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NSERC prizes - Donna Strickland Prize for Societal Impact of Natural Sciences and Engineering Research

Nomination process

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is essential to creating the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and understanding, and to respond to local, national and global challenges. This principle informs the commitments described in the Tri-agency statement on equity, diversity and inclusion.

How to prepare a nomination

Eligible candidates may be nominated by any individual or group.

When preparing a team nomination, include individuals who participated in both the research and the knowledge mobilization (synthesis, dissemination, transfer, exchange, and co-creation or co-production).

NSERC strongly encourages nominators and university officials to consider equity, diversity and inclusion in their nomination processes.

Since nominations are reviewed by a multidisciplinary committee, the nomination material should be written for non-specialists.

As a nominator, you must prepare the following materials:

  1. A letter of nomination signed by the nominator(s)—it must be no longer than four pages and include a title describing the research achievement(s). Use the following points as headings:

    1. Description of the research that has led to the exceptional benefits outlined in this nomination

    2. Summary of the impact the research has had within its field (refer to Guidelines on the assessment of contributions to research, training and mentoring for additional information)

    3. Description of the strategy for knowledge mobilization

      • Include information about the challenge and the approach taken to involve the appropriate users or beneficiaries in the research and/or knowledge mobilization activities

        (“Users” refers to entities who will interact directly with the product of the research, whereas “beneficiaries” are entities whose lives improve as a result of the research. In some cases, these are one in the same. Entities can include communities, community organizations, specific designated or underrepresented groups of Canadians, members of the general public, companies, students, patients, schools, clients, manufacturers, engineers, other researchers, or businesses, among others.)

    4. Summary of the significance of the benefits to Canadian society (societal impact)

      • Significance is defined as the interaction between the magnitude of benefits and the extent or range of the benefits; the benefits must be demonstrated and realized (refer to Contributions to research and their impact below for additional examples of societal impact)
    1. Explanation of the ways in which the benefits described are underpinned by the research outlined in this nomination

      (“Underpinned by” means that the research made a specific, demonstrable and essential contribution to the benefits taking place, such that the benefits would not have occurred or would have been significantly reduced without the contribution of that research.)
  1. A description of each nominee’s involvement in the research and/or knowledge mobilization (maximum 250 words per nominee)

  2. Up to four documents, totaling no more than ten pages, providing evidence of

    1. knowledge mobilization (e.g., creating and distributing tool kits, infographics, fact sheets or plain-language reports in consultation or collaboration with users and/or beneficiaries; holding workshops, conferences or meetings with stakeholders, users and/or beneficiaries)

    2. societal impact (e.g., letters of impact, case studies)—these documents should contain information about

      • the number, distribution and characteristics of individuals benefiting (e.g., from specific marginalized or disadvantaged groups)

      • the realized benefits

  3. The names, organizational affiliations and email addresses of six individuals who, in your opinion, could be approached by NSERC to conduct an impartial review of the nomination

    1. Reviewers should be able to address the area of research and/or knowledge mobilization and/or societal impact, and should not be in conflict of interest (see This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of interest and confidentiality policy of the federal research funding organizations)

    2. Nominators should suggest a cross-section of reviewers (i.e., Canadian and/or international researchers; from established and early-career stages; members of under-represented groups, including women; researchers at a variety of academic and non-academic settings)

    3. Nominees must not contact suggested reviewers in advance

    4. NSERC reserves the right to select all or none of the suggested reviewers

  4. For team nominations only, a brief letter from the team identifying one of the members as the spokesperson; this individual must be eligible to hold an NSERC grant and will be the contact person for NSERC on any matter related to the outcome of the competition (refer to NSERC's Eligibility requirements for faculty to apply for or hold grant funds)

  5. Identification of any eligible leaves of absence (optional one-page) in consultation with NSERC’s Interruptions in research, training and mentoring webpage. In the case of medical leave, it is not necessary to explain the illness or the treatment but rather its impact on your research activity. Please:

    1. provide the duration of the circumstances

    2. include the impact of the interruption(s)

  6. A Terms and conditions form for nominees signed by each nominee (do not use the encrypted digital signature function) – it is the nominee’s responsibility to retain a copy of the agreed terms and conditions for their records

  7. A Terms and conditions form for nominators signed by each nominator (do not use the encrypted digital signature function) – it is the nominator’s responsibility to retain a copy of the agreed terms and conditions for their records

Contributions to research, and their impact

NSERC recognizes that the entire research ecosystem is strengthened by equitable, diverse and inclusive access and participation. In support of its ongoing commitment to cultural and systemic change in Canadian research, NSERC has updated and improved guidelines concerning contributions to research and training. The intended outcomes of the Tri-agency EDI Action Plan and recommendations from the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA) inform these changes. NSERC’s revised Guidelines on the assessment of contributions to research, training and mentoring diversify the principles and considerations regarding contributions and assessing their quality and impact.

For this prize, the impact of the research within its field and the significance of the benefits to Canadian society (societal impact) are evaluated separately.

With respect to societal impact, examples include improvements to specific procedures in society (e.g., laws, regulations, protocols), stimulation of new approaches to social issues, improvements to quality of life, informing public debate, improvements to policy making, reduction of waste and pollution, protection of species, reduction of the impact of pollutants on ecosystems and humans, improvements in the sustainable use of resources, protection of ecosystems, reduction in the impacts of climate change, contributions to economic growth and wealth creation, introduction of a disruptive technology, and the creation of a new industrial sector, among others.

Submitting a nomination

Nominators are responsible for preparing the required documentation, which must adhere to NSERC’s General presentation guidelines. Documents that do not meet the presentation standards may be rejected or at a disadvantage compared to those that meet the standards. Note that hyperlinked material will not be considered as part of the review process. Compile your documents into a single portable document format (PDF) and submit your nomination electronically via the ICSP This link will take you to another Web site Secure Submission Site. Only documents requested by NSERC will be made available to the selection committee.

For re-nominations, nominators are asked to submit a complete and updated nomination package. The list of suggested reviewers should also be updated to include new individuals.

You must submit your nomination before 8:00 p.m. (ET) on the deadline date. Late nominations will not be accepted. Once you have submitted your nomination, you will not be able to update it.

In January, nominees will receive a system-generated email from NSERC with instructions to complete a  . The program collects and uses disaggregated self-identification data from all nominees to monitor levels of diversity and its policies and processes for potential systemic barriers. Although completing the questionnaire is required before peer review, each question is optional by selecting “I prefer not to answer”, and no self-identification data are seen or used by NSERC peer reviewers.

Review of your nomination

All eligible nominations will be reviewed by a diverse selection committee of academic, government and industry research representatives from a variety of disciplines. Committee members are selected according to NSERC’s Guidelines governing membership of selection committees.   

The committee will review your nomination according to the following selection criteria:

Research (30%)
Impact of the research within its field

  • Extent to which the research has led to advances or new directions in understanding, methods, theories, and/or application within its field

Knowledge mobilization (20%)
Involvement of the nominee(s) in the mobilization of research knowledge, resulting in the benefits described in the nomination

  • Extent to which nominee(s) were involved in the uptake of research by a broader community
  • Approach to involve the appropriate users or beneficiaries in the research and/or knowledge mobilization activities

Societal impact (50%)
Significance of the benefits to Canadian society

  • Interaction between the magnitude and range/extent of the benefit:
    • The number, distribution, and characteristics of individuals who benefit (e.g., from specific marginalized or disadvantaged groups)
    • The timeliness of the benefit (“timeliness” refers to the idea that the benefit was realized at a favorable or useful point in time for users/beneficiaries)
    • The degree to which the benefit has enabled, enriched, influenced, informed or changed the performance, policies, practices, products, services, understanding, awareness or wellbeing of individuals who benefit
  • Stage of benefits (must be demonstrated and realized)
  • Extent to which the benefits are clearly underpinned by the research

The selection committee will recommend the successful candidates to NSERC. The committee may recommend not to award the prize in a given year if there is no outstanding nomination.

Notification of results

NSERC will electronically inform all nominees of the results of the annual competition by the end of June and publicly announce the names of the award recipients in the fall.