Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Government of Canada Invests in Researchers and Students

Toronto, Ontario, May 23, 2012 — The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, and Suzanne Fortier, President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), were at the University of Toronto today to announce over 3,750 significant, new investments in research programs and scholarships that will further our knowledge in fields such as botany, zoology, physics, mathematics, and Earth sciences.

"Our Government's top priority is jobs, growth and long-term prosperity. To remain at the forefront of the global economy, our government is investing in the people and ideas that will produce tomorrow's breakthroughs," said Minister Goodyear. "Through these investments, we are creating the best-educated and most skilled workforce in the world."

Scientists, engineers and students at universities across the country will receive more than $410 million in grants and scholarships over terms ranging from one to five years. These awards comprise the 2012 competition results for NSERC's Discovery Grants, Discovery Accelerator Supplements, Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships, NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships, and Postdoctoral Fellowships.

"Through these programs, NSERC provides direct support to an exceptionally strong base of scientific and creative talent in every field of the natural sciences and engineering," said Dr.Fortier. "Our scholarships and fellowships programs help us recruit and retain the bright young minds that will lead the next generation of Canadian discoverers and innovators. The flexibility and broad base of research supported by our internationally recognized Discovery Grants Program maintains our capacity to promote important breakthroughs."

The University of Toronto is receiving more than $43 million through these programs, that will support 176 research projects and 186 students. One of the recipients, Edward Sargent, received a Discovery Grant and a Discovery Accelerator Supplement to explore ways of harvesting solar energy. Though solar power is abundant, clean and free, it is not easy to harvest inexpensively and efficiently. Dr. Sargent's research will build low-cost, high-efficiency novel devices to help advance solar cell performance.

An integral component of Canada's support for research and training excellence at Canadian universities, the Discovery Grants Program funds ongoing programs of research in every scientific and engineering discipline. Of the 2,161 recipients, 125 have been identified to receive a Discovery Accelerator Supplement, in addition to their Discovery Grant. Valued at $120,000 over three years, Discovery Accelerator Supplements are awarded to researchers whose research proposals suggest and explore high-risk, novel or potentially transformative concepts and lines of inquiry, and are likely to have impact by contributing to groundbreaking advances in the proposed areas of research.

Overall, 1,599 new NSERC scholarships and fellowships have been offered this year—consisting of the Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships, NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships and Postdoctoral Fellowships. The funding announced today offers support at the master's, doctoral and postdoctoral levels.

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging about 2,000 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

More information on the research grants and scholarships is available in the backgrounder below.

For further information, please contact:

Michèle-Jamali Paquette
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
Minister of State for Science and Technology
Tel.: 613-947-2956

Media Relations
Industry Canada
Tel.: 613-943-2502

Martin Leroux
Media and Public Affairs Officer
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Tel.: 613-943-7618
E-mail: media@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

Backgrounder

Research Grants and Scholarships

2012 Competition Results

The 2012 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) research grants and scholarships competitions resulted in the following awards being offered:

Program Number of Awards Total Value
Discovery Grants1 2,161 $325,730,214
Discovery Accelerator Supplements 125 $15,000,000
Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's level: 790
Doctoral level: 233
$13,825,000
$22,540,000
NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships Master's level: 50
Doctoral level: 426
$865,000
$24,570,000
Postdoctoral Fellowships 100 $8,000,000

The terms of the awards vary from one to five years.

Discovery Grants Program

The Discovery Grants (DG) Program is NSERC's largest program and a key element of Canada's support for excellence in science and engineering research and training at Canadian universities. The DG Program gives researchers the freedom and flexibility to pursue the most promising research directions as they arise, encouraging creative and cutting-edge approaches and international collaborations.

The objectives of the DG Program are:

  • to promote and maintain a diversified base of high-quality research capability in the natural sciences and engineering in Canadian universities;
  • to foster research excellence; and
  • to provide a stimulating environment for research training.

Discovery Grants support ongoing programs of research (with long-term goals), rather than a single short-term project or collection of projects. Researchers are free to structure their program in the most appropriate way for their research area. The grants are awarded for one to five years, although most terms are five years.

As part of NSERC's commitment to excellence, the agency introduced enhancements to the peer review system in 2009 and 2010. The changes include a new two-step process for reviewing grant applications that offers a more objective and transparent way to evaluate excellence. These enhancements have created a more dynamic and competitive funding system, with more opportunity for researchers with superior accomplishments and contributions to receive substantial funding increases. The structure of the review committees was also improved, incorporating more flexibility to bring together different combinations of members to provide an optimum mix of expertise when evaluating research proposals that increasingly transcend the traditional boundaries between disciplines.

When the two-step peer review process was announced in 2009, NSERC committed to a five-year review of the process. We are preparing for a full review of the system in 2012-13, as the implementation cycle draws to its conclusion, and planning for the five-year review is now underway.

Discovery Accelerator Supplements

The Discovery Accelerator Supplements (DAS) Program provides substantial and timely resources to a small group of researchers whose research proposals suggest and explore high-risk, novel or potentially transformative concepts and lines of inquiry, and are likely to have impact by contributing to groundbreaking advances in the area. In particular, for the purposes of the DAS Program, a superior research program is one that is highly rated in terms of originality and innovation. The timeliness of DAS support represents the potential for the researcher at this time to capitalize on an opportunity, such as a recent research breakthrough, a paradigm shift or a new strategy to tackle a scientific problem or research question. Each award is valued at $120,000 over three years ($40,000 annually) and provides recipients with additional resources to compete with the best in the world.

The Three Scholarships Programs

Alexander Graham Bell Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) and NSERC Postgraduate Scholarships (PGS) provide financial support to high-calibre scholars who are engaged in master's or doctoral programs in the natural sciences or engineering. A CGS is offered to the top-ranked applicants at each level (master's and doctoral) and the next tier of meritorious applicants is offered an NSERC PGS. This support allows scholars to fully concentrate on their studies and seek out the best research mentors in their chosen fields. Overall support is limited to four years—a maximum of one year at the master's level and up to three years at the doctoral level.

The Postdoctoral Fellowships (PDF) Program provides support to a core of the most promising researchers at a pivotal time in their careers. The fellowships are also intended to secure a supply of highly qualified Canadians with leading-edge scientific and research skills for Canadian industry, government and universities.

Support Testimonials

"I am pleased that NSERC's Discovery Grants Program will continue to support a broad range of ongoing research projects," said D. George Dixon, Chair of the Ontario Council on University Research. "Funding long-term research in this way is an important component of Canada's strategy to maintain a leadership role on the global research stage."

"The new transparent process for adjudicating Discovery Grants has allowed NSERC to allocate funding to the most deserving candidates and to recognize excellence properly in early career researchers," said John Hepburn, Vice President, Research and International, University of British Columbia. "NSERC's continuing support for excellent fundamental research is critical to Canada's future strength in natural sciences and engineering."

1 individual and group DG (including individual DG in Subatomic Physics)

People Discovery Innovation