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Frequently asked questions about the new Black scholars funding

  1. What is this new funding to support Black scholars?
  2. Who can be awarded the new Black scholars funding?
  3. Will this funding increase the number of awards offered or the funding provided?
  4. Why is this new funding important?
  5. How many additional awards will be available?
  6. What is the mechanism to apply for these funds?
  7. How will the new funds be allocated?
  8. Are there privacy issues if applicants self-identify as Black?
  9. When will SSHRC and CIHR be expanding their USRA support to students who are not Black?
  10. Why are only Black students and postdoctoral fellows considered for this funding? Will tri-agency programs consider other groups that are also underrepresented at all research career stages and among applicants and awardees?

What is this new funding to support Black scholars?

The new Black scholars funding stems from Canada’s Budget 2022, which announced additional funds to increase support for Black scholars, at the undergraduate, Master’s, Doctoral and Postdoctoral levels. The new funds are to be implemented from 2023–2024 over five years through existing scholarships and fellowships programs administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).


Who can be awarded the new Black scholars funding?

Black students and postdoctoral researchers applying to existing tri-agency scholarships and fellowships programs, such as the Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) program, the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s (CGS M) program, the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) program and some agency-specific postdoctoral fellowship programs, could be awarded these new funds. To be considered for the Black scholars funding, meritorious applicants in the above-mentioned competitions must self-identify as Black in their application.


Will this funding increase the number of awards offered or the funding provided?

This funding aims to increase the number of Black scholars supported by existing tri-agency scholarships and fellowships programs. The value of these awards remains unchanged, but the number of awards available through these programs is increasing.


Why is this new funding important?

These new funds will help address the disproportionate underfunding of Black scholars at all stages of their careers. This support for Black scholars will help strengthen efforts to break down barriers and address inequities as laid out in the Tri-agency EDI Action Plan for 2018–2025. In turn, this will contribute to making Canada’s research culture more equitable, diverse and inclusive, and to augmenting Canada’s innovation potential.


How many additional awards will be available?

The new funding will be distributed through existing tri-agency programs:

  • Undergraduate Student Research Awards (USRA) program: 90 additional awards for NSERC, 95 new awards for CIHR and 95 new awards for SSHRC per year.
  • Canada Graduate Scholarships – Master’s (CGS M) program: 20 new awards per agency per year.
  • Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) program: 10 new awards per agency per year.
  • Agency-specific postdoctoral fellowships (PDF) programs: 6 new awards per agency per year.

What is the mechanism to apply for these funds?

Black scholars should apply just as they normally would for the existing tri-agency scholarships and fellowships programs receiving a distribution of these funds. Eligibility for this funding will be determined based on applicants’ self-identification data, as provided in their application, and according to each program’s established criteria:

  • CIHR’s and SSHRC’s USRA programs: Applicants must self-identify as Black in their application to be eligible.
  • NSERC’s USRA program: Applicants who self-identify as Black in their application may be considered for additional awards beyond their institution’s usual allocations.
  • CGS M program: After the fall deadline of the regular application process, all applicants will be asked to provide self-identification information via a questionnaire. Applicants who self-identify as Black and provide their consent to be considered for funds targeted towards specific groups will be eligible.
  • CGS D and PDF programs: Applicants who self-identified as Black and provided consent in their application to be considered for funds targeted towards specific groups will be eligible. No additional consent is needed for CIHR’s CGS D and PDF programs.

How will the new funds be allocated?

To ensure that the new funds support Black scholars who would not have otherwise received funding, the targeted funds for the CGS M, CGS D and PDF programs will be allocated after the initial funding decisions have been made according to the processes and procedures already in place. The new funds will then be used by the granting agencies (for CGS D & PDF programs) or allocated to the institutions (for the CGS M program) to offer additional awards to meritorious applicants who self-identify as Black.


Are there privacy issues if applicants self-identify as Black?

The CGS M, CGS D and PDF programs are designed so that awards funded through this mechanism are like all other awards in the respective competitions.

CGS M, CGS D and PDF applicants will be requested to provide their consent for their self-identification information to be shared with the granting agencies and relevant administering institutions for subsequent award administration of targeted funding opportunities (see A6 for more details about self-identifying).

In the case of USRAs, for NSERC, universities will be able to recommend applications from self-identified Black students over and above the institutional quota; however, for SSHRC and CIHR, the USRA program will only be open to self-identified Black student researchers.

The agencies will monitor award recipients internally for reporting purposes and to ensure that any unused funds are re-distributed to other eligible Black scholars.

With the exception of SSHRC and CIHR USRAs, any public reporting will be done using aggregate results only. No one person will be named as an identified recipient without their prior consent.


When will SSHRC and CIHR be expanding their USRA support to students who are not Black?

As part of the Black scholars funding, the Tri-agency aims to support scholars at all levels who identify as Black, which will contribute to closing representation gaps. The current distribution of these new funds will allow the agencies to examine the demand for undergraduate support for social sciences, humanities and health sciences for the first time. The Tri-agency will monitor the undergraduate program closely in the coming years to help inform any potential future funding for undergraduate students who are not Black.


Why are only Black students and postdoctoral fellows considered for this funding? Will tri-agency programs consider other groups that are also underrepresented at all research career stages and among applicants and awardees?

The Black scholars funding is one example of an ongoing effort undertaken by the federal research granting agencies in recent years, to foster a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research ecosystem in Canada. These efforts are guided by the Tri-agency EDI Action Plan for 2018–2025, which is the foundation for a concerted long-term commitment to enhancing equity, diversity and inclusion in the Canadian research landscape.

Recently, we have implemented several initiatives like the Black scholars funding and the Indigenous Scholars Awards and Supplements Pilot Initiative to provide financial support to students and researchers in the social sciences, humanities, health, natural sciences and engineering fields. Despite these efforts, much more needs to be done.

We are committed to applying an EDI lens to programs, policies and processes to identify and address barriers to the equitable participation of underrepresented groups across our scholarships and fellowships programs. The funding agencies will continue to listen to and engage with the community to support concrete change. As we advance with this commitment, and as funds become available, we will be able to implement other measures that support other underrepresented groups.

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