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Report on the applicant

Instructions for completing a report on the applicant form 201

General information

Complete the report if you have agreed to evaluate an applicant for an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship – Doctoral (PGS D) or Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF). If you are the applicant’s proposed supervisor, you cannot complete the report unless you are currently their supervisor or have supervised them in the past.

Refer to the Frequently asked questions for references completing a report on the applicant – form 201 for more information.

Before proceeding

By submitting your report to NSERC, you confirm that you have read and understood these instructions. This is in addition to your acceptance of the terms and conditions for references. Refer to the Signatures section below for more details.

Best practices for limiting unconscious biases

NSERC is committed to promoting equity, diversity and inclusion to ensure equitable access across its programs.

NSERC encourages the use of inclusive language (for example, “the applicant” or “they” instead of “he/she”). Use of inclusive language has been shown to decrease unconscious bias during the evaluation process. For more information, refer to the This link will take you to another Web site Canada Research Chairs guidelines for letter writers on limiting unconscious bias.

The following best practices and considerations should be taken into account when drafting the report:

  • Be accurate, fair, clear and balanced.
  • Avoid being unduly personal.
  • Support your points by providing specific examples of accomplishments where possible.
  • Use superlative descriptors (for example, excellent, outstanding) judiciously and support them with evidence.
  • Include only information that is relevant to the selection criteria (for example, do not include information related to ethnicity, age, hobbies, marital status, religion, disability status, financial need, etc.).
  • Avoid sharing personal information about the applicant—such information may be helpful only in explaining academic delays or interruptions and should be addressed with caution.
  • Avoid words or sentences that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory language of particular people or groups or their institution.
  • Avoid inappropriate comments.
  • Do not include links that refer to external sources.

You should also refer to the tri-agency Bias in peer review training module as a guide for preventing unconscious bias in merit review.

For further information on unconscious bias, please consult the Department of Women and Gender Equality Canada’s (formerly Status of Women Canada) This link will take you to another Web site Unconscious bias – Additional resources web page.

Deadline

Applicants have been advised to provide their references with a deadline that is well before the application deadline, to allow applicants to submit their completed application on time. The applicant cannot submit their application until the report on the applicant has been completed and submitted in NSERC’s online system. We recommend that you submit your report on the applicant well in advance of the applicant’s deadline to allow enough time for the applicant to complete and submit their application. No deadline extensions will be given to applicants who are unable to submit because of missing reports on the applicant.

Personal information

The collection, use and disclosure of personal information provided to NSERC is outlined in the following policy statements:

The information you provide in your report is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act. NSERC is subject to the This link will take you to another Web site Access to Information Act and the This link will take you to another Web site Privacy Act. The information you provide is stored in a series of NSERC data banks described in This link will take you to another Web site Information about programs and information holdings.

NSERC routinely gives applicants access to information about themselves that is kept in its files but does not provide the applicant with the name of the person who submitted the report or the names of any other applicants mentioned in a comparative context. However, due to the nature of the application process, applicants are usually aware of who has completed their report. As a result, you cannot expect privacy or anonymity.

Help with the NSERC online system

  • Consult the frequently asked questions on how to use the online system.
  • Review the instructions available in the application.
  • Contact the online services helpdesk by sending an email to webapp@nserc-crsng.gc.ca or by calling 1-855-275-2861. Include your email address and telephone number in your message.

Completing the report

Applicants will indicate in their application for a PGS D or PDF the name and email address of the two references who will complete the report. An email will be generated by the online system inviting you, as a reference, to complete the report. If you do not receive this email you should confirm that it is not in your junk or spam email folder. If you are still unable to locate the email invitation, the applicant should re-invite you using a different email address.

Follow the instructions provided in the email for you to provide your contact information and your evaluation of the application. You are requested to provide the required information by the deadline provided by the applicant. You will also have access to their application.

Length of the report

  • PGS D: You are limited to the space available in the box, which is approximately half a page.
  • PDF: The first box represents approximately half a page. You may use the second box to provide additional comments (approximately three-quarters of a page).

The report must be typed into the allotted space and it is imperative that you preview your report before it is submitted to ensure that the text fits within the available space. Text that is not visible on the previewed report will not be seen by NSERC staff or the selection committee members.

Once the report is completed and submitted, the status of the report on the applicant’s portfolio will change to Document Completed, and you will no longer have access to it. If you wish to make changes, you must communicate with the applicant and request that the report be unlocked for revisions. Once the report is unlocked, you will be able to make the changes and resubmit the report electronically. Note that once the applicant has submitted the full application to NSERC, this functionality will no longer be available.

Content of your report

The report on the applicant is a critical component of the application package and can significantly influence its evaluation. In your report, comment on the selection criteria listed below. Rather than providing general comments, assess the applicant’s strengths and limitations for each selection criterion. Include examples of the applicant’s accomplishments and contributions to support your assessment, while taking measures to mitigate implicit or unconscious bias. You are also encouraged to address any qualities, skills and/or contributions which may not be immediately apparent to the selection committee members reviewing the application. These can include, but are not limited to, the applicant’s enthusiasm for research, motivation, role in manuscript writing, leadership role within the research group, etc. For additional guidance, consult the Selection criteria and indicators section and appendices A and B of the Selection committee guide for Postgraduate Scholarships – Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowships programs, which provide useful information on what selection committee members look for when assessing applications.

Selection criteria

Refer to the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) program description for information on selection criteria.

Refer to the PDF program description for information on selection criteria.

Signatures

NSERC does not require original signatures on applications or other documents submitted electronically through its online system. The electronic submission of applications through this system represents approval and replaces the traditional “physical” or “wet” signatures.