Results of the March 2014 Operating Grants Competition

(2014-07-04) On behalf of CIHR, I would like to congratulate the grant recipients from the March 2014 Open Operating Grant Program (OOGP) competition. Four hundred grants were funded in the core competition. This was only possible by applying an across-the-board cut of 26.8%. For funded grants, the average (mean) annual core competition grant size was $628,868 (median grant size of $658,800) with an average duration of 4.4 years, representing an increase in average grant size and duration as compared to previous competitions.

As well, approximately 15 full-term and 92 bridge grants will be funded through Priority Announcements and other sources for a maximum total of 507 grants approved from the Operating Grant 2013-2014 (March) competition.

Recognizing the importance of investigator-initiated research and the need to protect and expand the budget envelope for the OOGP, CIHR has committed to increasing the budget for the Open Suite of programs, including OOGP by $10M per year for five years. As such, the total OOGP budget envelope has increased from $465.8M in 2013-14 to $475.8M in 2014-15. This additional investment made it possible to increase the total amount available for this competition, from $220M as indicated in the Operating Grant: 2013-2014 funding opportunity description to $251.5M over nine years. (Note that the budget envelope in any one year covers the ongoing commitments for grants awarded in earlier competitions as well as the investment in new grants beginning that year.) Even with this increase, the OOGP budget was not able to both meet the commitments for ongoing grants awarded in earlier competitions and keep pace with the increase in the peer review-recommended application budgets in the current competition. As a result, in order to meet our target of 400 grants and amounts requested, we needed to again apply a 26.8% across-the-board cut.

The March 2014 competition marked the eighth time that the Open Operating Grants competition dedicated a part of the Open Operating Grants budget to a specific funding envelope - worth approximately $12.5 million - for large grants, including large RCTs. Large grants were defined as those within the top 1.7% of the total grant budgets recommended within the competition; these were ranked together and funded from the top down within the available funding envelope. Three large grants with an average total grant size of $2M were funded in this competition. Other facts and frequently asked questions relating to the Open Operating Grant Program can be accessed at CIHR Open Operating Grant Program Competitions – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

I would like to again thank the more than 1000 reviewers who dedicated their time and energy to make this competition possible. For the last few years, we asked researchers to submit only their most competitive applications. Conversely, we discouraged researchers from immediately resubmitting unsuccessful applications to the next competition with no change or reflection. As well, we suggested that after an application has been unsuccessful two or three times that it not be resubmitted. Despite this, the number of applications we received increased approximately 27% from 2,253 in the spring of 2013 to 2,862 in the current competition. We recognize that concerns from the research community about the sunsetting of the OOGP and the implementation of the Open Program reforms have contributed to the increased application pressure, and we continue to encourage researchers to carefully consider the competiveness of their proposals before applying to help manage application pressure during the transition.

I have travelled across Canada over the last few years to talk to many of you about the transition to the new Open Suite of Programs. I have heard about, and do not underestimate, the challenges that the changes in the system will cause. I also fundamentally believe that the new Foundation and Project Schemes, with their new peer review processes, are right for science, and they are right for the sustainability of the Canadian health research enterprise. I and CIHR staff are dedicated to continuing to work with the research community as we transition together to the new programs and processes.

For more information on the reforms to the Open Suite of Programs and the timeline for future Open competitions, please visit the Reforms of Open Programs and peer review section of the CIHR website. We encourage the community to consult this information and in particular the Questions and Answers section to learn about the programs and to plan for the transition. Researchers are also reminded that the funding opportunities for both the Foundation Scheme: 2014 1st Live Pilot and the Transitional Operating Grant: 2014-15 competitions are available on the CIHR website. If you have additional questions about the reforms beyond what is contained on the website please contact Roadmap-Plan.Strategique@cihr-irsc.gc.ca.

Congratulations again to the recipients of March 2014 Open Operating Grants and best wishes for success in all your research endeavours.

Jane E. Aubin, Ph.D.
Chief Scientific Officer and Vice-President, Research and Knowledge Translation Portfolio
Canadian Institutes of Health Research

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