Health Services and Policy Research Training Modernization Start-Up Grant – Frequently Asked Questions

Overview

CIHR-IHSPR hosted open information webinars on September 6th and October 12th regarding the recently launched HSPR Training Modernization Start-Up Grant. Webinar participants asked a number of important questions. In order to ensure all potential applicants have access to the same information and resources, CIHR-IHSPR recorded the questions and is sharing responses in the present FAQ. To obtain a copy of the slides that were presented during the webinars, please email the CIHR contact centre (support@cihr-irsc.gc.ca).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Question: How does the fellowship supported through the Start-Up Grant differ from a traditional CIHR Fellowship award?

Response: The Start-Up Grant provides funding to catalyze a new era of impact-oriented, career-focused training for PhD-trained individuals. Experiential learning, enriched competency development, and cohort learning are at the heart of this fellowship. Fellows supported through a Start-Up Grant will have the unique opportunity to contribute their research and analytic talents to critical challenges in health system and related organizations outside of the traditional scholarly setting (e.g., public, private for-profit, and not-for-profit organizations that are not universities or research-focused institutes), and to develop professional experience, new skills, and networks. They will benefit from professional development training in an expanded set of competencies (e.g., leadership, negotiation, project management, change management) designed to accelerate their professional growth and better prepare them to embark on a wider range of career paths with greater impact; participation in a national cohort of fellows and leaders from academic and health system and related organizations; and networking and mentorship opportunities with health system and academic leaders from across the country. Similarly, through the Start-Up Grants, co-leads have the unique opportunity to shape the training, mentorship, and preparation of a cadre of the country’s up-and-coming brightest minds for successful careers as leaders of evidence-informed health and health system improvement.

2. Question: How will the success of the program be measured?

Response: The Start-Up Grant is the first component of a multi-phase training modernization initiative. Subsequent phases include Health System Impact Fellowship Awards that provide PhD graduates with experiential learning opportunities within health system organizations (stay tuned for more information in late fall 2016) and Health System Impact Doctoral Awards that provide doctoral trainees with experiential learning opportunities. CIHR-IHSPR will view the Start-Up Grants as a success if they foster the conditions necessary for successful pan-Canadian training modernization (e.g., university-health system partnerships, novel experiential learning opportunities that help to prepare PhD graduates for diverse and impactful careers), and build recognition and demand among health system and related organizations for the value that PhD-trained individuals bring to these organizations. The Performance Measurement section of the funding opportunity outlines preliminary details of the measurement and evaluation plan. The reporting templates and evaluation framework are currently in development (funded co-leads will have an opportunity to contribute to the development of the evaluation framework and its indicators) and will align with the Objectives of the funding opportunity.

3. Question: Can the Start-Up Grant be used to support multiple fellows?

Response: Yes. To support multiple fellows, co-leads are required to secure sufficient partnership funds to support each fellow at the specified level of $80,000 (i.e., $70,000 stipend plus $10,000 professional development training and research allowance, per fellow). For each fellow supported, the host employer partner organization is required to contribute to the fellow’s stipend (at minimum, $12,500). CIHR-IHSPR’s maximum contribution per grant, regardless of how many fellows are supported, is $100,000.

4. Question: Should the postdoctoral fellow have completed his/her doctorate degree in the same university-based HSPR doctoral training program that is co-leading the Start-Up Grant application?

Response: This is not required. The co-leads will design and implement their own recruitment process to identify an eligible and qualified fellow for their experiential learning opportunity. The recruited fellow must meet the eligibility criteria outlined in the #2 of the Conditions of Funding section of the funding opportunity.

5. Question: Typically, eligibility for a CIHR Fellowship Award requires applicants to have obtained their doctoral degree no more than five years prior to the competition deadline. Does this eligibly requirement pertain to the Start-Up Grant?

Response: While CIHR has recently removed the “five year” eligibility criterion for its Fellowship program, for the purpose of the Start-Up Grant program, applicants are required to have obtained their doctoral degree no more than five years prior to the application deadline. Please refer to the eligibility criteria outlined in the #2 of the Conditions of Funding section of the Start-Up Grant funding opportunity.

6. Question: Can the Start-Up Grant funds be used to “top up” already funded and enrolled post-doctoral fellows to the required minimum level of $80,000?

Response: Yes. The Start-Up Grant funds may be used to supplement existing fellowship stipends from other sources (i.e., individual training awards) to reach the Start-Up Grant’s required $80,000 stipend and allowance. However, please note: for the purpose of this funding opportunity, if the Start-Up Grant is used to supplement an existing stipend rather than to support a new fellow(s), the co-leads are required to provide experiential fellowships for multiple individuals. That is, the funds remaining after the top-up must be reinvested into supporting at least one additional experiential fellowship (also at the $80,000 stipend and allowance amount). Note that the host partner contribution requirements hold for this additional fellowship (i.e., the $12,500 partner contribution is required). When considering topping up existing post-doctoral fellows, co-leads should assess whether it is feasible for the fellow to put on hold his/her existing program of research or change it to align with the objectives and requirements of the experiential learning opportunity. Also note that in their report-back to CIHR in September 2017, co-leads will be required to include clear descriptions of: (a) the fellow’s qualifications and suitability for the fellowship; and (b) how the fellow’s qualifications, training and research and professional interests align with the focus of the experiential learning opportunity (see the Performance Measurement section of the funding opportunity for more detail). 

7. Question: Does the fellow need to be identified and named in the Start-Up Grant application? Should the fellow be a co-applicant on the grant?

Response: No. The fellow does not need to be identified by the Start-Up Grant application deadline and the fellow must not be identified as a co-applicant. Naming the fellow as a co-applicant will make him/her ineligible for the fellow stipend. As specified in #2 of the Conditions of Funding section, the experiential learning opportunity must start no later than September 2017, meaning the recruitment process to identify the fellow(s) must commence well in advance of then. Additionally, as specified in the Performance Measurement section of the Start-Up Grant funding opportunity, co-leads must submit a report to CIHR no later than September 2017 confirming the details of the experiential learning opportunity, including: the fellow/s they have selected, the host employer organization/s and employer mentor/s, the project or cluster of projects the fellow will be working on, and the university supervisor/s. CIHR-IHSPR will provide a template at the beginning of the funding period.

8. Question: Are the fellowships intended to be only 1 year in duration?

Response: The funding opportunity specifies that the fellowships are intended to be 12 months, with at least 50% of the fellow’s time spent embedded within the host employer organization. However, in accordance with the CIHR Grants and Awards Guide, grantees have one additional fiscal year beyond the expiry date of their grant to use their unspent funds. This means that depending on the start date of the experiential fellowship, its duration could be longer than 12 months (and the fellow stipend increased accordingly based on the $70,000 annual stipend value, pro-rated monthly for each additional month).

9. Question: What is the $10,000 supplement for?

Response: As indicated in the Funds Available section of the funding opportunity, $50,000 is available to fund a maximum of 5 supplements of $10,000 each for up to one year to successful applications that meaningfully link and engage with academic institutions and/or employer organizations in provinces or territories that lack a university-based HSPR PhD training program (e.g. New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Northwest Territories, Yukon, Nunavut). The supplement funds are intended to advance the pan-Canadian mandate and core principles of the CHSPRA Training Modernization Strategy (Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance: Report from the Working Group on Training [ PDF (323 KB) - external link ]), of which the Start-Up Grant is a key component. The Training Modernization Strategy’s core principles include pan-Canadian sharing (“all content and tools should be shared openly across the country through a variety of channels to maximize impact”) and ensuring benefits to all students (“The process and the products of this initiative should be relevant to all research-based HSPR research graduate students regardless of their background or location”). The Start-Up Grant supplement funds reflect these core principles.

10. Question: The Start-Up Grants are one year in duration, but the fellowship is not required to start until September 2017 and must be for 12 months. These seem like conflicting timelines.

Response: Based on the start date of the grant, grantees have the authority to use Start-Up Grant funds for up to 13 months after the grant expiration date. Given the funding start date is March 1 2017, this provides a total of 25 months to use the funds (i.e., until March 31, 2019).

11. Question: Who are eligible host employer partner organizations?

Response: The Eligibility section of the funding opportunity defines “health system or related employer organization” as follows: A health system or related organization may be a public, private or not-for-profit organization at the local, regional, provincial/territorial or federal/national level (e.g., F/P/T department of health, hospital, health authority, quality council, health charity, national health or health-related organization, consulting firm undertaking health or health-related work, pharmaceutical company, health-related professional association). It is an organization that is part of the system of organizations, institutions, services and resources that contribute to: direct service delivery; mandated quality monitoring; the development of policy that affects the health of individuals, populations and/or the health system; the development or provision of technologies/products; or consulting services aimed at improving health outcomes and/or health system effectiveness and efficiency. While universities, research institutes and other organizations that have a primary focus on research may be integrated into the function of health system partner organizations, universities and research institutes are not eligible host employer organizations in this funding opportunity.

12. Question: Who are eligible university-based HSPR doctoral training programs?

Response: For the purpose of the Start-Up Grant funding opportunity, a university-based HSPR doctoral training program is defined as a program that is authorized to award a degree, and can demonstrate it offers a doctoral concentration or specialization in HSPR or a related field, such as health economics, health technology assessment, health services organization and management, health services outcomes and evaluation, etc. For illustrative purposes, CIHR-IHSPR created an inventory of university-based HSPR (and related) doctoral training programs in Canada. The inventory was compiled based on a 2014 analysis of Canada’s assets and resources in HSPR (full report is available upon request), a 2016 search of university websites in all provinces and territories across the country, and validation with key informant experts. It is possible that some programs were missed and that the list is comprehensive but not exhaustive. Accordingly, the How to Apply section of the funding opportunity indicates that applicants must include a document no longer than 1 page that clearly identifies the Canadian university-based HSPR doctoral training program, provides a short description of that program, and explains how the program meets the definition given in Eligibility section (see How to Apply “Task: Attach Other Application Materials” for more detail). CIHR will use this description for eligibility screening.

13. Question: Will there be an opportunity to 'match-make' interested university training programs and potential host employer organizations?

Response: For the Start-Up Grants, a formal match-making platform has not been established. However, CIHR-IHPSR staff are pleased to help facilitate connections between interested parties. If you are a training program seeking a host employer partner, or a health system or related organization seeking a training program partner, please email Meg McMahon who can help facilitate connections among parties that have expressed interest: mmcmahon.ihspr@mcgill.ca. Additionally, a list of HSPR university training programs is available on CIHR-IHSPR’s website. The list was compiled based on a 2014 analysis of Canada’s assets and resources in HSPR (full report is available upon request), a 2016 search of university websites in all provinces and territories across the country, and validation with key informant experts. It is possible that some programs were missed and that the list is comprehensive but not exhaustive. Accordingly, if you are a training program interested in applying but are not included on the list, you may still be eligible. All applicants are required to include a document with their application that clearly identifies the Canadian university-based HSPR doctoral training program that is co-creating the Health System Impact Fellowship, provides a short description of that program, and explains how the program meets the definition given in Eligibility section.

14. Question: Can there be more than two co-leads (e.g., program directors from two different HSPR training programs within one or more universities, as well as one or more senior-level decision makers)?

Response: Yes. On the application platform, ResearchNet, only one “Nominated Principal Applicant” can be identified but multiple “Principal Applicants” and “Principal Knowledge Users” can be identified as co-leads.

15. Question: Are all co-leads required to have a PhD degree?

Response: No. It is anticipated that the “independent researcher who is head of a Canadian university-based HSPR doctoral training program* (e.g., Dean, Director, Program Director or comparable)” will have a PhD. However, it is not expected nor required that the “senior-level decision maker from a health system or related employer organization” have a PhD.

16. Question: Are federally-funded organizations like Canadian Blood Services and others eligible to participate as host employer partner organizations?

Response: Yes. However, CIHR-funded organizations are not eligible.

17. Question: What is the role of the co-leads in creating the enriched pan-Canadian HSPR curriculum?

Response: An enriched pan-Canadian HSPR curriculum that provides trainees with opportunities to develop capabilities in an expanded set of core competencies that prepares them to embark on a wider range of career paths with greater impact is a key strategic direction of the CHSPRA Training Modernization Strategy (Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance: Report from the Working Group on Training [ PDF (323 KB) - external link ]). CIHR-IHSPR and CHSPRA recognize that the Start-Up Grant co-leads – i.e., the heads of Canada’s HSPR doctoral training programs and senior health system executives – have the expertise, skills, and knowledge that will be essential to creating this modernized curriculum and ensuring that future trainees have the skills that are valued in the labour market. Accordingly, as specified in the Conditions of Funding section of the funding opportunity, co-leads will contribute to the creation, implementation, and refinement of an enriched pan-Canadian HSPR curriculum through participation in an in-person one-day meeting in April/May 2017 in Toronto, ON; piloting the curriculum with their fellow/s; and participating in the curriculum’s evaluation. More information will be provided at the beginning of the funding period. Co-leads are required to budget for costs associated with travel to the meeting.

18. Question. The review criteria specify that co-leads are to develop a “preliminary training plan for professional competency development for the fellow(s).” How does this differ from the enriched pan-Canadian curriculum?

Response: The goal is to have the enriched pan-Canadian curriculum ready and available for the fellows that are funded through the Start-Up Grants. This would ensure all fellows receive consistent, high-quality training in the enriched core (professional) competencies. However, if the curriculum is not ready in time, co-leads are required to have a feasible training plan for professional competency development (i.e., the courses/programs/seminars/workshops and other activities that fellow will participate in) that, like the forthcoming enriched pan-Canadian curriculum, aligns with the enriched core (professional) competencies.

19. Question: Will eligibility for the Stage 2 Health System Impact Fellowship awards be restricted to those programs that receive the Stage 1 Training Modernization Start Up Grants?

Response: The Health System Impact Fellowship is not restricted to Start-Up Grant recipients. The Health System Impact Fellowship is targeted to PhD graduates with a doctoral degree in HSPR or related fields. The anticipated launch date for this competition is December 2016. To keep informed, please sign up for CIHR-IHSPR’s newsletter by emailing info.ihspr@mcgill.ca.

20. Question: At some universities, postdoctoral fellows are paid salary and benefits, rather than stipend. Is the $70K inclusive of benefits or would the institution need to provide benefits over and above the $70K? If the latter, are the fellow’s benefits an eligible expense on the grant?

Response: The $70K stipend must be paid in accordance with the institution’s policies. If an institution prefers to administer this as a salary, benefits are an eligible grant expense as per the Use of Grant Funds Guide.

21. Question: Where can I learn more about the CHSPRA Training Modernization Strategy?

Response: Canadian Health Services and Policy Research Alliance: Report from the Working Group on Training [ PDF (323 KB) - external link ].

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