In 2009, following almost three years of data analysis and consultation with the research community, NSERC introduced a number of enhancements to its peer review processes and review committee structure. The main objectives were to make the evaluation processes more fair and transparent for all applicants, and to allow the most worthy candidates to secure funding that would permit them to mount or maintain internationally competitive careers. The rationale for the peer review changes is summarized in reports from two distinguished advisory committees: the Grant Selection Committee Structure Review Advisory Committee and the International Review Committee on the Discovery Grants Program.
The five-year cycle of implementing the changes will be completed at the conclusion of the 2013 competition. Most Discovery Grants run for five years, and roughly one-fifth of grants expire each year. As the terms of existing grants end, each cohort of researchers competes under the new processes.
NSERC is collecting information on the impact and functioning of the new system. This has already resulted in some adjustments. While no formal consultations are underway at present, we encourage researchers to send comments and share their experiences with the system. Feedback from applicants and reviewers ensures that we can continue to improve our processes.
We are committed to a full review of the system in 2012-13, as the implementation cycle draws to its conclusion. We have also requested an assessment to be conducted by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) on performance indicators for basic research. The CCA's report is expected to help NSERC find better ways to compare overall levels of excellence across disciplines in devising a new allocation process for its Evaluation Groups.