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 "Eligibility" and "How to Apply" sections of the selected funding opportunity.


In this guide, you will find information on developing and submitting an application for funding, as well as on the review and funding processes.

What is a funding opportunity?

A funding opportunity outlines the key information you need to apply for funding, including:

  • important dates, such as the application submission deadline, when applicants will receive their funding decision, and the funding start date
  • funds available and the maximum that can be requested
  • objectives and relevant areas of research
  • eligibility requirements
  • reporting requirements, such as any final reports required for applications successfully funded
  • instructions on how to apply
  • information on who to contact for further questions

How do I know if I am eligible for funding?

The Eligibility section of the funding opportunity outlines who is eligible to apply for funding and the requirements an application must meet in order to be considered eligible for funding. The Nominated Principal Applicant is the person who will be responsible for the project. An Eligible Institution is an organization eligible to manage CIHR funds and has signed an Institutional Agreement (see more information below on this). Please refer to links in the Eligibility section of the funding opportunity for information on the various roles, such as Principal Applicant, Principal Knowledge User, Co-Applicant, and Knowledge User, to help guide you in determining how to categorize the members of your research team.

How do I submit an application?

Please refer to the How to Apply section of the funding opportunity. It outlines what you need to include in your application. It also contains a link to ResearchNet Application Phase Instructions that will provide more information on submitting an application in ResearchNet.

The following are required in general to submit an application to CIHR:

  1. A CIHR Personal Identification Number (PIN): this is a unique identifier number required for each member of the application team.
  2. A ResearchNet account: ResearchNet is a secure, internet-based system that allows researchers to electronically submit applications for funding. ResearchNet is also used for conducting peer review and releasing decision results to applicants.

    To register for a ResearchNet account: go to ResearchNet and click on "Register". You will be asked to provide details, such as your name, e-mail address, language preference, and a password. Once you are registered, you will continue to use the same account each time you log into ResearchNet.

    Please note that applications are submitted through the Nominated Principal Applicant's ResearchNet account.

  3. A Common CV: The Canadian Common CV is a partnership among Canadian research funding organizations 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.

    The Academic Common CV is for independent researchers based in an academic or affiliated institution. They may be identified as the Nominated Principal Applicant, a Principal Applicant or a Co-applicant.

    The Knowledge User Common CV is for knowledge user applicants based in non-academic organizations, such as community-based organizations. They may be identified as the Nominated Principal Applicant, a Principal Knowledge User or a Knowledge User.

    To create a Canadian Common CV, please refer to the Common CV website and the ResearchNet Application Phase Instructions.

Is there help with writing an application?

To help the research community with preparing an application, including filling out the Common CV and reviewing Common CVs,  CIHR has created a Library of Learning Resources, where you will find a useful document called "The Art of Writing a CIHR Application".

The Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN), the Canadian Association for HIV Research (CAHR), and CIHR, have partnered to create the "The Learning Place for Community Based Research (CBR) in HIV/AIDS". This interactive hub hosts a series of educational modules, with videos and curriculum materials, that work to support emerging community based research teams. Covered topics include grant writing.

You are also encouraged to contact the relevant Collaborative Centre of HIV/AIDS Community-Based Research for information on support they can provide to community organizations interested in developing a CBR application.

What should be addressed in my application?

Each CBR funding opportunity will have specific instructions on how to apply and what to include in your application. Don't hesitate to contact CIHR with any questions about the application instructions - the funding opportunity will provide contact information.

If you've never prepared an application to the CBR program, please consult the section "Is there help with writing an application ". This section provides information on resources to help you strengthen your application.

In general, the main elements of an application to the CBR program are:

  1. Research Proposal
    The description of your research project is called the Research Proposal. Your proposal should address the objectives of the funding opportunity and describe the likely significance of the project for the involved community. It should also address the evaluation criteria listed in the funding opportunity. The review committee evaluates each application against these criteria.
  2. Signed letters of support from partners
    Signed letters of support demonstrate to reviewers the partnership aspect of your project. Projects funded through the CBR program must have a partnership between a community-based organization and an academic partner.
  3. Community-Based Research Principles Summary
    A one-page Community-Based Research Principles Summary describes your partnership with relevant community stakeholders as well as clearly explains community involvement in the identification of the research question and in the development, implementation and possible knowledge translation activities of the project.
  4. Budget
    Description of the budget requested for your research project. Your budget should clearly justify the items requested such as release time, equipment and funding support for human resources (e.g. salaries).
  5. CVs
    Applicants will choose an Academic CV template or a Knowledge User CV template, depending on their roles. Please refer to the "Eligibility" and the "How to Apply" sections of the funding opportunity to determine the CV requirements for each type of participant.

Why do I need partners?

Partnerships are the cornerstone of the CBR approach. Partners can help fill gaps in expertise or allow you to access resources that would be hard for you to access on your own. Partnerships also provide a route for knowledge translation, for ensuring that the results of your research are known by others and applied to help communities. Projects funded through the CBR Program must have a partnership between a community-based organization and an academic partner.

How is my application evaluated?

There are two steps in the review process. First, your application will be reviewed by members of the CIHR HIV/AIDS Research Initiative to ensure that it is relevant to the funding opportunity. Second, once your project has been determined to be relevant, a CBR merit review committee will evaluate the full application.

Merit review is used for research programs that engage knowledge users throughout the research process. Each application is reviewed by four CBR merit review committee members: two from an academic setting and two from the community. The committee will review both the potential impact and scientific merit of the research. Applications are rated according to a set rating scale.  

Potential Impact Range Scientific Merit
May Be Funded Extremely Significant 4.5 - 4.9 Outstanding
Very Significant 4.0 - 4.4 Excellent
Significant 3.5 - 3.9 Very good
Not Fundable Moderate 3.0 - 3.4 Acceptable, but low priority
Limited 2.5 - 2.9 Needs revision
Very limited 2.0 – 2.4 Needs major revision
Negligible 0.0 - 1.9 Seriously flawed

Only applications that receive or exceed a threshold rating of 3.5 for both Potential Impact and Scientific Merit on this rating scale will be considered for funding. The ratings of each application are then averaged to establish a ranking list. Applications are funded from the top down according to this ranking list as far as the budget will allow.

I did not get funded – is this the end?

No, this is not necessarily the end. You will receive comments from the individual reviewers as well as a brief summary of the committee discussion at the merit review meeting. Should the funding opportunity be launched again, you may be able to re-apply if your application meets the eligibility criteria in the new funding opportunity. You have the option of including in your new application submission a two-page document called the "Response to Previous Reviews" where you can explain how you have responded (or not) to previous comments. It is preferable to use these pages wisely by responding politely and demonstrating that you have carefully considered the comments and suggestions and that you have addressed the issues that were raised. Make sure your response is "self-contained" and understandable as a stand-alone document, because reviewers will not have access to your previous submission and there is no guarantee that the same reviewers will review your resubmitted application.

My proposal was approved for funding – now what do I do?

Congratulations! Your project has passed through a rigorous review process and come out successful.

The Nominated Principal Investigator will receive a CIHR Authorization for Funding (AFF). The AFF states the name of the grant recipient, the type of funding, the effective date of funding, the amount of the grant in each fiscal year, and specific conditions of the grant. The Nominated Principal Investigator also generally informs the other members of their team of the results and starts preparations to begin the research project.

If you are from a community-based organization, your organization might need to become eligible to administer CIHR funds prior to the release of funds (see the next section for details).

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 you are affiliated with. 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 health research or knowledge translation are not currently part of your organization's mandate, you may have to provide CIHR with a letter explaining how your organization meets the requirement of having 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, whether your organization foresees more research or knowledge translation in the future, and/or if your Board of Directors approves a revision to the mandate.

Please note that CIHR also strongly advises that organizations have liability insurance in place that protects them and their researchers from actions arising as a consequence of the research activity.

You do not have to wait until you have been awarded funding before beginning the process of establishing your organization's eligibility. You can start preparing your application for eligibility at any point after you apply, but CIHR will only review it once your proposal is successful.

When you have submitted your application, you will be contacted by a CIHR staff member, who will provide you with the necessary forms and let you know what is required. Once the process is completed, an Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions will be signed and a Common Grant and Award account created.

Note that some programs are more flexible than others in regards to institutional eligibility. Please refer to the eligibility section of the funding opportunity for details.

For more information please refer to the Institutional Eligibility to Administer CIHR Grant and Award Funds or contact the HIV/AIDS Research Initiative.

My research is completed – what are my next steps?

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.

When you are communicating the results of your research, you should acknowledge the contributions of CIHR, its Institutes and/or its partners.

As a successful applicant you will be required to complete and submit an electronic final report in ResearchNet.