Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Policies and Requirements

General 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; and
  • be engaged in full-time NSERC-eligible research at an eligible institution.

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.

Acceptance or Refusal of Award

  • You must notify NSERC by the deadline indicated in your Notice of Award of your decision to accept or refuse the award by completing an Acceptance or Refusal of Award (Form 1A).
  • If you are accepting an award, you must also provide NSERC with 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 the Payment of Award section.

Start Date

  • You can take up 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.
  • NSERC does not provide travel or moving allowances.

Part-time Postdoctoral Fellowship Support

  • PDF support is available to those who are restricted to part-time research for reasons of disability or family responsibilities. For fellows whose 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. No employment is permitted during tenure of a part-time award without NSERC's prior authorization. All other policies and PDF requirements will apply.

Disability

  • 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 in a field supported by NSERC because a disability prevents you from pursuing full-time research, you must have a Medical Certification to Hold an NSERC PGS D/CGS D/PDF on a Part-time Basis for Reasons of Disability (Form 4) completed by the qualified health professional most familiar with your situation. That person must 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.
  • Your research supervisor must write a letter supporting your request to pursue part-time research.

Family Responsibilities

  • 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."
  • As an award holder, you must write to NSERC justifying your need to hold your award part-time for family responsibilities. A letter supporting your request must also be sent 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.
  • Even though 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.
  • During your deferral, you must be devoted full time to the activity for which deferment was requested. You may not accept employment.

Payment of Award

  • To activate your award, complete a Request for First Instalment (Form 1B) and submit it to NSERC's Scholarships and Fellowships Division between four and six weeks prior to the date on which you intend to take up your award.
  • If NSERC does not receive your duly completed Request for First Instalment (Form 1B), your award may be cancelled.
  • Before you may take up 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.
  • 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 an award.

Subsequent Instalments

  • Payments are made at six-month intervals.
  • Payment requests should be submitted to NSERC between four and six weeks before the due date.
  • 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 Instalment (Form 7), for the third instalment.
  • If you terminate your award before its projected end date, or become ineligible, the value of the award will be pro-rated (see Termination of Award).
  • NSERC will cancel your award without further notice if the payment request is overdue.

Payment Schedule

For tenure beginning in: First instalment to be issued by the end of: Second instalment to be issued by the end of:
April May September
May May October
June May November
July June December
August July January
September August February
October September March*
November October May
December November May
January January June

* If insufficient funds remain at fiscal year-end, payment will be issued by the end of May.

Mailing Address for Cheques

  • Instalment cheques will be issued in your name only and mailed to the address indicated on a Request for First Instalment (Form 1B).

Note: Award holders attending institutions outside of Canada will receive their instalments in the currency of the country corresponding to the cheque address they provide (e.g., an award holder attending Oxford University and having provided a U.K. cheque address will be paid in Pounds Sterling [PS]). Those wishing to be paid in Canadian funds must provide a Canadian cheque address.

  • If you change your address during tenure of the award, you must indicate your revised address on a Request for Subsequent Instalments and Reinstatement of Award (Form 2), or on an Annual Progress Report/Request for Subsequent Instalment (Form 7).

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 the Annual Progress Report/Request for Subsequent Instalment (Form 7) in conjunction with your supervisor and submit it to the Scholarships and Fellowships Division.
  • This report will serve as your request for the relevant instalment.
  • NSERC may cancel the award if your progress is judged unsatisfactory.

Interruption of Award

You may interrupt your award to take up one four-month industrial research and development internship (e.g. This link will take you to another Web site 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 may interrupt an active award only for reasons of maternity, child rearing, illness or health-related family responsibilities.
  • You must obtain approval from NSERC prior to any interruption of your award.
  • 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 leaves.
  • 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.
  • You may not interrupt your award in order to take up another award or to pursue studies.
  • 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 leaves is conditional on your supervisor's support of your request.
  • During your interruption, you must be devoted full time to the activity for which the interruption was requested. You may not accept 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 at your current stipend level for up to four months.
  • You may not receive this supplement while your award is being deferred.
  • The maximum period of paid leave is four 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 four months.
  • 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 which you confirm that:
    • during the parental leave, you will not be engaged in your research activities or employed;
    • you will be the primary caregiver of your child during the parental leave; and
    • you are not eligible for and will not receive employment insurance or other maternity/parental benefits from other sources.
  • 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.

Vacation Leave

  • Your institution's policies and requirements will apply with respect to vacation leave.

Reinstatement of Award

  • To reinstate an interrupted award, you must send 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

  • If your research is in a discipline that falls under the mandate of more than one federal granting agency (e.g., psychology, management studies, geography, physical education, bio-medical engineering, health sciences, bioinformatics, biostatistics, etc.), 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 judged 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.

Other Sources of Income (Employment and Other Awards)

  • NSERC expects PDF holders to engage in full-time NSERC-eligible research. You may not hold other full-time employment during any period of time in which you hold the NSERC award. NSERC limits the number of hours of other employment, per 12-month period, to 450 hours.
  • You may not concurrently hold another award from NSERC or from another Canadian federal granting agency (CIHR or SSHRC). 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, your institution).
  • You may accept supplements from NSERC 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.

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 complete a 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 prorated.
  • NSERC will contact you to reclaim any overpayment of your award.

Taxation and Other Issues

Taxation

  • 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 on the instalment cheque 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.

Insurance

  • 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.

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