Performance of Canadian Institutes of Health Research Peer Reviewers When Assessing Grant Applications Submitted From 2019 to 2021

Canadian Science Publishing
Published in
2 min readAug 8


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Grant funding agencies around the world, who fund billions of dollars of research annually, aim to deliver the best quality peer review processes and outcomes that they can.

Having scientific colleagues, or peers, evaluate the rigour and merit of a researcher’s application for research funding (‘peer review’) is the usual way that agencies decide which research projects to fund, and which projects they will not allocate funding to.

In the premier Canadian health funding agency — the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) — peer reviewers assess around 4000 applications, and allocating around 500 million dollars of funding every year.

Read this open access paper on the FACETS website.

In the Project Grant Competition — the most competitive of the different research grant competitions that CIHR administers — around 60 Peer Review Committees, which comprise up to 20 members (peer reviewers), meet twice a year to reach consensus on which grants should receive funding.

Each Committee is led by a Chair and 1 or 2 Scientific Officers (Peer Review Committee leaders), who are responsible for co-ordinating the meeting, and collating and writing the feedback that grant applicants receive.

We wanted to know how the members of the Peer Review Committees were performing — were they providing good input into the peer review process in Canada? Could the research community say with confidence that grant peer review in Canada was in good health?

To start to answer these questions, we analysed data that CIHR collected from 2019 to 2021. Peer Review Committee leaders assessed Committee members’ Performance, Future potential, Review quality, Participation and Responsiveness.

During that time, the Committee leaders assessed the performance of 4438 Committee members (1828 females and 2601 males). Approximately 1 in every 3 Committee members submitted outstanding reviews or discussed additional applications; 1 in 10 demonstrated potential as a future Peer Review Committee leader. At most, 1 in 20 Committee members was not considered to have performed adequately with respect to their review quality, participation or responsiveness.

Ultimately, we suggest that according to the CIHR Peer Review Committee leaders, Canadian peer reviewers overwhelmingly performed well, in a process where they made decisions on about 8000 grants in total and awarded around $1.5 billion in health research grant funding.

Read the paper — Three years of quality assurance data assessing the performance of over 4000 grant peer review contributions to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Project Grant Competition by Clare L. Ardern, Nadia Martino, Sammy Nag, Robyn Tamblyn, David Moher, Adrian Mota, and Karim M. Khan.



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