Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Code of Ethics and Business Conduct for Members of NSERC Standing and Advisory Committees


The purpose of this document is to:

  • establish clear guidelines respecting ethics and conduct;
  • establish clear guidelines respecting conflicts of interest, including those not covered by the federal This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of Interest Act;
  • place these guidelines in the public domain; and
  • provide for the resolution of conflicts in the public interest.

Every standing or advisory committee member is required to read this Code and related documents (NSERC By–Law 2, Guidelines on Conflict of Interest for Members of NSERC Standing and Advisory Committees) and observe their provisions throughout his or her mandate on the committee.

The President of NSERC is responsible for the application of this Code.

Members may seek assistance from the Corporate Secretary in interpreting this Code, as necessary.

Role of Standing and Advisory Committees

The role of the standing and advisory committees is first and foremost to advise Council and the Vice-Presidents on specific policies and programs, and to monitor the work of review committees. A standing committee may also be asked to make recommendations to the Vice-Presidents or to the Council on major grants and awards.

For standing committees to be effective, they must be composed of knowledgeable individuals who do research, manage research or use research. Consequently, members may be recipients of NSERC awards, senior administrators of universities who benefit from NSERC support, officers of companies which are, have been, or could become involved in partnerships with NSERC, or employees of government departments or agencies.

Members are appointed as individuals; they are not the advocates or representatives of their disciplines nor are they the delegates of any organization.


A strong code of ethics and business conduct ensures that NSERC’s operations and decisions continue to merit the trust and confidence of the public, its employees, and  client communities. Confidence in NSERC is nurtured in a consistently ethical environment where the right actions are routine, the public good comes first, integrity is evidenced in behaviour, and the truth is valued, acted upon, and communicated appropriately with openness.

This Code is designed to enhance public confidence in the integrity, objectivity, and impartiality of committee members and in the decision-making process of the committees while enabling competent persons with current experience to accept advisory roles and responsibilities:

  • by establishing clear guidelines respecting conflict of interest;
  • by providing for the resolution of conflicts in the public interest.

This Code requires individuals to practice ethical behaviour and to disclose real, potential, or apparent conflicts of interest. A member is in conflict if the member could personally benefit from a committee decision or when private interests conflict with public duties as a committee member.

This Code provides the context for the existing NSERC guidelines on conflict of interest relating to review activities.

NSERC recognizes that the first guardian of ethical behaviour in the event of a conflict of interest is the individual member involved. The second guardian is the committee as a whole. Rules of disclosure and procedure can assist members to meet their obligations, but only if they choose to invoke them and to follow them both to the letter and in the spirit in which they were formulated.

General Principles

In carrying out their committee-related duties, members of NSERC committees shall:

Ethical Standards

Act with honesty and uphold the highest ethical standards in order to honour and enhance public confidence in NSERC’s ability to act in the public interest and for long term public good.

Public Scrutiny

Perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that will bear the closest public scrutiny, an obligation that is not fully discharged by simply acting within the law.


Treat as confidential any NSERC, government, proprietary or personal information not in the public domain that they are privy to as committee members.


In fulfilling their official duties and responsibilities, make decisions in the public interest and with regard to the merits of each case.

Private Interests

Disclose any private interests that could be affected particularly or significantly by NSERC actions or that could put ethical practice at risk.

Public Interest

Arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest from arising; but if such a conflict does arise between the private interests of a member and the official duties and responsibilities of that member, the conflict shall be disclosed and resolved in favour of the public interest.

Gifts and Benefits

Not solicit or accept transfers of economic benefit, other than incidental gifts, customary hospitality, or other benefits of nominal value from persons, groups or organizations having, or likely to have dealings with NSERC or the government unless the transfer is pursuant to an enforceable contract or property right of the member.

Preferential Treatment

Not step out of their official roles to assist private entities or persons in their dealings with NSERC or the government where this would result in preferential treatment to any person or organization.

Insider Information

Not knowingly take advantage of, or benefit from, material information that is not generally available to the public that is obtained in the course of their official duties and responsibilities.

Government Property

Not directly or indirectly use, or allow the use of, government property of any kind, including property leased to NSERC or the government, for anything other than officially approved activities.

Post-Committee Membership

Not act, after their term of office on an NSERC committee has expired, in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their previous office.


Compliance with the measures detailed in this Code shall be a condition of serving on an NSERC standing or advisory committee. Upon appointment, members shall provide confirmation of having read and understood this Code and related documents, and their agreement to abide by them, by completing and signing the Declaration for NSERC Standing and Advisory Committee Members.

Conforming to this Code does not absolve individual members of the responsibility to take such additional action as may be necessary to avoid real, potential or apparent conflicts of interest.

Provisions of this Code respecting conflict of interest do not apply to a member’s immediate family (i.e., those living with the member and/or those considered to be dependents of the member). Members shall be responsible, however, for ensuring that they are not in a conflict of interest situation between their duties as committee members and the activities and financial interests of their immediate family.

Disclosure Requirements

This Code requires that members, at the time of appointment and as the need arises during the course of their term on an NSERC committee, disclose in writing to the President or delegate, assets, liabilities or outside activities which have a direct relevance to NSERC business and which could give rise to a real, perceived, or apparent conflict of interest.

Such a disclosure should include activities outside an individual’s normal employment (e.g., philanthropic, charitable, commercial and non-commercial activities) covering a period of two years prior to appointment to the committee.

Compliance Measures

Upon receipt of the written disclosure, the President or delegate shall determine whether a real, potential, or apparent conflict of interest exists, and determine compliance measures which may be necessary.

Disclosures may also arise unexpectedly during the course of a meeting. In such cases, the official Minutes shall reflect that a declaration was made verbally and the decision on whether any compliance measures are required. The President or delegate shall determine the compliance measures that may be required.

Compliance measures may include requiring the member to withdraw from specific NSERC activities or from discussions on matters which could give rise to a conflict of interest. In the latter case, the official Minutes of the meeting shall record the member’s absence or abstention from the discussions.

Refusal to abide by the compliance measures identified by the President or delegate may result in appropriate sanctions being taken.


NSERC’s Corporate Secretary shall be responsible for ensuring that information members provide to the President or delegate about their assets, liabilities, or activities is held in complete confidence. Access to any document provided by members will be limited to the Corporate Secretary and the President or delegate unless otherwise specified by statute. As well, any material related to members’ activities will always be stored and handled in accordance with NSERC’s legal and policy obligations.

The Corporate Secretary may seek advice from legal counsel and NSERC management in assessing conflicts and in developing recommendations to the President or delegate and Chair on compliance measures for conflict of interest issues covered by this Code.


Members shall review their obligations as necessary, but at least once per year, to ensure that any change in their activities, financial interests, or NSERC advisory duties and responsibilities is taken into account.