Frequently Asked Questions: 2020 Transformation Competition


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Refer to the 2020 Transformation Competition overview for information on the competition’s objectives, eligibility requirements and review process, as well as a definition of early career researchers, independent researcher and other terms.

Are development or pilot projects considered eligible for funding?

The expectation is that projects submitted to and funded through the Transformation stream will be large-scale projects that address a defined problem and have the potential for significant impact. Smaller-scale projects designed to test or establish novel interdisciplinary approaches or ideas could be better suited for the Exploration stream.

What is required for a project to be considered “interdisciplinary”?

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 Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC) codes are used to confirm that the proposed research meets a minimum threshold for interdisciplinarity.

To meet the requirements for the Transformation stream, the proposed research must also incorporate areas of research that fall under the mandates of at least two federal research granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC). Projects are expected to engage the full range of disciplines required to achieve the project goals.

The multidisciplinary review panel members will ultimately assess the interdisciplinarity and determine whether the proposed research meets the requirements.

We are a network of researchers conducting projects within the same area. Can we submit a proposal?

The objective of the Transformation stream is to support projects with the potential to create significant change in addressing a well-defined problem, and not a program of research. The proposed project may be broken down into discrete phases, but it must constitute one larger project with distinct short-, medium- and long-term objectives. The grant duration is limited to six years; it is expected that the project will be completed within that time.

Would a proposal for the support of a research platform that is critical to developments in a number of other areas, each of which has the potential for great impact, be eligible?

The objective of the Transformation stream is to support projects with the potential to create significant change in addressing a well-defined problem.

Would a proposal to create a national training program with unique and novel approaches and initiatives be eligible? The impact will be a generation of researchers with the knowledge and skills to find solutions to big challenges.

The objective of the Transformation stream is to support projects with the potential to create significant change in addressing a well-defined problem. While acknowledging that training of highly qualified personnel is important, and that this training may take place as part of the projects funded through the Transformation stream, a training program is not a “project” with specific short-, medium- and long-term objectives and, therefore, is not eligible.

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 the previously funded project’s and it fits the objectives of the NFRF competition, it could be eligible for submission to one of NFRF’s funding opportunities. Please contact NFRF to further discuss details specific to your proposed project.

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

A researcher who is a nominated principal investigator, co-principal investigator (co-PI) or co-applicant on an NFRF grant cannot be paid from CFREF grant funds. If a CFREF-funded researcher is a nominated principal investigator, co-PI or co-applicant on a successful NFRF application, 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).

The competition literature states, “individuals may only be an award holder as an NPI or co-principal investigator (co-PI) on one Transformation grant. It is recommended that individuals limit their participation as an NPI or co-PI to a single application.” What would happen if an individual is listed as an NPI and/or co-PI on multiple applications?

If an individual is listed as a principal investigator (either nominated or co-) on more than one application, they will be required to remove themselves from all but one at the full application stage.

Is a federal government employee who is an adjunct professor at a Canadian institution with  full institutional eligibility allowed to be a co-PI or co-applicant?

A federal government employee who is formally affiliated with a Canadian academic institution as an adjunct professor is eligible to be a collaborator.

In cases where students, registered at the academic institution and formally supervised by the adjunct professor, will be participating in the research project, the adjunct professor is eligible to be a co-applicant. In such cases the use of funds is limited to salaries or stipends and travel costs for the students  under the adjunct professor’s supervision.

Adjunct professors are eligible to be a co-PI or co-applicant in exceptional cases where their planned contributions to the project do not fall within the mandate of their federal organization and will not be performed within the employer’s facilities or with the employer’s resources.

The competition literature states that individuals affiliated with a federal, provincial, territorial or municipal government department may not be co-PIs or co-applicants. Does this also apply to individuals affiliated with Indigenous governments?

An individual whose primary affiliation is with an Indigenous government is eligible to be a co-PI, co-applicant or collaborator. For those who are co-PIs or co-applicants, eligible expenses are limited to those related to the execution of the project that are not within the mandate of the Indigenous government.

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

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

How will you verify the status of the early career researchers (ECR)? Will proof be required?

The research administrator or research grants office (RGO) of the nominated principal investigator’s primary affiliation will confirm the ECR status of team members (if applicable). At any point in time, staff may request additional information to verify an applicant’s ECR status.

How will a past leave affect my eligibility as an early career researcher?

All justified leaves (which includes parental, medical, extended sick leave, clinical training and family care) that occurred after your first independent research appointment will be considered, as long as they adhered to the requirements of your institution. In most cases, the time that was spent on leave will be deducted from your career duration. For justified leaves, the amount of time deducted will be doubled to prolong your eligibility period as an ECR.

What is considered a part-time appointment?

The agencies defer to your institution’s policy on what is considered a part-time appointment. Please contact the institution where the appointment is or was held to confirm whether it was part-time or full-time.

What is considered an academic appointment?

An academic appointment is one in which an individual holds a position at a postsecondary institution (either in Canada or internationally) that allows them to be an independent researcher. It does not include positions where the individual is under the supervision of another person. An academic appointment can include part-time positions, contract positions, adjuncts and sessional instructors.

While it may be the policy of certain institutions to consider postdoctoral fellowships an academic appointment, for the purpose of this funding opportunity it is not considered to be one.

What is the expectation in terms of size of the team?

The team must reflect the required expertise, experience and resources required to meet the project’s objectives. The Transformation stream has been designed with flexibility in mind to allow projects of varying scope, size and focus to be eligible. The appropriate team size can vary between projects.

Will proposals that request less than the full budget amount be considered insufficiently large-scale?

A minimum budget has been set to provide direction on the scale of projects that are expected to meet the expectations of having transformative potential, while also acknowledging that different types of research incur varying costs. Requested budgets should be an accurate reflection of the cost of undertaking the project as it is proposed. The focus of the evaluation is on the approach to the challenge, the potential impact of the proposed project and the likelihood of real change. The requested budget size will not factor into the evaluation of these aspects, but will be reviewed to assess the relevance and appropriateness of the planned expenses.

Are there limitations regarding the use of funds for infrastructure or teaching release, or to be transferred internationally, for example?

The NFRF program uses the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration to determine the eligibility of expenses and the guidelines for the use of funds related to the direct costs of research. Exceptions to those policies for NFRF grants can be found in the Use of Grant Funds section of the Competition Overview. Limits for specific expenses have not been set for Transformation grants; the multidisciplinary review panel and jury will be asked to consider the relevance and appropriateness of the planned expenses as part of their evaluation.

Will funds be available for proposals that are invited to the full application stage to support the development of the full application?

Funding will only be available to applications awarded a grant. Funding is not provided to assist in the development of applications.

Can a successful team apply for renewal after six years?

No. There is no mechanism to renew a grant. Teams may apply for a new grant for a new project that builds on their successes, or for a project in a completely different area, after the completion of their grant.

The competition overview and the evaluation matrices refer to management plans related to performance, administration, data, training, etc. Why are these needed?

Given the expected scale of the projects to be funded, with contributions from multiple partners, there is a need for clear management approaches to ensure that the project remains on track, that resources (including grant funds) are allocated appropriately and that changes can be made to project plans or directions, if needed, following unanticipated results. Management plans ensure that roles and responsibilities are assigned and that processes are in place to ensure appropriate oversight.

Is a succession plan required?

No. Projects submitted to and funded through the Transformation stream are expected to be completed within the six-year time frame. A succession plan therefore is moot.

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.

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

There is no mechanism to include a letter of support in the application. A description of the support can be included in the Budget Justification section.

We have partners who are highly supportive of this project, some of which will provide cash or in-kind contributions. How do we attach letters of support?

There is no mechanism to include letters of support in the application. A description of the support can be included in the Budget Justification section (in the case of cash or in-kind contributions) and in the application itself. The time commitment of the individual(s) at the partner organizations will demonstrate their support and interest in contributing to the project meeting its objectives.

As a nominated principal investigator, my affiliation will change between now and March 2021 (the start date of the grant). How do I manage my affiliations in the Convergence Portal?

In the Convergence Portal, you must add all of your current affiliations and identify your primary affiliation. You must also include the affiliation associated with your NOI, even if you have not yet started the appointment. Therefore, you should enter both your current and your upcoming affiliations. You should indicate your current affiliation as your primary one; however, in the eligibility profile, you should select your upcoming affiliation when asked to choose the one associated with your application.

How will the LOI results be communicated to applicants?

LOI decisions will be communicated to applicants by November 10, 2020, through the Convergence Portal.

What is the expected number of LOIs to be invited to submit a full application?

We anticipate a maximum of 30 applications will be accepted in the application stage.

How will the competition results be communicated to applicants?

According to the timeline, funding decisions are expected to be communicated to applicants in February 2021, through Notifications of Decision, accessible through the Convergence Portal.

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 submit only applications that comply with eligibility requirements and fit the program.

Why can’t I find an NOI from a nominated principal investigator from my institution?

The list of NOIs that a research administrator can view is based on the affiliation that nominated principal investigators have selected in their eligibility profile. Before contacting the Helpdesk, please confirm with the nominated principal investigator that your institution is selected as their primary affiliation in their eligibility profile.

How do I return an application to the nominated principal investigator?

If the status of the application is:

  • in progress, there is no need to return it as the nominated principal investigator has not yet submitted it;
  • received by administrator, the RGO can return the application by clicking on the “Return to applicant” link; or
  • received by agency, it can no longer be returned, as the RGO has already forwarded it to the agency.
In the Convergence Portal, the Terms and Conditions for Research Administrators states 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 in an application. A nominated principal investigator’s RGO is responsible for informing the institutions. Each institution can develop its own process to address this clause. No copies of the written approval will be requested from the agencies for submission.

Is the grant an institutional grant or an individual grant?

Transformation grants are awarded to a nominated principal investigator at an eligible institution. The grants are administered by the institution, but under the direction of the nominated principal investigator and co-PIs, if applicable.

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 per cent 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 they must be included as an amount in the budget table. The nominated principal investigator’s RGO will need to confirm that the indirect costs are appropriate when it forwards the application.

The amount being claimed is allocated to the nominated principal investigator’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 being 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). The administering organization (i.e., the nominated principal investigator’s primary affiliation) will administer the process.

Are Memorandums of Understanding (MOUs) required for funds to be transferred to institutions outside of Canada?

Agreements are required as outlined in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration. Institutions may adopt any additional agreements or MOUs as they see fit, but it is not a requirement of the program.

Can the transfer of funds to international institutions be done through billing for expenses, rather than pretransferring funds?

Institutions may use whatever processes are eligible under the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration.

Does the nominated principal investigator also have access to the funds to support the indirect costs of research?

The nominated principal investigator, co-PI and co-applicants have authority to expend only the funds supporting the direct costs of research. The host institution has authority to expend the funds for the indirect costs. It is expected that the host institution will distribute a portion of these costs to the institutions of the co-PI and/or co-applicants.

What is required in terms of annual financial reports?

The Statement of Account Form (PDF, 500 KB) (Form 300) is to be used to report the annual financial expenditures for NFRF grants. Two accounts must be created at the host institution for each grant: one account 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 (PDF, 500 KB) (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 item 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 a nominated principal investigator was awarded $3,000,000 for direct costs and $750,000 for indirect costs in Year 1 and he or she had only spent $1,500,000 for direct costs, the amount charged for indirect costs would be: ($750,000 ÷ $3,000,000) × $1,500,000 = $375,000.

How do I add co-applicants and collaborators after the grant is awarded?

Send NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca an email, copying the individuals you wish to add and providing an explanation for their inclusion in the project, along with first name, family name, role on the project (i.e. co-applicant or collaborator), position or role in their organization, department (optional), organization, and country of organization. The request will be reviewed and other information may be requested prior to a decision being made regarding the inclusion of additional participants.

Are co-PIs and co-applicants from international institutions, who have partnered on a Transformation grant, eligible to receive compensation for their work on funded projects?

Yes. As per the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration, the administering institution (the NPI’s primary affiliation) may require international researchers to provide a letter from their employer attesting that the individual is not being compensated by the employer for time spent on the grant-funded research/activities.

What is the mid-term review?

All funded projects will undergo a mid-term review by a multidisciplinary review panel. The mid-term review will assess the project’s progress to date, as well as the plan for the time remaining in the grant. The assessment will consider whether the project has met milestones and is on track to meet all long-term objectives within the time remaining. Given that research is, by its nature, driven by hypotheses and that outcomes are uncertain, it is understood that approaches, goals and objectives may have to be modified as the project progresses. If unanticipated outcomes from early stages have required a shift in the focus or approach, the mid-term review will allow for the new direction to be evaluated.

If the results of the mid-term review are unsatisfactory, the NFRF Steering Committee has the option to direct the termination of the funding.

How can I provide feedback about this funding opportunity?

We value our community’s feedback, as it will help us shape future competitions. You may direct your feedback to NFRF-FNFR@chairs-chaires.gc.ca.

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