Guidelines Governing Membership of Selection Committees1
The following criteria and guidelines govern the appointment of members of NSERC selection committees.
Exceptions can be made to the guidelines stated below to ensure that the committee’s expertise requirements can be met. Exceptions must be well justified and used selectively, and will be assessed on a case by case basis. Recommendations not consistent with the guidelines, as well as recommendations for a change in the size of the committee, must be fully documented. Members of selection committees are appointed following approval by the program Director.
In order to perform its task efficiently and equitably, each selection committee must represent diversified expertise in the areas of research covered by the committee, possess good judgment and a broad knowledge of the areas, including new and emerging ones that are often at the frontier between disciplines, and have an ability to assess the potential contribution of the proposals against the objectives of the program.
Selection committees are peer based. Membership should be drawn from Canadian universities and colleges, foreign institutions, and industry and/or government laboratories. Recently retired individuals who remain very active in research are potential members.
Members from outside the Canadian postsecondary system provide valuable contributions, help bring fresh ideas to the process, and strengthen the review depth, particularly in areas where the Canadian expertise is concentrated in only a few institutions. These members bring a different perspective on international standards of excellence, from their valuable experience with other peer review systems and research communities.
Members from the private and public sectors provide an important perspective in the assessment of applications. Their participation in the review process can enhance awareness and appreciation of the value of applied research and the potential for application of basic concepts to knowledge and technology transfer or, where appropriate, commercialization. Members from these sectors can offer an understanding of the potential exploitation of research results in commercial operations.
Because of the diversity of the population of Canada and of the research community, other factors need to be taken into account to ensure appropriate representation of various groups. For example, both women and men should participate in the selection process, committees must be able to assess applications in Canada’s two official languages and, over time, the various fields of research under the purview of a committee and the different regions of Canada must be adequately represented.
Although each committee should be representative of the community under its purview, members should not be considered representatives of their postsecondary institution, industry or government department.
Potential members include experienced researchers, as well as new scientists and engineers from all sectors and all postsecondary institutions, large or small. Members need not be NSERC grantees. Scholarships selection committees should also include postdoctoral fellows.
To maintain stability in membership, while providing a mechanism for membership renewal, NSERC has established a rotation pattern of a committee’s core membership based on three-year terms. These terms represent an appropriate balance between the need to give members time to become familiar with policies and procedures and to prevent peer-review fatigue. They also address the need for renewal, so that it is not always the same people involved in the review process. Inasmuch as possible, one third of the core membership should be replaced each year. This core membership can be supplemented with other members invited for shorter duration, for example when specific expertise is required.
Roles and Responsibilities
Selection committee and panel members are appointed by the appropriate program Director. In developing recommendations, Program Officers, in consultation with Managers and/or the Director:
- review nominations from the postsecondary institutions , professional and learned societies, and the committees or panels themselves;
- consult the selection committees and panels (including the incoming Chair and NSERC staff) on their perceived needs for the short and medium term and on the suitability of nominations received; and
- consult advisors, including the Group Chair, Chair of the appropriate standing committees, and others (including NSERC staff), to seek references on the suitability of nominees.
The committee and panel Chairs are appointed by NSERC, generally from the continuing members of the committee or panel.
Guidelines for Nominators, Panels and NSERC Staff
It is essential that committees examine trends in research and lend special consideration to planning their expertise requirements for the next three years, noting particular pressures, or changes in direction of research; it is important to recommend the appointment of new members to cover new or priority areas. One-for-one replacement is not always appropriate.
Prime considerations for membership are the nominees’ stature in the research community, their areas of expertise and breadth of interest, their good judgement and their ability to work on a committee. In addition to the requirements of competency and being representative of the community the committee serves, the following guidelines are taken into account in considering nominees:
- Each committee must have the capability to review applications in Canada’s two official languages, to foster the full recognition and use of both English and French in Canadian society. Committees should have as many bilingual members as needed to ensure appropriate review of the number of French applications received. A minimum of 20% of members should be Francophone2. In order to enhance the vitality of the English and French linguistic minority communities in Canada and supporting and assisting their development, members from those communities will be included on selection committees, when appropriate.
- Each committee should reflect the gender balance of the community it represents and, as a minimum, include two women and two men.
- The extension of a term beyond three years for one additional year may be accepted in exceptional circumstances, for example when a disproportionately high turnover of membership occurs or the loss of a specific member risks jeopardizing the expert peer review.
- Individuals who have previously served on a selection committee may be re-appointed to that same committee to ensure the necessary stature or to satisfy other guidelines. However, normally four years should elapse from the end of their first appointment before re-appointment.
- Continuous representation from a given institution, and particularly from the same department, should be limited or avoided. Exceptions may occur if there is a concentration of excellent researchers in a few large departments or if other guidelines, and the committee’s requirements for stature and expertise, cannot otherwise be satisfied. Exceptions can also be made in unusual circumstances (e.g., when a member moves to another institution or areas of research are rearranged between committees). Flexibility is needed particularly for larger committees. For larger committees (16 or more members) cases of continuous representation overall should not exceed 10% of the number of members.
- The simultaneous membership of two persons from the samepostsecondary institution, and particularly from the same department, should be avoided, for committees that meet as a whole. Because of conflict of interest guidelines that preclude members from being involved in the review of applications from their own institution, the committee would be short two members when applications from that institution are reviewed. Exceptions may occur if there is a concentration of excellent researchers in a few large postsecondary institutions or if other guidelines, and the committee’s requirements for stature and expertise, cannot otherwise be satisfied.
Exceptions can also be made in unusual circumstances (e.g., when a member moves to another institution or areas of research are rearranged between committees). Exceptions must be approved at the Vice-President level. Flexibility is needed particularly for larger committees/groups.
- In small committees (4-15 members) that meet as a whole for the duration of their work, exceptions may be considered on a case by case basis, with justification. Consideration to simultaneous representation from the same institution can be entertained for small committees that operate in a conference model if the members from the same institution meet in separate sessions. Simultaneous representation from the same department must be avoided.
- For larger committees (16 or more members) cases of simultaneous representation should not exceed 10% of the number of members. Cases of simultaneous representation from the same institution or department that exceed this limit can be entertained for large committees that operate in a conference model if the members from the same department or institution meet in separate sessions.
- Individuals whose duties include fundraising for research and coordination of research contracts or the selection of Scholarship applications submitted to NSERC cannot be considered for membership on a selection committee that would put them in the position of a real or perceived conflict of interest. These groups include Research Grants Officers, Directors of Research Offices and Vice-Presidents (Research) for grants selection committees, and Scholarships Liaison Officers and Deans of Graduate Studies for scholarships and fellowships committees. Such individuals may be considered for appointment to NSERC standing committees, where the principal function is policy development.
- For Canadian members, members should be drawn from the various regions of the country and from large and small institutions.
- Committees should normally have at least one person or 10% of members from an institution outside of academia. The balance of postsecondary institution, private and public sector members changes from committee to committee and reflects the nature of the fields and the program covered by each committee, or the need for consideration of the application of research results. Some committees will require a larger representation from outside the academic sector than others.
- Where appropriate, committees should have at least one person or a minimum of 15% (whichever is greater) of members from an institution outside Canada, taking into account budgetary constraints, specific program requirements, and the availability of expertise in Canada. Canadians, or ex-Canadians working and living abroad on a permanent basis, are generally valuable participants in the NSERC peer review system, and are considered as international members.
- Individuals who are responding to formal allegations of breaches of the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research cannot be considered for membership.
Next policy review date: June 2015 (Council)
1 Committees includes groups and panels
2 A francophone is defined as either someone whose first language is French or who works in a French environment.