Policies and Requirements
To hold an award, you must:
- accept the terms and conditions of the award as set out in this guide, in the Notice of Award (including attachments) and in the program description found in the NSERC Program Guide for Students and Fellows;
- have met all the requirements for a PhD in the natural sciences or engineering by September 1 of the year of the original award;
- be engaged in full-time NSERC-eligible research at an eligible institution;
- not hold or accept full-time employment while holding the award; and
- not hold a tenure-track or tenured faculty position, or be on leave from such a position. Generally, "tenure-track or tenured" refers to an open-ended academic position in which the holder can form a research group, apply for external research funding as a principal investigator, and also teach. If unsure about the status of a faculty position, contact NSERC.
Awards may be cancelled without notice if the conditions under which they are granted are violated. Any payment made for a period during which you were not eligible to hold the award must be reimbursed.
It is your responsibility to ensure that NSERC has your up-to-date contact information and that you respond promptly to any communications from NSERC during tenure of your award. NSERC will use the email on your file for all correspondence. Updates should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Acceptance or Refusal of Award
- You must notify NSERC by the deadline date indicated in your Notice of Award of your decision to accept or decline the award by completing an Acceptance or Refusal of Award (Form 1A).
- You must also include proof of citizenship with Form 1A. Canadian citizens must provide a copy of an official document indicating their citizenship (e.g., birth certificate, citizenship card, or passport). Permanent residents must provide a copy of an official document indicating their landing date in Canada (e.g., IMM 1442, IMM 5292, IMM 1000, Permanent Resident card). If the landing date was after the application deadline, NSERC will cancel the offer of award.
- NSERC will cancel any award not accepted by the deadline date indicated in your Notice of Award.
- Notification by telephone is not acceptable.
- NSERC must receive your Acceptance or Refusal of Award (Form 1A) even if you plan to request a deferment of your award (see Deferment of Award).
- To initiate payment of your award, see Payment of Award.
Payment of Award
- To activate your award, complete a Request for First Instalment (Form 1B) and submit it to NSERC between four and six weeks prior to the date on which you intend to activate your award; otherwise, your payment will be delayed.
- If NSERC does not receive your duly completed Request for First Instalment (Form 1B), your award may be cancelled.
- Before you activate your award, you must provide confirmation that you have successfully completed all requirements for your doctoral degree, if you did not already provide this confirmation as part of your application. See Request for First Instalment (Form 1B).
- If you wish to transfer to a different institution/location of research, see Change of Institution/Location of Research.
- Payments are made at six-month intervals.
- Payment requests should be submitted to NSERC between four and six weeks before the instalment issue date (as indicated in the payment schedule below).
- To initiate subsequent instalments, submit the duly completed and signed Request for Subsequent Instalments and Reinstatement of Award (Form 2) for the second and fourth instalments, or an Annual Progress Report/Request for Subsequent Instalments (Form 7), for the third instalment.
- If you terminate your award before its end date, or become ineligible, the value of the award will be pro-rated (see Termination of Award).
- NSERC may cancel your award without further notice if your payment request is overdue.
* If there are insufficient funds at fiscal year-end, payment will be issued by the end of May.
Payment – Direct Deposit
- Award holders, whether attending Canadian or foreign institutions, will receive their instalments in the currency of the country corresponding to the mailing address they provide on the direct deposit form (see Direct Deposit). Those attending institutions outside of Canada but wishing to be paid in Canadian funds must provide a Canadian address.
- If your bank account changes during tenure of the award, you must complete a new direct deposit form (see Direct Deposit) and select the Change box. You must also select the appropriate box on the Request for Subsequent Instalments and Reinstatement of Award (Form 2) or on an Annual Progress Report/Request for Subsequent Instalments (Form 7).
- For details, see Direct Deposit – Frequently Asked Questions.
You may activate your award at any time between April 1 (of the year in which you are awarded the fellowship) and January 15 of the following year.
Value and Duration of Award
The value and duration of your award are detailed in your Notice of Award and may be adjusted to take into account a change in your status (e.g., start of employment). NSERC will contact you to reclaim any overpayment of your award.
NSERC does not provide travel or moving allowances.
Part-time PDF Support
PDF support is available to those who are restricted to part-time research for reasons of disability or family responsibilities.
- No employment is permitted during tenure of the award without NSERC's prior authorization.
- You must send an email requesting permission to hold your award on a part-time basis to NSERC for approval.
- NSERC will notify you of the decision on your request to hold your award part-time.
- If your request for part-time status is approved by NSERC, the stipend will be the equivalent of a full-time award spread over a longer period of time.
- All other policies and PDF requirements will apply.
For purposes of holding an award part-time, disability is defined as "a functional limitation resulting from a physical, sensory or mental impairment which, for an indefinite period, affects the ability of the fellow to perform the activities necessary to participate fully in his or her research."
If you intend to pursue part-time research because a disability prevents you from pursuing full-time research, you must:
- send an email to NSERC justifying the need to hold your award part-time;
- request that the qualified health professional most familiar with your situation complete the Medical Certification to Hold an NSERC PGS/CGS/PDF on a Part-time Basis for Reasons of Disability (Form 4). He or she must either mail the form directly to NSERC or return it to you in a sealed envelope to be forwarded to NSERC. This form will be treated as a confidential document to be used only by NSERC staff when considering your eligibility to hold your award on a part-time basis; and
- request that your research supervisor send a letter supporting your request to pursue part-time research.
For purposes of holding an award part-time, family responsibility is defined as "the primary responsibility for providing the personal care to a dependent family member (e.g., pre-school children, infirm spouse or parent), which affects the ability of the fellow to perform the activities necessary to participate fully in his or her research."
If you intend to pursue part-time research because family responsibilities prevent you from pursuing full-time research, you must:
- send an email to NSERC justifying the need to hold your award part-time; and
- arrange for a letter supporting your request to be sent to NSERC by your research supervisor.
Deferment of Award
Before commencing your award, you may request permission to defer it for up to three years, but only for reasons of maternity, child rearing, illness or health-related family responsibilities. You may not defer your award in order to take up another award, accept or hold employment, or pursue studies.
- You must complete a Request for Deferment or Interruption of Award (Form 3) and send it to NSERC for approval as soon as possible. Supporting documentation (e.g., birth, adoption or medical certificate) confirming the reason for deferment must also be included with the request. If you have to extend an existing deferral, you must provide a new Form 3 and supporting documentation.
- During your deferral, you must be devoted to the activity for which the deferment was requested. You may not accept full-time employment.
- Even if you intend to defer your award, you must submit confirmation to NSERC that you have completed, by September 1 of the year of the original award, all requirements of your doctoral degree (if not already submitted with your application), or your award will be cancelled.
Interruption of Award
You may interrupt your award to take up one four-month industrial research and development internship (e.g., MITACS-Accelerate internship award). Only one such interruption is permitted.
Unpaid Leave for Reasons of Maternity, Child Rearing, Illness or Health-Related Family Responsibilities
- You are eligible for a leave of absence of up to three years, in accordance with your institution's policies and requirements, only for reasons of maternity, child rearing, illness or health-related family responsibilities, provided your institution permits such leave.
- You may not interrupt your award in order to take up another award, to accept or hold employment, or to pursue studies.
- You may only interrupt an award that is currently active.
- You must obtain approval from NSERC prior to any interruption of your award.
- For approved interruptions, NSERC will suspend payment of your award for the duration of the interruption and will resume payment when all the conditions of your award are met, generally, on your return to full-time research. The interruption will not reduce the total amount of support available to you.
- To request an interruption, you must submit, in advance, the duly completed Request for Deferment or Interruption of Award ( Form 3) to NSERC. You must also provide supporting documentation, such as birth or medical certificates to justify and substantiate the reason for interrupting your award.
- Approval of all leave is conditional on your supervisor's support of your request.
- During your interruption, you must be devoted to the activity for which the interruption was requested. You may not accept full-time employment.
Paid Parental Leave
Note: Approval of paid parental leave requests is subject to the availability of funds.
- If you will be interrupting your research/award within six months following a child's birth or adoption in order to be the primary caregiver for the child, you may request a paid parental leave supplement for up to six months. This supplement is equivalent to the amount of your monthly stipend for up to six months. The end date of your award will be extended accordingly.
- You may not receive this supplement while your award is being deferred.
- The maximum period of paid leave is six months, even in cases of multiple births or adoption of more than one child at the same time.
- If both parents are supported by NSERC, each parent may take a portion of the leave, for a combined maximum duration of six months.
- You should request the paid parental leave at least four months before the proposed start date of the leave.
- As soon as possible after the birth/adoption of the child, you must submit a copy of the child's birth/adoption certificate to NSERC in order to activate payment.
- To request the paid parental leave, you must submit, in advance, the duly completed Request for Deferment or Interruption of Award (Form 3) to NSERC, and submit a letter, in advance, in which you confirm that:
- you are not eligible for, and will not receive, employment insurance or other maternity/parental benefits from other sources;
- you will be the primary caregiver of your child during the parental leave; and
- you will not be engaged in research activities or employed.
Your institution's policies and requirements will apply with respect to vacation leave.
Reinstatement of Award
To reinstate a deferred or interrupted award, you must send to NSERC a duly completed Request for Subsequent Instalments and Reinstatement of Award (Form 2) at least eight weeks before resuming your research. Before your instalment payment can be issued, you must also provide confirmation from your supervisor that you have resumed the research for which the funds were awarded. See also Payment of Award.
Awards will be governed by the policies and requirements applicable at the time of reinstatement.
Change of Research Project
- You must obtain prior approval from NSERC to change your research project. Consult the Eligibility Criteria for Students and Fellows.
- To request approval for a change of research project, send a one-page outline of the proposed research, including the proposed supervisor's name, to NSERC.
- If you modify your research project to the extent that it no longer falls within NSERC's mandate, you will no longer be eligible to hold the award and it will be cancelled.
Change of Institution/Location of Research
If you wish to change your institution of tenure/research location, you must obtain prior approval from NSERC to confirm the eligibility of your proposed research and your eligibility to hold the award at the new institution. Such requests should be made as soon as possible, preferably eight weeks prior to your start or transfer date. See also Change of Research Project.
You are not permitted to hold your PDF at a foreign institution if you received your doctoral degree from a foreign institution. You are not permitted to change your location of tenure to the university where you obtained your PhD after the PDF has been granted. This request must be made at the application stage, and is evaluated by the committee.
To change your location of research before taking up the award, you must indicate on the Request for First Instalment (Form 1B) that your research project has not changed, or provide NSERC with an outline of the new research project, together with the name of your new proposed supervisor, institute and department of tenure.
To change your institution after having taken up the award, you must send the following documentation to NSERC:
- the duly completed and signed Request to Change Institution/Location of Research (Form 6), supported by the heads of the department of the original institution and the proposed institution;
- a letter justifying your reasons for the change; and
- a brief outline of the research to be carried out at the proposed location (only if different from research originally proposed).
Other Sources of Income (employment and other awards)
- NSERC expects award holders to engage in full-time NSERC-eligible research. NSERC recommends that award holders limit the number of hours of employment to 520 hours within a 12-month period. These hours are in addition to any activities that are integral to the award holder’s postdoctoral training. Institutional regulations with respect to employment take precedence over NSERC’s recommendation. It is the award holders’ responsibility to ensure that they are in compliance with their institution’s policies.
- You must not hold other full-time employment during any period of time in which you hold the NSERC award.
- You may not concurrently hold another award from NSERC or from another Canadian federal granting agency (the Canadian Institutes of Health Research or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada). You may, however, accept awards from other sources (except for Industrial R&D Internships [IRDI] or MITACS Accelerate internships), regardless of value (e.g., foreign sources, provincial awards, private organizations or your institution).
- You may accept supplements from your supervisor’s grants. There is no limit on the value of such supplements. Any such funding is to be in support of your work as a postdoctoral fellow and is not to be remuneration for additional duties performed.
- Part-time PDF holders: No employment is permitted during tenure of the award without NSERC's prior authorization.
Annual Progress Reports
- NSERC requires that an annual progress report be submitted between four and six weeks prior to the anniversary date of your award. Complete an Annual Progress Report/Request for Subsequent Instalments (Form 7) in conjunction with your supervisor and submit it to NSERC.
- This report will serve as your request for the relevant instalment.
- NSERC may cancel the award if your progress is judged unsatisfactory.
Termination of Award
- If you terminate your fellowship or accept full-time employment before the end of the period covered by the award, you must submit to NSERC a completed Termination of Award (Form 8).
- If you accept full-time employment, your award will be terminated as of the effective date of your contract of employment. The value of the award will be pro-rated.
- NSERC will contact you to reclaim any overpayment of your award.
Taxation and Other Issues
- NSERC does not deduct income tax at source (at the time of payment); you must plan for the possibility that you may owe tax at the time of filing your return.
- NSERC will issue a T4A income tax slip only to award holders it pays directly. The date of the direct deposit will determine the year in which you will be taxed for the instalment. An instalment cannot be deferred to the next taxation year.
- NSERC is unable to dispense advice on income tax matters to individual students and fellows, given the uniqueness of each award recipient's personal financial situation. Consequently, you are encouraged to seek advice from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) or from a qualified income tax specialist.
- You are referred to two documents published by CRA:
Foreign Immigration and Taxation Regulations
If you hold or intend to hold your award at an institution outside Canada, you must contact the appropriate agencies for immigration and taxation regulations. NSERC cannot advise award holders on such matters.
NSERC is unable to assume liability for accidents, illness or losses that may occur during the tenure of an award. You are responsible for ensuring that you have appropriate insurance.
You are encouraged to communicate with your provincial health insurance office before leaving Canada; spending a significant length of time outside the country may impact the coverage available when you return.
The Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act
We encourage you to read the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act as they relate to application information.