Reforms of open programs and peer review – Questions and Answers – Rationale

Last updated: August 2013

Questions

  1. If the changes to the Open Suite of Programs and peer review process are successful, what will CIHR have achieved?
  2. Why is CIHR changing the Open Suite of Programs and supporting peer review processes?
  3. Is the design process finished?
  4. What evidence was considered to inform the design?
  5. How will the proposed design help reduce applicant burden?

1. If the changes to the Open Suite of Programs and peer review process are successful, what will CIHR have achieved?

Our goal in designing the new Open Suite of Programs and peer review processes is to develop a high quality, flexible and sustainable system capable of identifying and supporting excellence in research and knowledge translation in all areas of health.

The design of the new Open Suite of Programs is intended to:

  • Reduce funding program complexity
  • Improve access to funding for the diverse health-related applications CIHR receives
  • Reduce applicant workload
  • Streamline application processes to capture the correct information
  • Provide support for new/early career investigators
  • Support knowledge user collaborations, where appropriate
  • Ensure an appropriate base of qualified experts to uphold an excellent peer review system
  • Improve the quality, fairness and transparency of peer review
  • Reduce conservatism in peer review
  • Reduce peer reviewer workload

Through the re-design of the new Open Suite of Programs, CIHR and its research community will have created a future-oriented system that is poised to accelerate the advancement of health knowledge and improvements to health research, the health care system, and health outcomes.

2. Why is CIHR changing the Open Suite of Programs and supporting peer review processes?

As the major federal funder of health research in the country, CIHR has a role in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the health research enterprise. This includes having an Open Suite of Programs capable of developing and supporting a well-trained base of investigators with the skills and expertise needed to design and conduct innovative and diverse research and knowledge translation activities aimed at improving health. It also includes an expert peer review system that is well-managed, fair, and transparent in the selection and support of the most innovative and cutting-edge health-related proposals.

Over the past several years, we have become increasingly aware of the need to modernize existing frameworks and systems to better capitalize on Canada's health research strengths, and to better capture the evolution of the health research landscape. We have also heard that there are a number of challenges with the current funding framework and peer review process that need to be addressed. CIHR anticipates the new design will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of CIHR's funding and peer review processes by:

  • Reducing funding program complexity
  • Improving access to funding for the diverse health-related applications CIHR receives
  • Reducing applicant workload
  • Streamlining application processes to capture the correct information
  • Providing support for new/early career investigators
  • Supporting knowledge user collaborations, where appropriate
  • Ensuring an appropriate base of qualified experts to uphold an excellent peer review system
  • Improving the quality, fairness and transparency of peer review.
  • Reducing conservatism in peer review
  • Reducing peer reviewer workload

3. Is the design process finished?

Although the document outlines the key elements of the design of the new Open Suite of Programs and peer review processes, it is not meant to signal the end of the design process. There are still details to be confirmed before we implement the design, and the transition plan identifies a number of important pilots.

CIHR remains committed to keeping the community involved and informed as the next level of design detail is developed and implementation plans progress for the new Open Suite of Programs and peer review processes.

4. What evidence was considered to inform the design?

In developing this new design for the Open Suite of Programs, CIHR took into consideration the literature on research funding and peer review; examined national and international research funding programs; and engaged in thoughtful reflection on what new design elements would best work for health researcher and stakeholder communities and for CIHR. We have listened closely to our stakeholders, and based on our own analyses and the existing evidence, have identified a number of changes that could transform the current Open Suite of Programs to better deliver on the full spectrum of CIHR's mandate.

In reviewing what evidence is available, CIHR found that there is not a large base to draw upon in this area. Through designing and implementing the new Open Suite of Programs, there is an opportunity to contribute to the evidence base for funding program and peer review design. CIHR is in the process of developing a Research Plan to assess the outcomes of the new peer review process, gain a greater understanding of the complexities of peer review and contribute to the body of literature on peer review (Annex D, Designing for the Future: The New Open Suite of Programs and Peer Review Process).

Annex 1 of the Design Discussion Document lists the sources that CIHR used to inform the design of the new Open Suite of Programs and Peer Review Process.

5. How will the proposed design help reduce applicant burden?

The longer duration and larger value of grants awarded through the Foundation Scheme is intended to reduce applicant burden and give greater flexibility to investigators. Successful applicants would not need to write multiple research proposals to competitively fund their research programs, nor would applicants need to apply for funding as frequently.

To further reduce applicant burden, applications will be shorter and more focused on the relevant information needed to support decision-making. CIHR is considering implementing multi-phased competition processes for both schemes. The intent is to focus reviewer attention on specific criteria at different points in the process. This would be supported by structured review to minimize inconsistent and inappropriate application of review criteria and to improve transparency of the review process. Both multi-phased competition processes and structured review will help manage applicant and reviewer burden by reducing the number of applicants who move on to full application and by reducing the length of time it will take to review applications at each stage.

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