Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Potential Applicants to the Major Resources Support (MRS) Grants Competition

As part of the Government of Canada's efforts to return to balanced budgets, the NSERC Major Resources Support (MRS) Program will no longer be accepting new applications at this time. Commitments for existing instalments will be honoured, however there will be a moratorium on the MRS Program.

Preparing to Apply for the 2012 Competition

Letter of Intent to Apply for a Major Resources Support Grant

The first step in applying to the MRS program is to submit a Letter of Intent to Apply for a Major Resources Support Grant (Form 181) to NSERC. Letters of Intent will undergo a review process to ensure the resources meet the program’s objectives and key guidelines.1 Only those applicants whose Letters of Intent are accepted will be invited to put forward a grant application. Letters of Intent will also be used to determine the most appropriate review mechanism for the grant application. Applications that are submitted without first submitting a Form 181 will not be considered.

The Letter of Intent to Apply for a Major Resources Support Grant (Form 181) and the instructions on how to complete a Form 181 are available on NSERC’s Web site. Before submitting a Form 181, please read the instructions and the MRS program section of the Program Guide for Professors.

The information you provide on Form 181 is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act. The information collected is stored in a series of NSERC data banks described in the Government of Canada publication This link will take you to another Web site Info Source and is subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act (ATIP).

Deadlines

For the March 2012 competition, the deadline for submitting a Letter of Intent is May 1, 2011.

The 2012 competition deadline for submitting Letters of Intent for subatomic physics resources is August 1, 2011.

NSERC will acknowledge receipt of the Letters of Intent through e-mails to the applicants no later than three weeks after the submission deadline. NSERC will communicate with all applicants by July 31, 2011 to inform them about the status of their Letter of Intent, and to invite the successful applicants to put forward grant applications.1

The deadline for submitting full grant applications, for the 2012 competition, is October 1, 2011. This deadline applies to all resources.

Review Procedures for the Letter of Intent (excluding subatomic physics resources)


An NSERC internal committee will review the Letters of Intent. In addition to the general objectives of the program, the only selection criterion to be assessed in this review will be the major character and uniqueness of the resource. This assessment will be made on the basis of the following factors, which must be addressed in the Letter of Intent:

  • The research resource is not standard in a discipline and is not commonly available in Canadian universities;
  • The national or international nature of the resource;
  • The uniqueness of the resource compared to any other Canadian resources that may be providing similar services; and
  • Significant use of the resource by a sufficiently large number of users (including academic and non-academic) from outside the host institution and region.

Copies of the Letters of Intent that were rejected by NSERC’s internal committee, or for which additional expert opinion is needed, will usually be sent to external consultants. These consultants will be former members of the Major Facilities Access (MFA)2 or MRS Grant Selection Committees or MFA/MRS ad hoc review committees. Each consultant will receive the Letters of Intent that are closely related to his/her discipline. The consultants will be asked to make written recommendations to NSERC on the eligibility of the reviewed resources on the sole basis of the major character and uniqueness of the resource, according to the four factors listed above. The consultants’ extensive and up-to-date knowledge of the disciplines will allow them to be well-informed critics of these factors.

Concurrently, copies of the Letters of Intent that were rejected by NSERC’s internal committee, or for which additional expert opinion is needed, will usually be sent to current members of the MRS Selection Committee. The members will be asked to provide NSERC with written recommendations on the eligibility of the corresponding resources.

The final decision on any Letter of Intent will rest with NSERC’s internal committee. Applicants whose Letters of Intent are accepted will be invited to put forward full grant applications. NSERC’s Guidelines on Conflicts of Interest will be strictly applied throughout the review process.

Background Information

Objective

The objective of the MRS program is to facilitate the effective access of Canadian academic researchers to major and unique national or international (based in Canada) experimental or thematic research resources by financially assisting these resources to remain in a state of readiness for researchers to use. MRS grants are not intended to support resources that are standard in a discipline or commonly available in Canadian universities. The MRS program also aims to facilitate the access by Canadian academic researchers, who come together as national consortia, to major international resources located outside Canada and whose equivalent is not available in Canada. This support excludes any direct financial support towards the operating and maintenance costs of such resources.

Research resources are defined as experimental research facilities or thematic research organizations such as institutes. An institute is defined as a research resource that promotes and triggers national, and possibly international, interactions within a given research community and provides a place where researchers meet, collaborate, and exchange ideas. Institutes are infrastructures that provide an environment that serves to accelerate research within disciplines, as well as to promote links between different disciplines, thus fostering interdisciplinary research.

Selection Criteria

Any application to the MRS program will be assessed on the basis of the eight selection criteria listed below. Each criterion lists the factors that will be considered. To be eligible for MRS funding, a resource must meet all eight criteria. The onus is on the applicant to thoroughly address each criterion in their application and provide detailed information to the MRS Selection Committee.

  • Uniqueness of the resource
    • The research resource is not standard in a discipline and is not commonly available in Canadian universities.
    • The national or international nature of the resource.
    • The uniqueness of the resource compared to any other Canadian resources that may be providing similar services.
    • Significant use of the resource by a sufficiently large number of users (including academic and non-academic) from outside the host institution and region.
  • Use of the resource by the research community
    • Past (if applicable), current, and projected level of use of the resource.
    • Accessibility of the resource to, and actual use by, researchers beyond the host institution (including both academic and non-academic users) and region.
    • Potential for collaboration with complementary Canadian or, if applicable, international resources.
    • Extent to which the resource can accommodate the specialized needs of the users.
    • Demonstrated outreach to the potential Canadian or, if applicable, international academic and non-academic user communities.
  • Need for access to the resource by the research programs
    • Impact of the resource on the advancement of the research programs of current and projected users and, when applicable, on the dissemination and use of the knowledge generated in the supported area(s) of research.
    • Consequence of the loss of access to the resource on the users’ research programs.
  • Merit of the research programs that rely on access to the resource and excellence of the user community
    • In the case of experimental resources: quality, significance, and pertinence of ongoing research programs of the users.
    • In the case of thematic resources: quality, pertinence, and impact of the past (if applicable), current, and planned scientific activities; and significance of the research themes to the related communities.
    • Excellence of the users and, in the case of thematic resources, excellence of activity organizers and users and their level of commitment to the activities within the resource.
    • Scientific (knowledge and technology) return on the investment in the resource.
  • Demonstrated need for support through an MRS grant
    • Demonstrated need for, and effectiveness of, support through an MRS grant as opposed to other NSERC grants and contributions from other sources.
    • Nature and extent of the commitment and support from universities and other organizations.
    • Justification of the requested funds from NSERC.
    • Proposed sharing of costs, including user fees (if applicable).
    • Rationale for the proposed user fees (if applicable).
  • Management of the resource
    • Effectiveness of the management structure.
    • Administration and allocation of access to the resource to different users (internal and external; from universities, government, or industry).
    • Plan and budget for maintenance and operation.
    • Plan of the resource to keep abreast of scientific and technical advances, as well as to sustain well-coordinated and leading-edge research activities.
  • Contribution of the resource to the training of highly qualified personnel
    • Importance of the resource for training, including unique training opportunities offered by the resource.
    • Extent and excellence of training.
    • Opportunity for hands-on training.
  • Synergy
    • Defined as the extent to which a grouping of equipment, staff, or participants enhances the value and capability of a resource and enables researchers to obtain results or carry-out studies that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible.

Eligible Costs

For all resources, the amounts requested in Form 181 must not differ by more than 10 percent from those that would be included in the grant application F101, if invited. Should there be any unusual reason for a larger deviation, the resource will need to justify the latter and obtain NSERC’s approval before submitting the grant application.

Support of Resources Located in Canada

MRS grants provide funding to assist coverage of the following costs:

  • Salaries of technical and professional research support staff employed to operate and maintain the resource, and provide assistance to users;
  • Operation and maintenance of the resource;
  • Materials, supplies, and minor equipment essential to the operation and maintenance of the resource;
  • Travel expenses to attend conferences, as part of the resource’s plan to keep abreast of scientific and technical advances;
  • Dissemination costs, as part of the resource’s outreach activities towards relevant communities; and
  • Operation of scientific review panels and governing bodies.

Furthermore, in the case of thematic resources, MRS grants also provide funding to assist in paying the following costs, which should be listed as part of the operating costs:

  • Remuneration of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows involved in a context of thematic or collaborative programs;
  • Visitor expenses, including travel and local support; and
  • Honoraria for distinguished speakers.

In the case of experimental resources, the costs of running the facilities should be split into two major components: non-recoverable and recoverable costs. Only non-recoverable costs are eligible for MRS funding.

  • Non-recoverable costs are those expenses necessary to keep the experimental resource in a state of readiness for researchers to use, and to increase the potential user communities’ awareness of the activities and opportunities offered by the resource. They are independent of the number of researchers actually using the resource and are not associated with specific research projects.
  • Recoverable costs comprise expenses directly incurred when researchers and their highly qualified personnel use the experimental resource. Examples of such costs are those for consumables that are used for specific projects; sample preparation and analysis in the case of analytical facilities; and food, fuel and staff salaries for specific projects in the case of field stations. Recoverable costs should be charged as user fees against the users’ Discovery Grants or other funding sources, and they should not be included in the amount requested from the MRS program. Regarding user fees, NSERC recommends that holders of MRS grants adhere to the guidelines given in Table 1. In some cases, a moderate differential between internal and external academic users may be accepted, provided that a case is made to justify it and demonstrate that its impact on the accessibility to the resource would be minimal.
Table 1 – Guidelines on user fees for experimental resources
Type of User Appropriate Fee
Academic researchers (internal and external) and their students Lowest rate
Non-academic users from organizations contributing to the resource Intermediate rate
Non-academic users from non-participating organizations Highest rate

Due to the nature and purpose of thematic resources, costs directly incurred when researchers and their highly qualified personnel use such resources are eligible for MRS funding. This is in addition to the expenses necessary to keep the resource in a state of readiness for researchers to use, and to increase the awareness of the potential user communities of the activities and opportunities offered by the resource.

Support of Access to Resources Located Outside Canada

MRS grants assist national Canadian users groups in accessing major resources located abroad, the equivalent of which is not available in Canada. Such support excludes any direct contribution towards the operating and maintenance costs of such resources. The following costs are eligible for MRS funding:

  • Membership or access/user fees;
  • Minor equipment needed to accommodate the specific needs of the Canadian users;
  • Travel related to the use of the foreign resource (i.e., field work); and
  • Salaries of Canadian technical and professional research support staff employed to assist in the use of the resource by Canadian users.

Ineligible Costs

MRS grants cannot be used to pay for any indirect costs of research or expenses that are central or departmental institutional costs. Examples of such indirect costs include, but are not limited to, those for the maintenance and renovation of research spaces and buildings, leasing costs of spaces and equipment, utilities, general technical support to laboratories, security and occupational safety, financial and administrative support, or insurance. Other ineligible costs can be found in the Use of Grant Funds section of NSERC’s Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide. Furthermore, MRS grants cannot be used to pay for the establishment, construction, or infrastructure expansion of a resource.

Grant Duration

MRS grants can be awarded for up to three years.

Eligibility of Applicants and Co-applicants

The applicant and all co-applicants must be eligible for NSERC funding. You are invited to consult NSERC’s Eligibility Criteria before submitting a Letter of Intent. Major users who do not meet NSERC’s eligibility criteria may be listed as collaborators.

Please refer to the instructions on how to complete a Form 181 for additional information on co-applicants and collaborators.

Additional Information

Should you need further information, please contact the NSERC staff member responsible for the MRS program.

1 Subatomic physics applications will be reviewed by the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section. In the case of subatomic physics resources, Form 181 will not be used for screening purposes. It will be used solely to determine the most appropriate review mechanism for the grant application.
All grant applications for subatomic physics resources will be accepted.
2 The Major Facilities Access (MFA) program was replaced by the MRS program in the spring of 2006.
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