.)

SSHRC’s Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research may also prove helpful to committee members assessing contributions relevant to Indigenous research.

Grant applications only—Capability subcriteria should be addressed in the SSHRC CV and the Research Contributions section (and, where applicable, the Relevant Experience section) of the application. Research Contributions content must address the Capability evaluation criteria listed under Evaluation and Adjudication in the funding opportunity description. Note that CVs are no longer required or accepted for collaborators.

Additional information for grant applications only

Knowledge mobilization plan

SSHRC’s Guidelines for Effective Knowledge Mobilization and the instructions that accompanied the application form are available to committee members with their adjudication materials for context. Committee members are asked to evaluate the knowledge mobilization plan according to the related Feasibility subcriterion.

Open access and data management

To the extent possible, and in keeping with SSHRC’s endorsement of open access forms of knowledge dissemination, research results should be made openly available through, for example, open access publications, websites, publicly accessible databases and/or institutional repositories. Grant holders must comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications.

Further to its Research Data Archiving Policy, SSHRC also encourages researchers to manage and share data arising from their research in accordance with both community standards and best practices. All research data collected with the use of SSHRC funds should be preserved for use by others within a reasonable period of time.

Expected outcomes summary

Expected outcomes are the potential benefits and/or outcomes of the proposed project. Expected outcomes can include, for example:

  • enhanced curriculum and teaching material
  • graduate student supervision
  • enriched public discourse
  • improved public policies
  • enhanced business strategies

Committee members are asked to evaluate the aspects of the expected outcomes summary according to the related Challenge subcriterion.

Guidelines for Support of Tools for Research and Related Activities
(Insight Grants and Partnership Grants only)

Tools for research and related activities are a key aspect of the social sciences and humanities research environment. New and existing tools support the creation and mobilization of research knowledge. SSHRC has long provided support for research tools that are routine in nature (such as a survey or questionnaire) and that may be considered an appropriate use of grant funds according to the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration.

SSHRC’s Guidelines for Support of Tools for Research and Related Activities are intended to assist researchers submitting requests for support for tools distinct from a typical component of a grant. For example, researchers wanting to undertake a survey or questionnaire as part of their proposed project need not refer to the guidelines; however, researchers wanting to create a clean, structured dataset to be used by multiple parties in multiple contexts should consult the guidelines to ensure that their expenses are eligible.

The guidelines apply only to Insight Grants (up to $100,000 in funding for tools for research and related activities) and Partnership Grants (up to $500,000 in funding for tools for research and related activities). Research should be an integral component of the development and/or use of the tool. Stand-alone tools are eligible only in Partnership Grants applications, and only in cases where knowledge mobilization will be the primary purpose of the tool’s use.

Applicants must provide their tools expenses in the “Other” category in the budget page, and explain the need for expenditures in the Justification section.

Committee members are asked to consider the following in their evaluation of tools funding requests:

  • Overall: The purpose/use of the tools should be directly linked to the objectives of the funding opportunity.
  • Challenge criterion: Evaluate the tool using the “appropriateness of the methods/approach” subcriterion.
  • Feasibility criterion: Consider the budget request for the tool.

If the committee determines that the proposed activities relating to tools cannot be carried out within the stated budget limit, the committee should fail the application on the Feasibility criterion.

Reviewing budget proposals and determining grant size

The following is relevant for grant applications only.

Grant funding budgets and process

During the adjudication committee meetings for grant funding opportunities, committees not only determine which proposals merit funding support, but also review the budget request to determine, overall, whether the requested amount is appropriate for the project.

After the adjudication, grants are awarded based on the funding that the committee recommends and the total funds available for the funding opportunity.

This allocation process is sensitive to changes in funding requirements. It allocates funds among committees on the basis of excellence, rather than aiming to fund the largest number of applications possible.

Budget review and grant size

Committees will use the principle of minimum essential funding to guide their discussions of project budgets.

Adjudication committees are asked to focus on assessing the overall merit of the proposal, regardless of whether the budget size and scope are large or small. Each grant application that has received a score that is satisfactory or better for each of the three evaluation criteria (Challenge, Feasibility and Capability) can, generally speaking, be recommended for funding.

While considering the Feasibility criterion, the committee should assess whether, overall, the proposed budget is reasonable, well-justified, and appropriate for carrying out the proposed activities. Weakness in the budget should be reflected in the Feasibility scores.

Committees can recommend budget reductions where they determine that the request is inadequately justified and/or not appropriate as described above, and where they judge that savings could be achieved without jeopardizing the project objectives. Applicants are informed of the committees’ role in this regard. A consistent approach to such cases (e.g., where the other scores are well into the fundable range) should be discussed at the outset of the adjudication meeting, or during the calibration meeting.

In considering the budget’s appropriateness, committee members can take into account factors such as the type of institution with which an applicant is affiliated. For example, a researcher working at a more isolated institution may assign a larger part of their budget to travel and communications expenses than a researcher located in a major centre.

The committee will not be asked to make any adjustments to the proposed budget of applications that are not recommended for funding.

Eligible and ineligible expenses

Generally speaking, SSHRC staff will indicate ineligible expenses to committee members either before or during the adjudication committee meeting.

The Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration is a comprehensive resource for grant recipients and administering institutions to ensure they understand the principles and directives that govern post-award administration of agency-funded grants. The guide is applicable to grants from SSHRC, CIHR, and NSERC, unless specified otherwise in the funding opportunity literature and any relevant agency agreements, including the grant’s terms and conditions.

Grant applicants must justify all proposed budget expenditures.

Article processing charges (APCs) for publishing in open access journals are an eligible expense. The Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications requires that any peer reviewed journal publications arising from agency-supported research be freely accessible within 12 months of publication. This can be achieved either by paying APCs for immediate open access or through self-archiving, which publishers usually allow at no cost following an embargo period. When assessing estimated APCs in application budgets, committees should consider whether the number of proposed journal publications is realistic, the targeted journals are appropriate, and the estimated costs are commensurate with the APCs of the specified journals (when known). When less expensive journals of equal quality or self-archiving are options, committees could consider recommending budget reductions.

Committees are encouraged to speak to their program officer for more information about this policy.

Multiple-source funding

Adjudication committee members are reminded that grant applicants may fund their overall research project or research-related activities by applying for complementary funding from more than one source for different components of the project, and that such funding is not grounds for reducing an applicant's budget.

For Insight Grant and Insight Development Grant applications, the availability or anticipation of funding from another source, while considered generally beneficial, is not obligatory. The appropriateness of other sources depends on the specific needs of the project.

Applicants must clearly indicate in their proposals to SSHRC that there is no duplication of financial support for identical budget items. SSHRC staff is responsible for confirming any duplication of funding.

Useful links

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