2023 Exploration: Frequently Asked Questions

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See the competition overview for information on the Exploration objectives, eligibility requirements and review process, and for definitions of early career researcher, independent researcher and other terms.


What changes have been made from the 2023 competition?

There are no notable changes. The 2023 competition will continue with two stages: Notice of intent to apply (NOI) and full application. The Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration serves as the general guideline for eligibility of expenses and use of funds related to the direct costs of research. Exceptions to those policies for Exploration grants are noted in the competition overview.

Subject eligibility

Can I apply for an Exploration grant to expand on a research project or activities supported by another grant?

The objective of Exploration grants is to fund high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research. If you have an idea that fits this description and builds on research already supported by another grant, you may apply for funding through this opportunity to support it. If the idea is the logical next step of the research you are doing, it is unlikely to be a fit to this program.

If an application submitted to another funding opportunity was assessed as “fundable if funds available” or as unsuccessful due to lack of detail or clarity (as noted in feedback received), can I submit it here?

The goal of the Exploration stream is to inspire high-risk, high-reward and interdisciplinary research. Applications for the same or similar projects that have been unsuccessful in other agency programs may be submitted to NFRF in cases where the lack of success is due only to the high-risk and/or interdisciplinary nature of the project, rather than to limited funds in a competitive pool or other reasons.

To meet the minimum requirement to be considered interdisciplinary, the proposed research project must integrate elements from at least two different disciplines that do not traditionally collaborate or must combine them in a novel way. Can you please explain?

One of the objectives of the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) is to increase collaboration among disciplines that do not traditionally conduct research together, in the hope of achieving new breakthroughs. The group-level CRDC codes are used to confirm that the proposed research meets a minimum threshold for interdisciplinarity; however, that does not mean that it meets the program’s objectives.

To meet the program’s objectives, the proposed research must also:

  • integrate at least two disciplines that do not traditionally collaborate; or
  • if it does integrate two disciplines with a long and established tradition of working together (e.g., biology and chemistry, or psychology and education), it must clearly demonstrate the novelty of the interdisciplinary approach.

The Multidisciplinary Review Panel members will, ultimately, assess the interdisciplinarity and determine whether the proposed research meets the program’s objectives.

One of the evaluation criteria is high reward. What if it's not possible to predict the outcomes of this project?

Although it's impossible to predict all the outcomes of research in a certain area, you should be able to outline some of the basic results that should occur if you attain your objectives.

Can an individual apply for funding through both the Transformation and Exploration streams for the same proposed project?

An individual may apply to NFRF competitions in different streams concurrently (e.g., Exploration and Transformation), if the objectives of the proposed projects are independent. For example, an application to the Exploration stream should not propose a project that is included in an application to the Transformation stream. The objectives of the program’s three streams differ, and it is highly unlikely that a proposal would be appropriate for more than one stream.

Can an individual apply for funding for a project that has already received funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council?

If the proposed project’s objectives are different than those of the previously funded project’s and they fit the objectives of the NFRF competition, the project could be eligible for submission to one of NFRF’s funding opportunities. Please contact NFRF to further discuss details specific to your proposed project.

Applicant eligibility

Can I apply if I am on leave?

Yes, so long as you still fit within the eligibility criteria and the institution supports your application and submits it to the agency.

If a researcher’s salary is paid from a Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) grant, can they apply for an NFRF grant and still hold the CFREF salary support?

A researcher who is a nominated principal investigator (NPI), co-principal investigator (co-PI) or co-applicant on an NFRF grant cannot be paid from CFREF and also use NFRF grant funds to support their research. If a CFREF-funded researcher becomes a grant holder or co-grant holder of an NFRF grant, they must be paid from another source as of the start date of the NFRF grant. It is not possible to defer the start date of the NFRF grant to maintain CFREF salary support (or for any other reason).

Is an individual who is indirectly employed by a federal, provincial or municipal government (e.g., in police services, education, health care) eligible to be a co-applicant?

Individuals indirectly employed by a federal, provincial or municipal government (e.g., employees in police services, education, health care) are eligible to be co-applicants. Their eligible expenses would be limited to those that are related to the execution of the project that are not within the mandate of the individual’s organization of employment.

I am a participant (NPI, co-PI or co-applicant) on an active Exploration grant project. Am I eligible to apply to this competition?

To be eligible to apply, Exploration grant recipients must have submitted their final report for their previous Exploration grant-funded project one month before the current competition’s full application deadline. For a grant recipient to officially be eligible to apply to a new Exploration competition, the NFRF program must have approved the final report. The program will inform grant recipients when their final report has been approved and they are eligible to apply to the current Exploration competition. If a final report is not properly completed, NFRF staff may return it and ask the recipients to provide more information.

For example, 2021 Exploration grant recipients cannot apply to the 2023 Exploration competition, as they would still be within their grant’s last year of funding and would not yet have submitted their final report. However, they can apply to the 2024 Exploration competition if their 2021 Exploration final report has been submitted and approved by the NFRF program before the full application deadline.

These restrictions do not apply to collaborators.

Can I change my role on an active grant to “Collaborator” and become eligible to apply to a current competition?

An active grant should not be amended for the sole purpose of making a participant eligible for another competition. The integrity of our review process depends on applicants remaining in the roles to which they committed on the application, on the basis of which funding decisions were made. In cases where a team member was removed from an active grant, or a team member’s role was changed to “Collaborator,” they will only be eligible to apply in a current competition if the change was made prior to the first day of the month in which the current competition was launched. 

Early career researchers

Who is considered an Early career researcher?

An Early career researcher (ECR) is a researcher within five years of the start date of their first research-related appointment, minus the length of any eligible delays in research (e.g., illness, maternity, parental), as of the first day of the month in which the competition is launched. More details are available in the competition overview under the Early Career Researcher section.

An ECR must also be considered an independent researcher.

How will you verify the status of ECRs? Will we be expected to provide proof?

The research administrator of the NPI’s primary affiliation institution will confirm the ECR status of the NPI (if applicable) and co-PI (if applicable). At any point in time, NFRF staff may request additional information to verify an applicant’s ECR status.

How will my past period of leave (parental, medical, etc.) affect my eligibility as an ECR for this competition?

All eligible leaves (including parental, medical, bereavement, and family care) that occurred after your first academic appointment will be considered, so long as they adhered to the requirements of your institution. The amount of time deducted for eligible leaves will be doubled, prolonging the period for which you remain eligible as an ECR.

For example, if the date used for calculating ECR eligibility is January 1, 2019 (please consult the competition overview for the actual ECR eligibility date for your competition), your first academic appointment was on September 1, 2012, and in 2014 you began a parental leave for a period of one year, your calculation for ECR eligibility would be as follows:

Time from September 1, 2012, and January 1, 2019 (date for calculating ECR eligibility in this example):

equals six years and four months (76 months)


12 months of parental leave multiplied by two (equals 24 months)

equals a total of 52 months, or four years and four months.

Since the maximum allowable duration to have ECR status since your first academic appointment is five years (or 60 months), you would, in the above example, be eligible to apply to this funding opportunity as an ECR.

Professional leaves (administrative, training and sabbatical) are not credited.

How will pandemic-related research interruptions affect my ECR status?

Research interruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., closures) are recognized as, and may be counted as, an eligible delay (credited at twice the amount of time) beginning March 1, 2020.

What is considered a part-time appointment?

The agencies defer to institutional policy on what is considered a part-time appointment. Contact the institution where the appointment is or was held to confirm whether it was part- or full-time.

Who is considered an independent researcher?

Individuals who conduct research independently, as per the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration definition are researchers with a status/position that gives them autonomy to design and direct their own research/activities. Researchers who are under the direction or supervision of another (i.e., research technicians, postdocs and research associates) are not considered to conduct research independently.


I am the NPI and I want to submit my NOI, but one of my co-applicants has not accepted their invitation, or their eligibility is shown as still pending. Can I still submit?

You must have at least one other participant (co-PI or co-applicant) whose status is “eligible” for you to be able to submit your NOI. You may add a co-PI and/or co-applicants during the full application stage. If they do not accept their invitation and/or complete their registration properly before the full application submission deadline, they will not be part of your project.

I am the NPI and I have just been informed that one of my co-applicants is on another Exploration NOI. What do I do?

If the NOI deadline has not yet passed, the co-applicant will need to decide which project they want to be involved with. If you need to remove a co-applicant, go to the Participants section of your application and click “Remove” beside their name. You must have at least one other eligible participant (co-PI or co-applicant) to submit an NOI.

If the NOI deadline has passed, the individual will be removed from your application. If the removal means your team no longer meets the minimum eligibility requirements, the application will also be removed from the competition.

Should international participants (co-PIs, co-applicants) who identify as Indigenous in their respective countries self-identify as Indigenous on the Convergence Portal?

If the participant is from North America, they may self-identify as Indigenous (e.g., First Nations, Métis, Inuit or North American Indian). If the participant is from outside North America (e.g., New Zealand), they may self-identify as a member of a visible minority in the Canadian context. While we acknowledge Indigenous Peoples outside of North America, data collected through the Convergence Portal helps in evaluating participation among Indigenous Peoples within the Canadian context.

Notice of intent to apply

What is meant by “the summary must not contain any identifying information about the team members”?

Any information that might identify any member of the team should not be included in the summary. This includes any reference to previous work, research groups, departments, institutions or organizations. When referring to prior research, use non-identifying statements (e.g., “article was published,” “research was conducted on,” etc.).

Can I change the project title or summary at the full application stage?

The project title and summary should be finalized on the notice of intent to apply. These aspects of the application are carried forward to the full application and cannot be changed. If the application is funded, these aspects will be used in funding announcements or other communications.

Full application

Why are the page limits longer for French applications?

Evidence demonstrates that documents written in French require approximately 20% more space than similar documents in English. Therefore, a provision has been made to increase the page limit for French applications, to ensure an equitable amount of space for applications written in either official language.

My institution is providing financial and in-kind support for this project. How do I attach a letter to demonstrate their commitment to my project?

There is no mechanism to include a letter of support in the application. You can include a description of the support in the budget justification section.

If I am unsuccessful in this competition, can I apply to the next one?

Yes. If you are still eligible under the funding stream to which you want to apply, you can apply to the next competition with either a revised or new application. You cannot resubmit the same application.

Research administrator process

Is there a limit on how many applications can come from one institution?

No, there are no quotas or limits to the number of applications from one institution, but research administrators are expected to only submit applications that comply with eligibility requirements and fit the program (i.e.: high risk, high reward and interdisciplinary).

Why can’t I find an NOI from an NPI at my institution?

The list of NOIs that a research administrator can view is based on the affiliation the NPI selected in their eligibility profile. Before contacting the Helpdesk, please confirm with the NPI that they selected your institution as their primary affiliation in the Participant Eligibility section.

How do I return an application to the NPI?

If the status of the application is:

  • “in progress,” there is no need to return it as the NPI has not yet submitted it to the research administrator;
  • “received by administrator,” you can return the application by clicking “Return to applicant”;
  • “received by agency,” it can no longer be returned to the applicant, as it has already been forwarded to the agencies.
How do I confirm that a co-PI from a different institution is an ECR?

There is no prescribed method for doing so; however, options include:

  • contacting the co-PI for the necessary information; or
  • asking the co-PI’s research administrator to confirm the individual’s ECR status.
In the Convergence Portal, the Terms and Conditions for Research Administrators state that “prior to submission of the application, the institution has obtained written approval from any other institutions involved in the application process.” What do we need to do?

The same terms and conditions are used in the Research Portal. There is no formal mechanism for notifying institutions if any of their employees are co-PIs or co-applicants on an application. An NPI’s research administrator is responsible for informing the institutions. Each institution can develop their own processes to address this clause. No copies of the written approval will be requested from the agencies for submission.


What expenses are eligible under NFRF? Are co-applicants or collaborators eligible to receive compensation?

The NFRF program uses the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration as its general guidelines for eligibility of expenses and use of funds related to the direct costs of research. Exceptions to these guidelines for Exploration grants are noted in the competition overview.

Do you allow patients to be paid?

Yes, NFRF follows CIHR’s Considerations when paying patient partners in research.

How are indirect costs calculated?

Indirect costs can equal up to 25% of the direct costs of the proposed research. For more information, please refer to the indirect costs section of the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration, and the Research Support Fund’s list of eligible and ineligible expenditures.

A breakdown of the indirect costs is not required, but these costs must be included as an amount in the budget table. The NPI’s research administrator will need to confirm that the indirect costs are appropriate before they forward the application.

The amount of indirect costs requested is allocated to the NPI’s primary affiliation (the administering organization) to offset the indirect costs of proposed research. It is not possible to increase the amount of direct costs requested by reducing the amount of indirect costs.

To which institution should the indirect costs go?

Indirect costs are incurred where the research is done. Accordingly, indirect costs are expected to be shared among applicants in the same proportion that the direct costs would be shared (if applicable), and can be accessed by applicants located at institutions outside of Canada. The administering organization (the NPI’s primary affiliation) will administer the process. The total amount of indirect costs cannot exceed the amount requested in the application (to a maximum of 25% of the direct costs of research).

Does the NPI also have access to the funds to support the indirect costs of research?

While the NPI has the authority to spend the funds supporting the direct costs of research, indirect costs are allocated to the institution that is the NPI’s primary affiliation. The institution determines how funds for indirect costs are spent and may distribute a portion of these funds to the institutions of co-PIs and/or co-applicants, as appropriate.

What is required in terms of annual financial reports?

The Statement of Account Form (Form 300) is used to report the annual financial expenditures for NFRF grants. Two accounts must be created at the host institution for each grant: one to track expenditures related to the direct costs of research, and another to track expenditures related to the indirect costs of research. The indirect funds received for a NFRF grant must not be transferred to the Research Support Fund account at the institution.

How will expenditures for indirect funds be reported? What level of detail is required?

Only one Statement of Account Form (Form 300) per grant is required to report expenditures. The expenditures of indirect funds, therefore, must be included. This is to be captured on line 11 (Other Expenditures) as a single value. A breakdown of expenditures is not required for indirect costs. It is expected that the expenditure of indirect funds will be proportional to the expenditure of direct research funds, as reflected in the application.

For example, if an NPI was awarded $100,000 for direct costs and $25,000 for indirect costs in Year 1 and they only spent $50,000 for direct costs, the amount charged for indirect costs would be: ($25,000 ÷ $100,000) × $50,000 = $12,500.

How do I add a co-PI or co-applicants after the grant has been awarded?

Use the tri-agency Grant Amendment Form and attach the supporting document for Addition, Removal and/or Revision of Individuals on the Grant and/or Prize Team.

Email the forms to NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca, copying the individuals you wish to add and providing an explanation for their inclusion in the project and their affiliation status. Potential applicants will also need to complete an eligibility profile (which staff will send to them) and a user profile in the Convergence Portal. The request will be reviewed and a decision made regarding the inclusion of additional participants.

How do I add collaborators after the grant has been awarded?

Use the tri-agency Grant Amendment Form and attach the supporting document for Addition, Removal and/or Revision of Individuals on the Grant and/or Prize Team.

Email the forms to NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca, copying the individuals you wish to add and providing an explanation for their inclusion in the project, along with the following information: their first name, family name, position or role, department (optional), organization and country of organization. The request will be reviewed and a decision made regarding the inclusion of additional participants.

What happens if the NPI’s primary affiliation changes?

In cases where the NPI’s new primary affiliation is with a Canadian institution currently holding full institutional eligibility with one of the agencies (see the list of eligible institutions for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council or Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council), the NPI would retain their grant and it would follow them to the new institution.

In cases where the NPI’s new primary affiliation is not with a Canadian institution holding full institutional eligibility with one of the agencies, it is expected that the NPI will continue to be involved in the project as a co-PI or co-applicant, insofar as this is possible, to continue to provide the expertise needed to complete the project (note: international co-applicants are eligible to access and use grant funds).

If there is:

  • a co-PI who meets the eligibility requirements to be the NPI, the grant can be transferred to the co-PI (the co-PI becomes the NPI and the original NPI becomes a co-PI or co-applicant, if eligible);
  • no co-PI, but a co-applicant meets the eligibility requirements to be the NPI, the grant can be transferred to the co-applicant (the co-applicant becomes the NPI and the original NPI becomes a co-PI or co-applicant, if eligible);
  • no eligible co-PI or co-applicant on the application, the grant cannot be transferred and will be terminated.

In all cases, the co-PI and/or co-applicant must have been named such in the original application; they cannot have been added after the grant was awarded. The team must also demonstrate that the required expertise is still available, address the question of project leadership, and explain how the planned work will be completed.

How do I take advantage of the one-year automatic extension or request an extension?

Exploration grants are eligible for an automatic one-year time extension to allow grant recipients to bring research/activities to a close. Any grant funds remaining can be spent during this year, but no additional funds will be provided.

How do I request additional time beyond the automatic one-year extension?

Recipients may request a further extension of up to one year. Such extensions will only be considered if there was an extended leave of absence during the grant period, or uncontrollable delays in the funded research or activities.


What are the reporting requirements for Exploration grants?

There are two reporting requirements. Financial reporting must be done annually by submitting Form 300. NPIs are also required to submit a final report to NFRF program staff three months after the award end date, or where the one-year automatic extension was used, three months after the use of funds end date. The final report details the project’s outcomes with regard to program criteria and provides information on individuals who contributed to the research (highly qualified personnel employed by the project). Grant recipients must submit a complete and detailed final report. Once the final report is submitted, NFRF program staff will review and, if it meets requirements, approve it. If it has not been properly completed, NFRF staff may return the report and ask the recipients to provide more information.

How do I submit the final report for an Exploration grant?

The NPI must submit a final report through the Convergence Portal. A link will appear under the Awards section six months after the award start date, allowing grant recipients to access final report content and collect the required information.

When are final reports due?

Final reports for Exploration grants are due three months after the award end date or, where the recipients took the one-year automatic extension, three months after the use of funds end date.


How can I provide feedback about this funding opportunity?

We value our community’s feedback and it helps us shape future competitions. Direct your feedback to NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca.

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