The CIHR HIV/AIDS Community-Based Research Program - A Guide for Applicants
This Guide is for information purposes only. For specific information regarding application requirements, refer to the "How to Apply" section of the selected funding opportunity.
The first efforts to respond to HIV/AIDS took place in the communities most affected by the virus. These communities have continued to play a central role, offering a diverse range of services. Communities know best what they need, where there are unmet needs – and where research can help them meet the needs of their members.
The CIHR HIV/AIDS Community-Based Research (CBR) Program recognizes the important role community-based organizations play in developing and conducting research and in ensuring that research results are applied to help the people at risk of or living with HIV infection and AIDS. The CBR program funds research carried out by, and in partnership with, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations and academic institutions to develop the knowledge they need to carry out their work in the most effective manner and to create research expertise within these organizations.
We know, though, that it can be hard for organizations that are not familiar with academic research to navigate through the research funding process. That is why we have developed this guide – to help you succeed in your CIHR funding proposals, so that we can support you in your work.
In this guide, you will find everything you need to know about developing and submitting a research proposal, how it is reviewed, what to do if you're unsuccessful – it does not have to be the end of your proposal – and what to do if you are successful.
If you still have questions after reading this guide, you will find a list of contacts at the end of the guide who can help answer those questions, as well as a list of useful links. As well, the CIHR HIV/AIDS Research Initiative conducts online training sessions to help you with your application for funding, details for which can be found on the CBR website.
So here we go.
- What kinds of funding are available?
- What is a funding opportunity?
- How do I know if I am eligible for funding?
- I have read the FO and I want to submit a proposal. What do I do now?
- What is a CIHR PIN?
- What is a Common CV?
- What is ResearchNet?
- Back to the proposal...
- Why do I need to have partners?
- How is my proposal judged?
- I thought I had a good proposal, but I did not get funded. Is this the end?
- My proposal passed - I am getting funded! Now what do I do?
- What is an eligible institution and how does my organization qualify?
- How do I establish financial eligibility?
- How do I comply with the ethics requirements?
- My research is completed - what are my next steps?
- Want to know more?
What kinds of funding are available?
The CBR program is an umbrella for several different kinds of research funding opportunities. They include:
Master's and Doctoral Research Awards: Support for building a cadre of academic CBR researchers
Meetings, Planning and Dissemination Grants: Support for scientific meetings (workshops, symposia, conferences, colloquia), consensus meetings, planning and development meetings, networking and partnership development events for health researchers with non-researchers and/or users of health research to facilitate collaboration among individuals or groups
Catalyst Grants: Provides seed money to support activities which represent a first step towards the pursuit of more comprehensive funding opportunities
Operating Grants: Supports community-academia research partnerships which contribute to the creation, dissemination and use of HIV/AIDS related knowledge, and to help develop and maintain CBR research capacity, by supporting original, high quality projects
Think of the funding as a continuum, from the earliest stages, as a student, through some "test" research, and finally a full-fledged project.
You should also know that the CBR program has two streams, a regular (or General) stream and an Aboriginal stream.
Funding opportunities in any of these streams are usually launched in June and December of each year.
What is a funding opportunity?
Good question. The whole research funding process starts with a funding opportunity (FO). The FO sets out key information you need, including:
- The funding tool being used: this could be a catalyst grant, an operating grant, a training award – any of the funding tools found in the CBR toolkit. Generally, regardless of the tool, the FO usually covers both streams of the program, General and Aboriginal;
- Important deadlines: this includes the date you must register by (there is more on registration, below); the date applications are due; the date CIHR anticipates making its funding decisions; and the date funding is intended to start;
- Application requirements: this includes whether you need to register, as well as if you need to submit a final report following the end of your project and, if so, how long you have to complete this step (usually six months in the case of CBR-funded projects);
- The total funds available and the maximum funds per grant: this tells you how much you can expect to receive if your proposal is successful and, therefore, can help you structure your proposal and give you an idea of what is practical to accomplish; and
- The objectives of the FO: what research supported by this program is intended to accomplish, what kinds of activities might be funded and who the intended participants in the research are. Pay careful attention to these sections – they will tell you exactly what reviewers will be looking for. Structuring your proposal to meet these objectives and relevant research areas will enhance the likelihood of your success.
How do I know if I am eligible for funding?
The boundaries of who is eligible for funding are a little wider in the CBR program than in other CIHR funding programs. Nonetheless, there are boundaries and it is essential to ensure that you fall within those boundaries.
The Eligibility section of the FO sets out exactly who is eligible to apply for funding. This is where it gets a bit technical as to who's who – but you do not want to get excluded on a technicality, so it is important to pay attention to terms like Nominated Principal Applicant (the project leader), Eligible Institution (an organization that is eligible to manage CIHR funds and has signed a Memorandum of Understanding – more about that later) and Principal Knowledge User. There are links in the FO that will let you see exactly who falls into each category.
I have read the FO and I want to submit a proposal. What do I do now?
There are two things you need to do first, one that is specific to the competition and one that will apply to this and all other competitions you might apply to in the future.
The first task is to register for a CIHR PIN, a Common CV, and a ResearchNet account on the CIHR web site. It does not take long and it makes everything else that follows much easier! Plus, once done, you do not have to do it again for future competitions.
The second, opportunity-specific task is to register for the funding opportunity. You do this on the funding opportunity page, where there is a box at the top right of the page that says "Apply to this opportunity". When you click that, you are brought to ResearchNet, where you will be asked to provide basic information, including what stream (Aboriginal or General) you are applying for. Remember, you cannot carry out this step until you have a ResearchNet account.
What is a CIHR PIN?
A CIHR PIN is a password-protected unique identifier required to apply for most funding opportunities. Each member of your team needs one of these.
What is a Common CV?
The Common CV network is a partnership among Canadian research funding organizations, including CIHR, meant to make it easier for researchers to apply for funding. It is a web-based tool that allows researchers to manage their CV data in a single repository and generate CVs as needed for all member organizations.
Most funding opportunities require that a Common CV be submitted for each team member. Note that the Common CV is for researchers based in academic or affiliated institutions who identify themselves as Nominated Principal Applicant, Principal Applicant or Co-applicant. If you are a representative from a community-based organization, you are considered a knowledge user. You and your colleagues will identify yourselves as Nominated Principal Applicant – Knowledge User; Principal Knowledge User; or Knowledge User and fill out and submit a Knowledge User (KU) CV rather than the Common CV. The "How to Apply" instructions for each FO will indicate the particular requirements for that opportunity.
To complete the Canadian Common CV, whether for a researcher or a Knowledge User, log onto the website, complete your CV, then click on "validate my CV for CIHR", found on the right side of the screen. A PDF will be generated which you can then save and upload into ResearchNet.
What is ResearchNet?
ResearchNet is the electronic system for managing applications for funding. Registering for a ResearchNet account is easy. Simply go to researchnet-recherchenet.ca and click on register in the top box. You will be asked for details like your name, e-mail, language preference and a password. Once you are registered, you will continue to use the same account every time you log onto Research Net.
Back to the proposal...
So you have registered for a CIHR PIN, a Common CV and a ResearchNet account and registered your intention to submit a proposal under the Funding Opportunity. That takes care of the simple steps – now you have to write the actual proposal (also known as an application)!
The proposal itself is called the Research Proposal. Your proposal should address the objectives of the FO and describe the likely significance of the project for the involved community. You can also include signed letters of support from the community (not only are they accepted, they are encouraged). You should also append your Research Ethics Board certification at this stage, if available (see below for more on ethics).
CIHR's Institute of Genetics has a Guidebook for New Principal Investigators that has excellent advice on the actual process of writing a research proposal – the CBR program recommends that you use this as a guide if you have not done this before – or read through it again even if you have!
When your proposal is ready, go back to ResearchNet to submit it. Within the CBR Program, there are specific requirements that you must follow and specific elements that you must upload to ResearchNet in order to submit a complete application. It reduces pressure if you get as much of this done early, at the registration stage, as you can:
- You should have already indicated which stream you are applying for (Aboriginal or General) at the registration stage;
- You will have also identified your role (Nominated Principal Applicant, etc.) and the roles of other applicants. Your identification of your role will determine which CV you are required to submit. You can, at this stage, make changes to add or remove team members;
- You must include the Community-Based Research Principles Summary in your proposal and, in a maximum of one page, demonstrate partnership with relevant community stakeholders as well as clearly describe community involvement in the identification of the research question and in the development, implementation and possible knowledge translation activities of the project;
- You must upload the signed signatures pages (signed by all applicants and at least one authorized official from the Institution that will actually receive CIHR funds should your application be successful (see below to find out more about financial eligibility); and
- You must upload a Common CV or a Knowledge User CV for yourself and for all members of your team. Collaborators are not required to submit a CV.
Finally, make sure you submit your proposal by the due date and that it is complete, with all the required signatures. Incomplete or late applications will not be accepted into the competition.
Why do I need to have partners?
Partnerships are the cornerstone of the CBR approach. But in a larger sense, partners are an important part of any proposal, not only those for community-based research. Partners can help to fill gaps – in expertise that you may lack or in access to resources that are hard for you to get on your own. Projects funded under the CBR Program have to include a partnership between a community-based organization and an academic partner. Partnerships also provide a route for knowledge translation – for ensuring that the results of your research are known by others and applied by them to help their communities.
The important thing to note about partnerships is that they are difficult. It seems like stating the obvious, but partnerships bring together people and organizations with different perspectives, different needs and different ways of operating. People with a lot of experience in forming and implementing partnerships will caution that, while there is no one way to form a partnership, those that are put together simply to meet the requirements of an funding opportunity seldom work well. They need to be based on something more solid and all partners should share the same commitment to your task. The project should be the expression of an ongoing relationship.
How is my proposal judged?
There are two steps to the review process.
First, your application will be reviewed by members of the CIHR HIV/AIDS Research Initiative to ensure that it is relevant. Two factors determine relevance: first, that its focus is HIV/AIDS and second, that the impact of the research on Canadian communities is clearly demonstrated.
Once your project has been determined relevant, a CBR merit review committee will evaluate the full application. Members of the merit review committees include equal numbers of academics and community members, chosen based on suggestions from CBR committee members, CBR grant holders and CIHR stakeholders. They will look at your application in light of two main criteria:
- Potential impact: is the project – and the partnerships it involves – likely to have impact on the involved community? Is the community involved as partners? Are there plans to translate the knowledge gained through the research for the benefit of the community?; and
- Scientific merit: Does this research break new ground, compared to prior research? Is the methodology both feasible and appropriate? Does the investigative team have the experience and skills needed to complete the project?
Proposals are scored on a scale of 0 to 4.9, with potential impact and scientific merit both given equal weight. Committee members must reach a consensus rating for both criteria. If a consensus score cannot be reached, the mean of the two initial ratings – for impact and merit – will be used. Your proposal must score at least 3.5 for each criterion in order to be considered for funding. Applications are funded from the top of the list down, as far as budgets allow. Please note that ethical and budget issues raised by the panel should not affect the ratings of the application.
I thought I had a good proposal, but I did not get funded. Is this the end?
Absolutely not. Your proposal will be returned to you with comments from the merit review committee. You can use these comments to revise your proposal and resubmit it in response to the next FO that applies to your work. You can include in your revised resubmission a page called Response to Previous Reviews where you can explain how you have responded to reviewers' comments.
And do not feel like this is a second-best application. If you scored 3.5 or above, your proposal meets the criteria for funding. Often, the problem has more to do with budgetary limitations than your proposal. As a result, resubmissions are commonplace in all areas of research that CIHR funds.
My proposal passed – I am getting funded! Now what do I do?
First of all, take a minute to congratulate yourself and celebrate! Your project has passed through a rigorous review process and has come out successful.
Now, it's time to get back to work.
If you are from a community-based organization, you have to do a couple of things before CIHR funds can be released. First, your organization has to become eligible to administer CIHR funds; and second, it has to comply with ethics requirements. (All recipients of CIHR funds have to do this. The difference is that, for researchers affiliated with already eligible CIHR institutions the process has already been completed)
Both of these processes can seem more daunting than they really are. And remember, if you run into trouble, there are places you can go. First of all, the policies and guidelines that govern release of funds and conduct of research are all listed at the back of this guide, so start there. If you still have questions, CIHR staff is ready to help. You can find contact names and numbers at the back of the guide as well.
What is an eligible institution and how does my organization qualify?
CIHR does not provide funds directly to you as an independent researcher or knowledge user, but rather to the institution/organization with which you are affiliated. Canadian non-governmental, not-for-profit organizations, including community and charitable organizations, are eligible to receive CIHR funding if they have an explicit health research or knowledge translation mandate. If this is not part of your organization's mandate, you may have to have your Board of Directors approve a revision to your mandate. You may also have to provide CIHR with a letter explaining how your organization meets the requirement for a research or knowledge translation mandate, for instance by indicating your organization's previous and/or current research experience, how this proposal fits with your mandate and whether your organization foresees more research or knowledge translation in the future.
There are two kinds of eligibility requirements your organization needs to satisfy before funds can be released to you: financial and ethical eligibility.
CIHR also strongly advises that organizations have in place liability insurance that protects them and their researchers from actions arising as a consequence of the research activity.
How do I establish financial eligibility?
CIHR can only provide funding to institutions who have already established both financial and ethical eligibility (signed an MOU). You can view the list of CIHR Eligible Institutions to determine if your organization has already done this. The reality is that it is a procedure (about one day worth of work in total) and there is paperwork involved. On the other hand, CIHR staff is there to help you and once your eligibility is established, you remain eligible for future funding competitions.
You do not have to wait until you have been awarded funding before beginning the process of establishing your organization's financial eligibility. You can start preparing your application for financial eligibility at any point after you register but CIHR will only review it once your proposal is successful.
Financial eligibility must be established through the institution that the Nominated Principal Applicant is affiliated with. In the CBR Program, the Nominated Principal Applicant can be either an independent researcher – affiliated with an academic institution – or a knowledge user, from a community-based organization. If the Nominated Principal Applicant is an independent researcher with an academic appointment at an eligible institution, then there is no problem, as eligibility is conferred through his or her institution and funding will flow through that institution. If the Nominated Principal Applicant is from a community-based organization that has never held CIHR funds before, then it has to establish its own eligibility.
When you have submitted your registration, you will be contacted by a CIHR staff member, who will provide you with the necessary forms and let you know what is required. Basically, the process of establishing financial eligibility involves filling out four forms, commonly known as Annexes A-D. You also need to submit your organization's most recent audited financial statements. Once the process is completed (both financial and ethical), a Memorandum of Understanding on the Roles and Responsibilities in the management of Federal Grants and Awards is signed and a Common Grant and Award account is created. For more information please refer to the Institutional Eligibility Requirements to Administer CIHR Funds.
Once you have received your funds, you need to submit a Statement of Accounts at the end of June each year of your funding, as part of CIHR's monitoring of its funded projects.
Your organization has one year after your success in the funding competition to become eligible, but the earlier you start, the less stressful the process will be. However, recognizing that the process can take time, CIHR will release the initial instalment of the grant prior to eligibility being fully established, as long as you have met the minimum qualification requirements.
How do I comply with the ethics requirements?
As a recipient of CIHR funding, you are required to adhere to certain ethics policies.
The Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS) is one of these policies. This statement describes the policies of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and expresses their continuing commitment to promote the ethical conduct of research involving human subjects. These Agencies will consider funding (or continued funding) only to individuals and institutions that certify that they comply with this Policy regarding research involving human subjects.
As the major federal sources of funds for research and scholarship in academic institutions, the Agencies are also committed to the highest standards of integrity in research and scholarship. As such, the Agencies will only consider funding (or continued funding) to individuals and institutions who meet the expectations set out in the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Integrity in Research and Scholarship.
The Agencies also require that all research they fund that involves the use of animals be approved in accordance with animal care standards established by the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). This means having procedures in place to monitor ongoing work and ensure conformity with federal and provincial guidelines, regulations and laws covering the use of animals in research, teaching and testing.
In practical terms, this means three things:
- first, you need to have an organizational ethics policy on the ethical review of research involving humans;
- second, your organization needs to have an Integrity in Research and Scholarship policy; and
- third, your organization needs to obtain a certificate of Good Animal Practice from the CCAC if your research involves the use of animals.
The simplest way to address these requirements is to enter into an agreement with another institution that is eligible for CIHR funding (such as your academic partner) to adopt their ethics and/or integrity policies.
The alternative is to develop your own policies. If you choose to do so, it is wise to consult relevant policies and frameworks that can assist you along the way. You can also consult the web sites of other similar-sized organizations, for ideas in developing your own policy.
In some provinces (Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Quebec to mention a few), community-based organizations can access certain Research Ethics Boards that are prepared to address the specific needs of community-based research and help with meeting ethical eligibility requirements.
Once your draft policies are ready, send them to CIHR through the Financial Monitoring Unit, who will in turn forward them to CIHR's Ethics Office for review. This is a collaborative process, and may result in one or more revisions required to the draft policy. Members of CIHR's Ethics Office and the Secretariat on Research Ethics will work closely with you to ensure your final policies are satisfactory.
My research is completed – what are my next steps?
Congratulations! You have reached a real milestone. It is now up to you to utilize the results of your research, and CIHR encourages you to make them freely available so that others can benefit from the knowledge you have acquired. In fact, CIHR has a policy on access to research outputs that requires grant recipients to make papers, etc., freely available online. Your research proposal should have had knowledge translation activities built into it and your partners are there to help spread the news. Take advantage of them and their networks.
We would ask that, when you are communicating the results of your research, you acknowledge the contributions of CIHR, its Institutes and its partners.
Finally, within six months after the end of your grant, you are required to submit a final performance report that summarizes the outcomes of your research and how the grant funds were used.
Want to know more?
The following policy guides set out in greater detail the information that is contained in this guide. Needless to say, in case of any discrepancy, the guidelines have the final say.
The CIHR Grants and Awards Guide is the final word on all funding-related questions and is updated regularly.
The Use of Grant Funds guide will give you a complete listing and description of allowable costs and activities.
The CIHR Guidelines for Health Research Involving Aboriginal People came into effect on July 1, 2008. Applicants whose research will involve Aboriginal people are strongly urged to familiarize themselves with these guidelines.
The Institutional Eligibility Requirements to Administer CIHR Funds set out in detail the steps you need to take to establish yourself as an eligible institution.
CIHR believes that greater access to research publications and data will promote the ability to use and build on the knowledge needed to address significant health challenges. As of January 1, 2008, CIHR grant recipients are reminded to adhere with the responsibilities set out in the CIHR Open Access Policy, which require grant recipients to make every effort to ensure that research papers and bimolecular data generated from CIHR funding are freely accessible online.
For further information, please visit the complete list of all CIHR Funding Policies.
For questions on CIHR funding guidelines, how to apply, and the merit review process for the HIV/AIDS CBR program contact:
Targeted Initiatives Branch
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
For questions about the HIV/AIDS Research Initiative and CBR research objectives contact:
Suzete Dos Santos
Associate, HIV/AIDS Research Initiative
Institute of Infection and Immunity
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
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