Merit Review

Merit review is the evaluation, conducted by a committee of researchers and knowledge-users, that assesses both the scientific merit and potential impact of research projects that engage knowledge-users.

Merit review is the evaluation approach used to assess research projects that engage knowledge-users1 throughout the research process to inform the research plan, carry out the project, and apply the research findings. This collaborative approach to research, known as integrated knowledge translation (KT)2 at CIHR, is also known as community-based research3, mode 2 knowledge production4 and participatory research5, among others.

This way of doing research requires that both the scientific merit and potential impact of the projects be assessed using separate scores. In general, the potential impact score reflects the relevance/importance of the project to the knowledge-users and the likelihood that the project will have a substantive and sustainable impact on health outcomes, practice, programs and/or policy in the study context. The scientific merit score generally reflects the rigour and appropriateness of the proposed research methodology and the strength of the research team.

The composition of integrated KT research teams and/or the nature of KT research projects require that merit review panels expand the traditional definition of "peer" to include knowledge-users, whose expertise lies in the application of research. Because both researchers and knowledge-users contribute to the production and the translation of research, merit review panel composition must reflect this, drawing members from both researcher and knowledge-user communities.

Each application is reviewed by at least one researcher and at least one knowledge-user both of whom assess potential impact and scientific merit. The evaluation criteria are tailored to the specific Funding Opportunity. Potential impact and scientific merit are weighted equally. Only those applications receiving a fundable score on both potential impact and scientific merit can be considered for CIHR funding.

Examples of CIHR programs that use merit review:

  • Partnerships for Health System Improvement
  • Knowledge to Action
  • Knowledge Synthesis
  • Evidence on Tap - Expedited Knowledge Synthesis
  • Applied Chairs in Health Services and Policy Research
  • Applied Public Health Chairs
  • Proof of Principle
  • Operating Grant: HIV/AIDS Community Based Research
  • Catalyst Grant in HIV/AIDS Community Based Research
  • Research Facilitators in HIV/AIDS (Community-Based Research)
  • Doctoral Research Award: HIV/AIDS Community Based Research
  • Master's Awards: HIV/AIDS Community Based Research

  1. CIHR defines a Knowledge-User as an individual who is likely to be able to use the knowledge generated through research to make informed decisions about health policies, programs and/or practices. A knowledge-user's level of engagement in the research process may vary in intensity and complexity depending on the nature of the research and his/her information needs. A knowledge-user can be, but is not limited to, a practitioner, policy-maker, educator, decision-maker, health care administrator, community leader, or an individual in a health charity, patient group, private sector organization, or media outlet.
  2. About Knowledge Translation
  3. Community Based Research Canada (CBRC) website  
  4. The new production of knowledge: the dynamics of science and research in contemporary societies. 1994. Gibbons, Michael; Camille Limoges, Helga Nowotny, Simon Schwartzman, Peter Scott, & Martin Trow (1994). London: Sage. ISBN 0-8039-7794-8.
  5. Narayan, D. 1996. What is Participatory Research? In Toward Participatory Research. Washington, D.C. World Bank. p. 17-30; Participatory Research at McGill ; Guidelines and Categories for Classifying Participatory Research Projects in Health  
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