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The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (ATIP)

The Access to Information Act (ATIA) gives Canadian citizens and people present in Canada a limited right of access to information in federal government records. The Privacy Act gives these same individuals a limited right of access to personal information about themselves held in government records, and sets out rules and fair practices for the management of personal information by federal institutions. All information collected by NSERC is subject to these laws.

The Access to Information Act

A requester seeking access to records under the ATIA must write to the ATIP Coordinator at NSERC, providing a precise description of the records sought and enclosing an application fee ($5.00 at the time of this writing). Note: there is no fee required to request information about yourself under the Privacy Act.

The submission of a request does not guarantee that a requester will gain complete access to the requested records.

The ATIA sets out specific exceptions that apply when disclosure of information could be expected to injure private or public interests. In responding to such requests, for example, NSERC would not disclose personal information about identifiable individuals or proprietary technical information submitted in confidence by researchers or companies. Moreover, if a request required a lengthy search or involved a large number of records, a requester can be asked to pay additional fees to help cover the processing costs.

More information about the ATIA can be obtained from NSERC's ATIP Coordinator or from the publication This link will take you to another Web site Info Source – a register of federal information holdings available online. It is important to remember that the ATIA is intended to complement, not replace, established channels of communication. NSERC has always promoted open informal communication with the research community and with the public. We encourage you to contact us informally before using the ATIA.

The Privacy Act

The Privacy Act gives people in Canada certain rights with respect to personal information about themselves held by federal institutions. For example, institutions must inform people how their personal information will be used and to whom it will be disclosed. Personal information may be used only for the purposes for which it was originally collected or for uses consistent with that purpose. The Act also contains a procedure for requesting the correction of inaccuracies in personal information.

Making a formal request under the Privacy Act is similar to making one under the ATIA except that there are no fees associated with requests to see one's personal information. Simply write to NSERC's ATIP Coordinator and provide a precise description of the personal information you are seeking. The Privacy Act sets out specific limits to the right of access similar to those contained in ATIA. For example, a person seeking access to his or her personal information would not be given access to personal information about another person.

You do not have to use the Privacy Act to obtain feedback on your NSERC application or to access information about you held in NSERC files. In fact, we encourage you to simply write informally in the first instance to the appropriate program section.

Note: Under the Privacy Act, the written opinion of an NSERC reviewer about your application is available to you, but the name of the reviewer is not.

Use and Disclosure of Personal Information Provided to NSERC

All personal information collected by NSERC about grant, scholarship and fellowship applicants is used to review applications, to administer and monitor awards, and to promote and support research in science and engineering in Canada. Consistent with these purposes, applicants should also expect that information collected by NSERC may come to be used and disclosed in the following activities.

NSERC routinely shares summary information related to applications and awards with relevant officials in the eligible research institutions that endorse and/or administer them.

As part of the peer review process, applications are disclosed to selection committees composed of experts recruited from the academic, private and public sectors. Many applications are also transmitted to external referees, to members of ad hoc review committees or to site visit committees for review. All participants in these review activities are advised of NSERC's expectations with regard to the confidentiality and protection of the information entrusted to them. NSERC ensures that this information is stored, handled and distributed in a secure manner at all times, by mail or through electronic password protected devices to prevent unauthorized access.

The substance of expert reviews and selection committee comments about a proposal are accessible to co-applicants. Although NSERC normally provides such feedback only to the applicant, he or she is expected to share it with co-applicants.

NSERC uses personal information about applicants in its files and databases to identify prospective committee members and reviewers for specific applications.

Because NSERC has a single corporate database, staff are generally aware of applications submitted by the same individual to different NSERC programs. For the purposes of adjudication and award administration, some selection committees are provided with multi-year summaries of an individual's applications and awards in all programs. For example, in cases where there is a question of possible overlap in the support of an applicant's research activities by two or more NSERC programs, application material submitted to one program may be used during the review of an application submitted to another program.

Applications and documentation submitted to a program in which research support is offered by NSERC in conjunction with another federal government institution may be disclosed to appropriate officials in the other institution.

Applications submitted to NSERC are reviewed as required under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012. Portions of the application may be sent to federal government departments for review as required by the Act. Note: This does not apply to scholarship and fellowship applicants.

Documentation related to applications may be disclosed to program staff in the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) or the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for the purposes of determining the most appropriate funding jurisdiction, or to monitor overlap in federal support.

NSERC routinely publishes and disseminates certain details about successful applications, including the name of the applicant, amount awarded, institution and department (for scholarship and fellowship holders this also includes the proposed location of tenure), the field of research, the project title and, for grant programs, a summary of the research proposal prepared by the applicant for public release. For scholarship and fellowship programs, this information will be made publicly available immediately after the competition, even though NSERC recognizes that some awards will be subsequently declined or deferred. The information will normally be published on this website.

Files and databases containing personal information may also be used by NSERC for program planning, evaluation and review and in audits, and for generating statistics for these activities.

Information submitted to NSERC is subject to the This link will take you to another Web site Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research and may be used and disclosed consistent with that Framework. Information may be shared with CIHR or SSHRC and other granting agencies for the purpose of reviewing the compliance of research institutions and individual researchers with the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research and other policies.

In cases of a serious breach of Agency policy, as determined by the Agency President, the Agency may publicly disclose any information relevant to the breach that is in the public interest, including the name of the researcher subject to the decision, the nature of the breach, the Institution where the researcher was employed at the time of the breach, the Institution where the researcher is currently employed, and the recourse imposed against the researcher. In determining whether a breach is serious, the Agency will consider the extent to which the breach jeopardizes the safety of the public or would bring the conduct of research into disrepute. For further information, see the NSERC Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information Policy - Frequently Asked Questions.

NSERC asks applicants to provide data on their gender and linguistic capability on a voluntary basis. This data is not seen or used in NSERC peer review processes. It is used for statistical purposes, and may be used to identify prospective NSERC peer reviewers.

Applicants to some NSERC programs are invited to indicate, on a voluntary basis, whether they are disabled or belong to a visible minority group. This data is used by NSERC only for statistical purposes.

Applicants to most NSERC scholarship and fellowship programs are invited to indicate, on a voluntary basis, whether they are Aboriginal. Although this data is not seen by NSERC award selection committees, it may be used by NSERC to identify and make awards to Aboriginal applicants whose applications were judged to be meritorious, but that could not be initially recommended due to budgetary limitations.

Contact information that is provided during the registration process of the NSERC On-line System is used by NSERC technical staff to identify and contact users when routine systems monitoring reveals that they may require technical assistance.

NSERC uses the information in its files and databases to generate mailing lists in order to disseminate its publications and other information to the research community.

For more information on the Acts, contact:

ATIP Coordinator
NSERC
350 Albert Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 1H5
Tel.: 613-995-6214
Fax: 613-943-1222
Email: ATIP-AIPRP@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA

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