About the reforms of Open Programs and peer review

CIHR began designing a new Open Suite of Programs and peer review system as part of the commitments made in CIHR's second strategic plan, Health Research Roadmap: Creating innovative research for better health and health care. Since then, CIHR has been working with the research community to redesign the Open Suite of Programs and peer review process.

View the timeline leading to changes to the Open Programs and peer review


The Open Reform aims to contribute to a sustainable Canadian health research enterprise by supporting world-class researchers in the conduct of research and its translation across the full spectrum of health, and to ensure the reliability, consistency, fairness and efficiency of the competition and peer review processes.

Engagement process

In order to develop and refine the reforms, CIHR held discussions with thousands of members of the research community from across the country including researchers, peer reviewers, institution administrators, professional associations and partners.

Foundation Scheme and Project Scheme design

The current suite of CIHR Open Programs will be replaced by two new funding schemes and a new peer review process.

The Foundation Scheme is designed to contribute to a sustainable foundation of new, mid-career, and established health research leaders, by providing long-term support for pursuit of innovative, high-impact programs of research.

The Foundation Scheme is expected to:

  • Support a broad base of researcher leaders across career stages, areas, and disciplines relevant to health;
  • Develop and maintain Canadian capacity in research and other health-related fields;
  • Provide research leaders with the flexibility to pursue novel and innovative lines of inquiry;
  • Contribute to the creation and use of health-related knowledge through a wide range of research and/or knowledge translation activities, including any relevant collaboration.

Established investigators will be awarded 7-year grants, and new/early career investigators will be awarded 5-year grants.

The Project Scheme is designed to capture ideas with the greatest potential for important advances in health-related knowledge, the health care system, and/or health outcomes, by supporting projects with a specific purpose and defined endpoint. The best ideas may stem from new, incremental, innovative, and/or high-risk lines of inquiry or knowledge translation approaches. It is CIHR's intent to capture all of these ideas in the Project Scheme.

The Project Scheme is expected to:

  • Support a diverse portfolio of health-related research and knowledge translation projects at any stage, from discovery to application, including commercialization;
  • Promote relevant collaborations across disciplines, professions, and sectors;
  • Contribute to the creation and use of health-related knowledge.

Grant durations will range between 1 to 5 years, reflecting the wide variety of projects presently funded in various Open programs.

Following various reviews of the experience of funders across Canada and around the world, CIHR believes that to achieve the intended benefits, it is critical to roll out changes to the Open program and peer review process together.


The modifications to the programs and peer review represent a significant change for the research community. CIHR recognizes the importance of carefully managing the implications for researchers who are supported by CIHR's existing Open Suite of Programs.

A transition plan has been developed which takes a measured approach to implementing the changes through piloting key elements of the design, phasing-in the new programs and gradually phasing-out the existing Open programs.

Read more about the transition toward the new programs and peer review


CIHR is developing and implementing pilots to assess aspects of the design in order to evaluate the changes to the funding programs and peer review process.

As part of the piloting process, CIHR will:

  • test components of the proposed open reforms in live competitions
  • evaluate Open reforms design elements (both architecture and mechanics) and enhancements to the application and peer review processes
  • evaluate IT functionality
  • communicate results to the community
  • contribute to the literature on peer review

Read more about the pilots

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