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Procedures for General Complaints

The following sets out the procedure for filing general complaints about NSERC.

NSERC staff are committed to working in an open and accountable way to provide a high quality, responsive and accessible service to the Canadian research community. Despite this commitment, we recognize that things can sometimes go wrong. If you are dissatisfied in any way with our performance we would like to know about it. We appreciate feedback from our clientele and continually strive to improve our processes.

General complaints should involve the manner in which a decision was made or an action taken, rather than objections to the merits of a decision or an action. The following criteria may apply:

  • omission (something we said we would do has not happened);
  • lack of quality (an element of our processes has not been done well, took too long, was not carried out consistently, displayed bias, misleading guidance or unclear procedures);
  • inappropriate or discourteous conduct by our staff.

Making a Complaint

You should initially raise your concern with the person dealing with your file or enquiry. A simple misunderstanding may have arisen which can be easily resolved. However, if this is not possible, you can ask for the issue to be considered an official complaint. You should make your complaint in writing and send it by letter or e-mail to the attention of the Corporate Secretary to Council in the NSERC Secretariat. It would be helpful if you could define the cause of your dissatisfaction in terms of the above criteria (i.e., omission, lack of quality or inappropriate conduct by NSERC staff).

Follow Up

You will be sent an acknowledgement of your letter or e-mail within five working days with an estimate of when an answer to your complaint can be expected. Depending on the complexity of the complaint, the response time could be delayed. You will be given an explanation of the reasons for the delay and a timeframe by which you will receive a full reply. At all stages, your complaint will be dealt with in strict confidence.

In considering the complaint, the senior officer will:

  • gather all the relevant information;
  • confirm the issues and facts of the case with the complainant;
  • analyze the complaint in the context of stated procedures and, if applicable, published service standards;
  • determine whether the complaint is valid; and
  • inform the complainant of the outcome and, if applicable, the remedial action to be taken.

Comments on Policy and Procedures

We welcome and actively seek feedback on our policies and procedures. Such comments will not be regarded formally as complaints. Any observations or views should be sent to the relevant program officer, team leader or director.


We expect our staff to be courteous and to seek to provide an excellent service. If you feel you have had exceptional service, we will be delighted to hear from you. We will ensure that your compliment is passed on to the staff member or team concerned.

Record-keeping and Data Protection

According to our internal procedures and standards, we must register and operate effective procedures for tracking complaints. This requires us to keep information concerning complaints and to evaluate our response times. Information about complaints will be kept in our files, but will be restricted to staff members and advisors dealing with the complaint.

Other Types of Complaints

Guidance on procedures for Appeals of Decision on NSERC Grants or This link will take you to another Web site Allegations of Scientific Misconduct is also available.

Complaints about funding decisions based on disagreement with scientific judgements are excluded from the general complaints process, as are any matters that are the subject of litigation or legal proceedings.

Complaints related to the operation of the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act are also excluded from this general complaint process, as these are legal mechanisms as prescribed in the Acts.