Applicant categorization is the responsibility of NSERC staff and is based on the information provided by the applicant in the Canadian Common CV (CCV) and application. An applicant may be contacted if clarification is required.
Early Career Researchers (ECR) are researchers who are within three years of the start date of an NSERC eligible position, and who have no academic or non-academic independent research experience prior to the three-year window at the time of submitting the Notification of Intent to Apply for a Discovery Grant (NOI). For example, to be classified as an ECR, a researcher submitting an NOI in August 2016 would have been hired on or after July 2013.
The three-year window for being considered an ECR can be adjusted to take into account instances where a researcher has had an acceptable delay in research or period of inactivity (illness, parental leave, etc.). For example, a researcher submitting an NOI in August 2016 and who took a six-month parental leave within the past three years must have been hired on or after January 2013 in order to be considered an ECR.
Established researchers include all researchers that are not considered early career and who have at least three years of independent research experience.
An independent researcher conceives of the research to be done and sets and changes the research direction by his/her own authority, without requiring the approval of another. Typically, postdoctoral fellows are not considered to be conducting independent research. For research done in non-academic organizations, there may be a higher level priority setting with respect to areas of research and research direction driven by organizational requirements. Having been given the direction established by that higher level, the independent researcher is responsible for conceptualizing, conducting (or supervising the conduct), analyzing and reporting the research towards achieving the higher-level organizational objectives.
While applications from ECRs are evaluated against the same three selection criteria as established researchers, NSERC recognizes that early career applicants may not have had the opportunity to make the same level contributions to research or training as established researchers. For this reason, NSERC implements a different quality cut-off for funding of ECRs. As this group is also identified as benefitting most from additional resources, NSERC devotes additional funds to supplement the Discovery Grants of funded ECRs.