Professor of medicine. PhD in human factors engineering. Living with type 1 diabetes. Infrequent blogger.

CIHR Spring Project Cancellation

In the interests of transparency, here are recommendations I sent individually by email to CIHR in response to their decision to cancel the Spring 2020 Project decision. I sent the following to Dr. Michael Strong (president of CIHR), Dr. Jeannie Shoveller (chair of CIHR Governing Council), Dr. Tammy Clifford (vice-president, research programs) and Mr. Adrian Mota (acting associate VP of research) on April 6, 2020.

A. Reverse the decision.
People are ready and willing to review. (I had already been asked a month ago by a program officer if I would review this cycle, and I had agreed, noting that I assumed it would be online.) This decision has damaged trust in CIHR among many members of the research community. If you maintain the decision, you’re going to see that lack of trust reflected in increased application pressure for 1-2 years to come. Reversing the decision would regain some of that trust and make things easier for you in the coming cycles.

If you are unwilling to reconsider the decision, I recommend you:

B1. Allow higher per-NPA grant limits in fall 2020 for people who submitted spring 2020 grants
People who had grants submitted in the spring need to be able to resubmit them in the fall as additional grants on top of whatever per-NPA limit is imposed. This is important for fairness across researchers, and also across research domains. Some of CIHR’s statements about this decision seem to only consider the biomedical (theme 1) model of research, in which people submit “renewals” (that we don’t actually call renewals.) That is not the model in other domains, where we have grants of different sizes and lengths, where we sometimes have multiple principal applicants, we genuinely share budgets, etc. As you (Jeannie), Adrian, and Tammy should be well aware, in themes 3 and 4, we often have smaller, shorter grants and have to carefully consider which grants to submit at which cycle to fit in the 2 grants per NPA. By cancelling a cycle, you’ve completely up-ended people’s multi-year plans. You need to fix that. By allowing extra grants to those who submitted in spring, you would also somewhat alleviate the issues that will be caused when senior Foundation awardees come back in.

B2. Carry forward ECI status
People who submitted a grant in spring 2020 as an ECI need to be able to carry that ECI status for that grant forward when the grant is considered in the fall, even if they are no longer an ECI in the fall. I leave it to you to determine whether they should have ECI status for any grant this fall, or only for grants carried forward from the spring.

B3. Extend all grants’ budget amounts dedicated to salaries and trainees
Anyone whose research is shuttered right now is paying staff and trainees, without collecting data. Those of us who are not fully shuttered are still not able to run our research programs because research ethics committees are not accepting any non-COVID19 applications, and because staff and students are dealing with all sorts of issues related to the pandemic. Rather than offering extensions based purely on grant end dates (including to people who didn’t even apply to Spring 2020, which makes absolutely no sense) CIHR could help alleviate this issue by offering partial extensions on the portions of budgets dedicated to staff salaries and trainees. This could be a partial extension for a limited period of time, but it would show a great deal of caring for the research community. Salaries and trainee stipends are for people. There is no research without people.

B4. Guarantee the next 3 cycles’ dates
You have to take this seriously. People plan their lives around these dates, and as I keep trying to explain, some people have less flexibility than others. You have to respect that, and make a genuine effort to get the best possible research submitted, rather than only the research from people who have life circumstances that allow them to turn on a dime.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “CIHR Spring Project Cancellation”