Canada's North occupies about 50% of the country's landmass and accounts for two thirds of its coastline, but is home to only 1% of the population. It is a unique and sensitive environment, facing unprecedented social, physical, and environmental challenges. Over the last few years, the North has undergone enormous change. Economic development has accelerated, along with regional self-government and land claims. The new regimes will be responsible for the development and implementation of policies for which substantive scientific data are currently lacking.
Population growth and increased industrial development will place greater pressure on wildlife. Basic knowledge about natural and wildlife resources remains incomplete, yet is critical for protection and management. Future climate change is likely to be rapid in comparison to past changes, and its impact is predicted to be greatest in the North. Scientific knowledge is needed to understand and predict the effects of climate change on the physical and biological environment, ecosystems, and human population of the North as well as on all Canadians. Already, changes in the Canadian marine environment and northern biota are being used internationally as evidence of a warmer northern climate.
Canada's North, as part of the circumpolar region, shares an interest in and a responsibility for contributing to solutions to global problems such as transboundary pollutants, global climate change, and conservation of wildlife and habitat. These issues clearly require the input of science and technology. Canada's fulfilment of its national and international northern research obligations is not possible without a vigorous, well-supported, and respected community of northern researchers undertaking high-quality programs.
In response to concern about the decline of Canadian research in the North, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) established a joint Task Force on Northern Research. The Task Force found that Canadian northern research is in crisis. If action is not taken, Canada will not be able to meet its international science and research obligations or contribute to issues of global importance. Nor will we be able to meet basic national obligations to monitor, manage, and safeguard the northern environment, or respond to emerging social issues in the North. The Task Force recommended that northern research be rejuvenated by the establishment of a five-point program to sustain and augment existing northern research expertise, train a new generation of northern researchers and increase the amount of high-quality research being done in the North. One element of this program would be Northern Research Chairs.
As an important first step in addressing the recommendations of the Task Force, NSERC is partially implementing two of the five proposed program elements a Northern Research Chairs Program (NRCP) and a Northern Research Postgraduate Scholarship and Postdoctoral Fellowship Supplements Program. SSHRC is not part of this current initiative due to funding constraints. They hope to participate in the future.
For the purposes of this program, Canada's North is defined as the land- and ocean-based territory that lies above the line of discontinuous permafrost, from northern British Columbia to northern Labrador.
The NSERC Northern Research Chairs Program has been established to augment and promote Canadian university northern research and training in the natural sciences and engineering. Its long-term goal is to address the decline in northern research capacity by rebuilding Canadian university expertise in northern research issues and by providing a training environment for northern researchers of the future. It will also provide new knowledge required to understand the North and predict its future. A Northern Research Chair grant will provide the salary and research expenses for outstanding researchers appointed in Senior and Junior Chair positions. It is expected that much of the research funded through this program will be undertaken in partnership with non-university organizations with northern interests, and with northern communities. This will build new collaborative partnerships around the needs and challenges of the different sectors and organizations involved. In addition to their field work activities, Chairholders will locate in the North for periods of time, in order to establish meaningful links to northern institutions and communities and engage in training and communications and promotion activities. Chairholders will improve public understanding of the issues affecting the North and its importance to Canadians, and improve the development of public policy as it relates to the North.
The program objectives cover four interdependent and overlapping areas:
Chairholders will be outstanding researchers with strong programs and a demonstrated commitment to northern research. This objective is aimed at increasing the amount of high-quality northern research being conducted. The results of the research, undertaken in partnership with non-university organizations, will help Canada to meet its national and international research obligations and improve knowledge of the North.
This objective addresses the decline in northern research capacity and the need to engage northerners in research activities. The Chairs will provide a training environment for northern researchers of the future. Where appropriate, close links to northern communities and colleges will be made, and the Chairholders and their research groups will be involved with the training of students in northern institutions. This objective also includes the provision of training to northern residents in advanced research techniques, transfer of research results and knowledge to northerners, and use of northerners' expertise by involving them in the research.
The aim here is to ensure that new knowledge generated in the Chair's research program is relevant to northern needs. Possible partners in northern research are diverse and may include northern and Aboriginal communities and organizations, territorial and provincial governments, federal departments, industry, and non-government organizations (NGOs). All of these groups need research results for their policies, resource management and decision making. A successful partnership would:
The active participation and involvement of a non-university partner is expected in this program. Because of the nature of many northern organizations, cash or in-kind contributions will not be compulsory. The extent and appropriateness of cash or in-kind support from partner organizations will depend on the nature of the research and the type of organizations that are participating.
As advocates for northern research, the Chairholders will improve public understanding of the issues affecting the North and its importance to Canadians, and will engage in promotion and dissemination of research in northern communities.The Chairs and their students will establish meaningful links to northern institutions and communities. This means that the Chairs will physically locate in the North for extended periods in appropriate circumstances. Chair programs will lead to close cooperation with northern communities, colleges, and institutes and with other non-university partners, involve networking with other Chairs and northern researchers, and lead to an enhanced Canadian capacity for international research cooperation.
The person submitting a Northern Research Chair Program (NRCP) proposal must hold a senior administrative position in the university, such as department head, dean, vice-president or president, with direct or ultimate management responsibility for the proposed Chairholder. The applicant cannot be the candidate for the Chair.
Canadian postsecondary institutions that meet the general eligibility requirements for NSERC are eligible to apply for funding under the program.
Candidates for Senior Chair positions should be highly qualified researchers capable of making significant contributions to northern research and training. If candidates are from an academic background, they must have all the qualifications for appointment at the rank of full professor, be recognized experts in their field, and have extensive research experience. Junior Chair candidates should be promising researchers early in their careers who are qualified for academic appointment as assistant or associate professors.
Qualified candidates for Senior and Junior Chairs who come from non-academic backgrounds in industry or government and have limited teaching experience, or whose current positions do not offer opportunities to publish, may also be considered for appointment. Appointments must be confirmed as tenured or tenure-track. Junior Chair positions are allowable with or without the establishment of a Senior Chair position.
Candidates for Chair positions can be internal (already in a tenured position at the university) or external. In proposing an internal candidate, the university must agree to allocate the freed-up funds from the candidate's salary toward an equivalent commitment in support of the Chairholder and the Chair's research program. This may include:
It is expected that Chairholders will be located in the North for extended periods of time. The appropriateness of the northern location and the ability of universities to accommodate this expectation will be judged on a case-by-case basis. This issue must be addressed by applicants in their application.
A budget justifying the funding requested, including salary and research costs, and setting out all sources of revenue, must be submitted. The grant awarded is determined by the amount of funding needed for the salary and research program as recommended to NSERC by a selection panel of qualified experts. For the Senior Chair position, NSERC's contribution will not exceed $250,000 per year for a maximum of $1.25 million over the five-year life of the Chair. For the Junior Chair position, NSERC's contribution will not exceed $150,000 per year for a maximum of $750,000 over the five-year life of the Chair.
Chairs are funded for an initial period of five years and, subject to approved funding for the program from NSERC, may apply for renewal for an additional five years. The decision to renew a Chair for a second five-year term will be based on a review of the Chair's progress during the first 48 months and the proposed action plan for the following five years. If the evaluation of the first term is positive and partner organizations are willing to continue participation for a second term, NSERC's contribution to the salary component over the second five-year period will be based on a declining percentage of NSERC's contribution in the first term (i.e., Year 6 = 90%, Year 7 = 75%, Year 8 = 50%, Year 9 = 25%, and Year 10 = 10%).
Chairholders are required to submit periodic progress reports during the grant period. Chairholders, institutions, and sponsors will be notified of the reporting schedule. Reports must detail the progress achieved by the Chair with respect to:
A status report should be submitted approximately 18 to 24 months into the grant period. A progress report submitted approximately 42 months into the grant period will form part of the application to renew a Chair's funding.
A selection panel will conduct the reviews, establish the ratings and rankings, and make the final recommendations on funding to NSERC. It will be a multidisciplinary panel comprised of experts in the natural sciences and engineering, as well as experts with experience in northern issues from public and/or private-sector organizations.
NSERC does not intend to conduct on-site reviews of the proposals, and thus all proposals will be assessed by the selection panel on the basis of the written documentation only. However, in certain circumstances (e.g., in the case of two or more highly ranked proposals of equal merit), site visits may be necessary to help in the decision-making process. If site visits are deemed necessary, the proposals in question will be reviewed on-site by a special ad hoc review committee. In these cases, universities to be visited will be contacted regarding the timing and the agenda items.
Open Chairs, involving proposals submitted before the Chair candidate is identified, are eligible. However, proposals naming candidates will be given priority over Open Chair proposals of equal merit. If the initial review of an Open Chair proposal is positive and the proposal is recommended for approval in principle, the university will have 12 months in which to recruit a Chair candidate. If an extension is needed, a written request should be made, describing the efforts made to identify suitable candidates, the results obtained, and a plan for continuing the search. The Chair candidate, when identified, must be reviewed and endorsed by NSERC before an offer of employment can be made.
An application's merit for funding is assessed according to the five main criteria described below.