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Discovery Grants Program

Instructions for Completing an Application

General Information

About the Program

Read the program description in the Program Guide for Professors before you complete the application.

Am I Eligible to Apply?

Consult the Eligibility Criteria For Faculty to ensure that you can participate in this grant program as an applicant.

Who Completes the Application?

The applicant must complete the application as per the instructions, using the Research Portal. In addition, the NSERC This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Common CV (CCV) must be completed by the applicant and linked to the application.

Presentation Standards

In the application, applicants must submit all requested information in agreement with NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards. Incomplete applications and applications that do not meet the presentation standards may be rejected, or be at a disadvantage, in comparison with those that are complete and respect the presentation standards. Where page limits are stated, pages in excess of the number permitted will be removed. Information that is not required, based on the application instructions, will also be removed.

Application Deadlines

Your application must be received at your institution's research grants office by their internal deadline date; contact your research grants office for those deadlines.

The application must be received at NSERC by 8:00 p.m. (ET) on the deadline date. If it is not received by the deadline, it will be considered late and will be rejected. The application deadline is indicated in the program description, as well as on the Application Deadlines and Notification of Decision page.

Once an application has been submitted, it may not be updated or modified, before or after the deadline.

Collection and Use of Personal Information

The information you provide in your application is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act and stored in a series of NSERC data banks described in This link will take you to another Web site Information about programs and information holdings. Details on the use and disclosure of this information are described in Use and Disclosure of Personal Information Provided to NSERC, in the NSERC program literature and below. The information is used in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Whom should I contact for help?

Completing the Application

Create an Application

  • Sign in to the Research Portal.
  • Select the Funding Opportunity and click Create.
  • Select your Notification of Intent to Apply (NOI); it will form the basis for your application.
  • Complete your Eligibility Profile and click on Validate.
  • Click on Continue and Create Application.
  • Under Applications, Open the application.
  • Click on Edit to complete the different sections.

Some fields are pre-populated based on the information provided in your NOI. You may edit these fields as needed.

Note: If you have not submitted an NOI for this program, you cannot create or submit an application. Consult the program description for more information.


Administering Organization

Organization – Select the organization that will administer the grant.

Department – If your department is not in the list, select Head Office.


Suggested Applicant Category – Select the applicant category that fits your profile as a researcher based on the Discovery Grants – Applicant Categories defined by NSERC. NSERC will make the final decision on the applicant category.

Application Title – The title must be short and descriptive. It may be used for publication purposes. Restrict use of abbreviated forms (e.g., DNA, NATO, etc.), and avoid company or trade names. The title of the application can differ from the title provided on the NOI.

Language of the Application – Indicate the language in which the application will be submitted. The main body of the application should be written in either English or French and not in a mix of both official languages.

Note: Applicants can write their NSERC CCV in either official language.

Suggested Evaluation Group (not editable) – If the Evaluation Group is not what you had suggested in your NOI, or if your proposed research program has changed substantially from the time when you submitted your NOI and you consider that a different Evaluation Group should review your application, contact the program officer responsible for the suggested Evaluation Group.

Hours per month to be devoted to the research/activity, or use of equipment or facility – Enter the number of hours per month you plan to devote to the proposed research/activity.

Supplements/Joint Initiatives

If you wish to be considered for the DND/NSERC Discovery Grant Supplement, complete this section of the application. The information you provide in this section will not be shared with evaluation group members or external reviewers. It will be used solely for the review of the DND supplement, by the Department of National Defence.

Supplement(s) or Joint Initiative(s) – Select the DND/NSERC Discovery Grant Supplement.

DND Defence and Security Target Area(s) – Select up to six target areas and associated topics.

Statement of Relevance – In a maximum of 2,500 characters, describe how your research fits within the Target Area(s) you have selected.

Summary of Proposal

A limit of 2,500 characters is allowed in the text box.

Provide a summary of the proposal in language that the public can understand.

Using simple terms, briefly describe the nature of the work to be done. Indicate why and to whom the research is important, the anticipated outcomes and the benefits to the research field and to Canada.

This plain language summary will be available to the public if your proposal is funded.

If you wish, you may also provide a summary in the other official language in the text box for that purpose.

Proposed Expenditures

You must provide a five-year budget. Verify all of your entries carefully. The Total Amount Requested from NSERC is calculated automatically by subtracting the Total Cash Contributions, if any, from the Total Proposed Expenditures.

Use the Budget Justification section to explain and justify each budget item and any contributions from other sources towards the support of the proposed research activities.

Consult the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide for information about the eligibility of expenditures for the direct costs of research and the regulations governing the use of grant funds.

Salaries and benefits

Give the names (if known), categories of employment and proposed salaries (with explicit indication of the non-discretionary benefits) of students, postdoctoral fellows, and research staff. Briefly describe the responsibilities for each position and indicate the percentage of time they will be spending on this project over its life span. Do not include salaries of faculty in project costs.

Refer to the NSERC CCV instructions for information on obtaining consent to name individuals in your proposal.

Equipment or facility

Give a breakdown of the items requested, models, manufacturers, prices, and applicable taxes. Justify each item requested.

Note: While the Research Tools and Instruments Grants Program provides the primary avenue to obtain support for tools and instruments costing more than $7,000, equipment of any value can be purchased using a Discovery Grant.

Fees to be paid for the use of equipment or a facility should be described (e.g., hours and rate).

Also report the need for beam time or other special facilities, and if time has been allocated for these.

Materials and supplies

Provide details of the budget requested for materials and supplies and explain major items.


Explain briefly how each travel activity relates to the proposed research.


Provide details of publication costs, user workshops, or other activities.

Other expenses

List all items not relevant to previous categories and provide a brief explanation for major items.

Contributions from other sources (if applicable)

If appropriate, explain any financial contributions from other sources.

Relationship to Other Research Support - Explanation

A limit of 10,000 characters is allowed in the text box.

Refer to This link will take you to another Web site Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency for additional information.

This section refers only to other research support that will or may be active within the funding period of the proposed Discovery Grant. Do not include information concerning previous applications or grants that ended or will end before the funding period of the proposed Discovery Grant.

Support from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and/or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)

Discovery Grants support research programs that are distinct from research that is supported or applied for through CIHR and/or SSHRC.

When research funding is held or applied for from CIHR and/or SSHRC, you must clearly explain:

  • how the proposed ideas, objectives and expenditures of the Discovery Grant application are entirely distinct from those supported or applied for through CIHR and/or SSHRC.
  • how the anticipated contributions to research resulting from the proposed Discovery Grant will be distinct from those resulting from CIHR and/or SSHRC support.

In addition, if you hold or have applied for a CIHR Foundation Grant, you must clearly explain why the Discovery Grant funds are essential to carry out the research proposed in the Discovery Grant application.

Explanations of other research support (held or applied for) are considered in the evaluation of the Merit of the Proposal. You must therefore provide sufficient information for the Evaluation Group to determine whether the application meets the requirements listed above. Failure to clearly demonstrate that the Discovery Grant application meets all these requirements will result in a rating of Insufficient for the Merit of the Proposal criterion.

Sources of research support other than CIHR or SSHRC

Applicants may hold funds from other sources for the same research ideas/objectives, as long as they are used to cover different expenses and the funding sources are not CIHR and/or SSHRC. Other sources of research support include grants and contributions (held or applied for) from federal and provincial funding agencies, non-governmental organizations, private sector companies, universities (e.g., institution start-up funds), primary places of employment (for adjunct professors employed outside of academia), and others.

You must clearly demonstrate that the funds requested from the Discovery Grant program will be for expenses that are distinct from those covered by support from other sources. For funding applied for, you must demonstrate that there will be no duplication of funding for the same expense(s) by explaining how funds will be used if all applications are successful. Failure to meet these requirements  will result in a rating of Insufficient for the Merit of the Proposal or the application may be rejected.

Highly Qualified Personnel Training Plan

Refer to NSERC’s Policy and Guidelines on the Assessment of Contributions to Research and Training.

A limit of 5,000 characters is allowed in the text box. The assessment of the Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP) Training Plan includes two components, Training Philosophy and Research Training Plan.

The Training Philosophy should describe the applicant’s approach to training HQP, detailing the mentoring approach and the type of research training and development opportunities provided.

The Research Training Plan should outline how the research program and its anticipated projects are appropriate for HQP training in natural sciences and engineering. Discuss the involvement of trainees in individual projects. Provide details on the planned contributions to training in a co-supervisory or collaborative context, if appropriate. Explain the planned future contributions to knowledge, and the expected training value of the proposed projects. Provide justification if limited training plans are provided.

Applicants are encouraged to increase the inclusion and advancement of women and other under-represented groups in the natural sciences and engineering, as one means to enhance excellence in research and training. Applicants should describe their planned approach to promoting participation from a diverse group of HQP, taking into account equity in recruitment practices, mentorship and initiatives aimed at ensuring an inclusive research and work environment.

Past Contributions to Highly Qualified Personnel Training

Refer to NSERC’s Policy and Guidelines on the Assessment of Contributions to Research and Training.

A limit of 2,500 characters is allowed in the text box.

Discuss your most significant contributions to the training of HQP over the last six years.

Training supported by NSERC ranges from undergraduate theses and summer projects to postdoctoral research, and includes technical and other research personnel.

You must clearly explain your role in any co-supervision of HQP.

The assessment of past contributions to HQP training focuses on the quality and impact of training, as demonstrated through three components. Each component should be supported by your CCV and/or application text:

  • Training environment

    Describe the research training and development opportunities provided for HQP (e.g., HQP science outreach and engagement, interdisciplinary research, collaborations, interaction with the private and public sectors).

  • HQP awards and research contributions

    Describe research contributions by HQP (e.g., publications, patents, key presentations) and highlight awards, scholarships and fellowships won by HQP.

  • Outcomes and skills gained by HQP

    Describe your most significant examples of HQP outcomes and explain how your training contributed to their success (e.g., skills and experiences gained, outcomes such as further studies or career). A successful outcome can be broadly defined as any outcome in which the HQP has an impact. This impact can be in natural sciences, engineering, or other fields, but it needs to be clear how the HQP is using the skills gained in the applicant’s research training environment.

    Cases of HQP delays (e.g., parental or medical leaves) that are beyond your control can be considered. A pattern of prolonged periods of study or frequent student withdrawal from programs should be explained.

Most Significant Contributions to Research

A limit of 7,500 characters is allowed in the text box.

List up to five of your most significant contributions to research and/or to practical applications over the last six years. Contributions made more than six years ago but for which the impact is being felt now (e.g., exploitation of patent, inclusion in a code, etc.) may be included.

For each contribution, describe its significance in terms of influence on the direction of thought and activity in the target community; and significance to, and use by, other researchers and end users. For collaborative contributions, describe your role.

A contribution does not have to be a single publication or report. For example, a group of publications on a specific subject could be discussed as one contribution.


  • You may include the full reference to your contributions in this text box or provide the appropriate reference to your NSERC CCV.
  • Applicants are asked to explain and give dates for any significant delays in the research activity or in the dissemination of research results (e.g., parental leave, bereavement, single-parent situations, illness, extraordinary administrative duties) in the NSERC CCV under the section Employment (Leaves of Absence and Impact on Research).

Additional Information on Contributions

A limit of 2,500 characters is allowed in the text box.

Provide an explanation, as appropriate, concerning the contributions listed in your NSERC CCV. Such details may include:

  • the nature of collaborations with other researchers;
  • the rationale or practice used for:
    • the order of authors in the publications listed, and
    • the inclusion of students in the list of authors;
  • your role in joint publications;
  • the reason for selecting certain venues (journals, conferences) for publications and particular features of the venues (e.g., target audiences, review procedures);
  • the impact or potential impact of patents and technology transfer;
  • the nature of industrially relevant R&D activities;
  • the significance of technical reports;
  • attestation to the nature and the significance of confidential technical and internal reports; and
  • original research reported in books or technical reports.

You may include other activities or information to help committees to evaluate your contributions to and impact on science and engineering, including interdisciplinary research.

Activity Details

Certification Requirements

Before completing this section, consult the Requirements for Certain Types of Research.

Research Involving Humans: If you select Yes, you must provide your institution's administration with the appropriate certification indicating that research involving humans has been reviewed and has received the required approval.

Research Involving the Use of Animals: If you select Yes, you must provide your institution's administration with the certification from the animal care committee at the institution that the experimental procedures proposed have been approved and that the care and treatment of animals is in accordance with the principles outlined in the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC) guide.

Research Involving Human Pluripotent Stem Cells: If you select Yes, or if through peer review the application is found to fall into this category and is recommended for funding, it will be forwarded to CIHR’s Stem Cell Oversight Committee (SCOC) to ensure compliance with This link will take you to another Web site Chapter 12, Section F of the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2). The SCOC review is in addition to the normal review by local Research Ethics Boards (REBs). Funding will not be released until approval has been obtained from the SCOC.

Environmental Impact

If you select Yes to any of the questions, you will be asked to answer additional questions as appropriate to address the requirements of the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012 (CEAA 2012).

NSERC is subject to CEAA 2012. The Guidelines on Environmental Review and Assessment describe the circumstances under which environmental reviews or assessments must be conducted, and the administrative processes that will be followed by NSERC to ensure that legal obligations are met with respect to CEAA 2012.

Research Subject Codes

Consult the Research Subject Codes. A primary research subject code is required.

Area of Application Codes

Consult the Area of Application Codes. A primary area of application code is required.

Key words

Modify, as required, the key words to best describe your proposal.

Eligibility Profile

You must re-validate your eligibility profile. Click on Save and validate.


In the Application Overview page, click Attach to include each required document type. Attachments are free-form and must respect NSERC's presentation standards and page limits, where appropriate.

IMPORTANT: You must preview all of your attachments in the Research Portal to ensure that the documents have been uploaded correctly and that the content is viewable. NSERC will not accept corrupted or protected files that cannot be opened or viewed.


Limit of five pages

Addressing the points below, describe the proposed research to be supported. Images and graphics are included in the page limit.

Recent Progress

Describe your recent progress in research activities related to the proposal and, in addition for renewals, the progress attributable to your previous Discovery Grant.


Define the short- and long-term objectives of your research program. Note that a research program should have a long-term vision that expands beyond the five years of the Discovery Grant. A single, short-term project or collection of projects does not constitute a research program.

Literature Review

Discuss the literature pertinent to the proposal, placing the proposed research in the context of the state of the art.


Describe the methods and proposed approach, providing sufficient details to allow the reviewers to assess the feasibility of the research activities.


Explain the anticipated significance of the work.


  • Should it be determined that the information provided is insufficient, NSERC reserves the right to take appropriate action, such as not soliciting reports from external reviewers or withdrawing the application from the competition.
  • If your research is interdisciplinary, consult the NSERC Guidelines for the Preparation and Review of Applications in Interdisciplinary Research.
  • If NSERC determines that the subject matter is outside of its mandate at any time during the review cycle, the application will be rejected.

Budget Justification

Limit of two pages

Provide a detailed explanation and justification for each budget item identified in the Proposed Expenditures page. Provide sufficient information to allow reviewers to assess whether the resources requested are appropriate. Applicants must only use this section for the purpose of justifying the proposed budget.

Other Support Sources Supporting Documents

File size limit of 10Mb

If you currently hold, or have applied for, research support from the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) or the This link will take you to another Web site Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), you must provide a summary page and budget page for each of these proposals. Failure to provide these documents will result in an incomplete application, which will be rejected.

If you hold or have applied for research support from sources other than CIHR and/or SSRHC, a summary and budget page is not mandatory but may be provided to help demonstrate that funds from other sources support different expenses than the ones proposed in the Discovery Grant application.

Do not include information concerning previous applications or grants that ended or will end before the funding period of the proposed Discovery Grant.

List of References

Limit of two pages

  • Provide a list of literature references in support of your proposal.
  • Do not refer readers to Web sites for additional information on your proposal.
  • Do not introduce hyperlinks in your list of references.

Samples of Research Contributions

Maximum four PDF attachments – file size limit of 10 Mb each

A maximum of four samples of research contributions—such as reprints, preprints and/or manuscripts, excerpts from your thesis, technical reports, etc.—are to be submitted electronically with your application. The samples of contributions will be used by reviewers to assess the quality of your work. These documents should be chosen to represent your most significant and recent contributions, or those most relevant to the proposed work in the last six years.

Each PDF attachment should include only one sample of a research contribution. Additional information will be removed.

Uploading your NSERC CCV

  • In the Application Overview page, click Attach.
  • Enter your CCV confirmation number. (Refer to the NSERC CCV instructions for professors for details on how to obtain your confirmation number.)
  • Click Upload.
  • Click Back to Application Overview
  • Preview your CCV in the Research Portal and verify that it was uploaded correctly and that it contains all of the records that you wish to submit for peer review.

Submitting the Application to NSERC

Once you have validated all the sections of your application and uploaded your NSERC CCV, the Submit button will be displayed.

  • Click Submit.
  • On the Application Overview page, click Export Application and Attachments to PDF and save a copy of your submission for your records.

When you submit your application it is sent to your Research Administrator for approval and submission to NSERC.  The status of your application will be changed to Received by Administrator. Once your Research Administrator has approved and forwarded your application to NSERC, the application status will be changed to Received by Agency.

Note: The retention period of applications in the Research Portal is three months after the deadline date.


NSERC does not require original signatures on applications or other documents submitted electronically using the Research Portal. User ID/password-based "signatures" allow applicants, supporting organizations and authorized institutional representatives—such as Research Grants Officers, Scholarships Liaison Officers and Business Officers—to "sign" and submit on-line applications and other documents to NSERC. Refer to the Frequently Asked Questions in the Program Guide for Professors for more details.

What do the “signatures” mean?

For applicants

Before you can submit your application to NSERC or upload your NSERC CCV to an application, you must read and agree to the Terms and Conditions of Applying that appear in a pop-up window during the submission process. It is your responsibility to retain a copy of the agreed Terms and Conditions for your records.

The “signatures” of the institutional authorities certify that:

  • the institution will abide by the roles and responsibilities set out in the This link will take you to another Web site Agreement on the Administration of Agency Grants and Awards by Research Institutions ("the Agreement") with the three federal granting agencies, including the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research, the Tri-Agency Financial Administration Guide, and the relevant program literature;
  • as required by the Agreement, the applicant meets the eligibility requirements for the relevant funding opportunity;
  • prior to submission of the application, the institution has obtained written approval from any other institutions involved in the application process;
  • you will not use or disclose any information that you obtain or view on the Research Portal for any purposes other than your participation in the agency's process; and
  • you understand that the agency reserves the right, at its sole discretion, to terminate or restrict your access to the Research Portal at any time, without notice.

The “signatures” of authorized officers of other supporting organizations certify that the organization:

  • agrees with the content of the application and will provide the committed resources; and
  • agrees to the release of the public summary of the award and to the publication of the organization's name as a supporter of the initiative.

If you are both the applicant and a principal of a collaborating organization, another senior official must “sign” on behalf of the organization.