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Discovery Grants Program (Individual and Team)

Instructions to Referees – Form 140

Before Proceeding

Please read the  Instructions to Referees on the Privacy Act, Confidentiality and the Use and Disclosure of Information.

Note: Your signature on the paper version of the review form, or transmission of your final evaluation to NSERC either by mail or by using the electronic evaluation process, means that you have read these instructions and that you consent to these uses and disclosures.

In addition, you may refer to:

Information on the following topics is provided below:

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Conflict of Interest

If you are in a conflict of interest, or for any other reason unable to act as a referee, please contact us directly, or send us an e-mail at as soon as possible. In order to identify yourself and the application(s) you are unable to review, please indicate your Personal Identification Number (PIN) and the committee and application number in the SUBJECT line of your e-mail message.

Suggested referees should not be in a conflict of interest. Refer to the This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Policy of the Federal Research Funding Organizations for more information. In addition, referees (external reviewers) must sign the This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers before they access the application material.

Allegations of Misconduct

Allegations of misconduct must be treated separately from the peer review process. Should your review reveal concerns of possible misconduct, please report any allegation separately to the Research Ethics Coordinator. Your report should only address the application and selection criteria and make no mention of the misconduct concerns.

How to Evaluate the Proposal

Note on student identification: Applicants should not be penalized for not having the specific names of students if generic information is provided. NSERC requires applicants to obtain consent forms from students before including their names on a Personal Data Form (Form 100). As this is not always feasible, applicants also have the option of providing information on students without providing their names (this information might be more generic).

Base your detailed comments on the headings provided below.

  • Scientific or engineering excellence of the researcher(s)

    Applicants must present evidence of meaningful contributions to the field in the past six years. Referees can consider contributions made over the last 10 years for researchers with only a non-academic background in research and training (e.g., government or private sector). This criterion comprises several elements that consider the researcher’s contributions to the field:

    • Knowledge, expertise and experience of the researcher in the natural sciences and engineering (NSE);
    • Quality of contributions to, and impact on, the proposed and other areas of research in the NSE;
    • Importance of contributions to, and use by, other researchers and end-users; and
    • For team applications: the complementarity of expertise and synergy of the members of the team should be assessed.

  • Merit of the proposal

    The proposal must clearly present genuine research problems in the NSE. The program must not be limited to the development of specific applications of existing knowledge; it must promise an original and innovative contribution. In assessing the merit of the proposal, highlight its strong and weak points, and provide detailed comments on the following, as appropriate:

    • Originality and innovation; extent to which the proposal suggests and explores novel or potentially transformative concepts and lines of inquiry;
    • Significance and expected contributions to research; potential for technological impact;
    • Clarity and scope of objectives;
    • Clarity and appropriateness of methodology; and
    • Feasibility; extent to which the scope of the proposal addresses all relevant issues including the need for varied expertise within or across disciplines, where applicable.

  • Contribution to the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP)

    Contributions to quality training at all levels—including undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians and research associates—are valued. Assessment of contributions to the training of HQP includes both the record (past) and the plans. In assessing a researcher’s “Contributions to the Training of HQP”, the following elements should be considered:

    • Quality and impact of past contributions to the training of HQP during the last six years;
    • Appropriateness of the proposal for the training of HQP in the NSE and clear description of the training plan; and
    • Enhancement of training arising from a collaborative or interdisciplinary environment, where applicable.