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Final Decision on the Foundation Grant Program

By April 19, 2019No Comments

When CIHR created the Foundation Grant program, it was with the intent to support health researchers across all four pillars who were highly successful in the open grants programs. The goal was to support them in a way that would allow them to have the flexibility to pursue new and innovative lines of inquiry, while also training and mentoring the next generation of health researchers. Creating the program was a bold step for CIHR and we know that outstanding research has been supported through it.

As a learning organization, however, CIHR takes pride in assessing its programs and making evidence-based decisions for the way forward. After four completed Foundation Grant competitions, a critical analysis of the data has revealed significant issues. Most notably, the evidence highlights that there are unintended consequences in funding distribution within the Foundation Grant program that are not evident in the Project Grant program (and were not in the former Open Operating Grant Program). Furthermore, the program’s peer review process does not align with our renewed commitment to face-to-face review and has not reduced reviewer burden, as originally envisioned.

We have concluded that making adjustments to the program design would not be sufficient to address these issues. As a result, the 2018–19 Foundation Grant competition (currently under way) will be the last competition for this program.

This decision to sunset the Foundation Grant program was not taken lightly and has been a long process in which a broad range of views regarding the program were heard. This included the Foundation Grant Program Review committee, which was struck in late 2017 and recommended significant modifications to the program while preserving it. We also relied heavily on the experience and insights of the Institute Scientific Directors, as discussion about the Foundation Grant program and the range of options available to us became a regular agenda item at our Science Council meetings. For months, we carefully considered feedback from the University Delegates, as well as from the discussions that my predecessor, Dr. Rod McInnes, had with the research community during cross-country university visits in 2017. Finally, as we began to see consensus around the Science Council table, our deliberations with CIHR’s Governing Council took shape. Indeed, they reviewed all the evidence thoroughly, ultimately (and unanimously) deciding to endorse senior management’s recommendation to sunset the program.

Reaching this decision has been a tremendous team effort, and I am confident that it is the right one for the CIHR community as a whole.