Discovery Grants Information Centre

The Discovery Grants Program

The Discovery Grants (DG) Program is NSERC's largest and longest-standing program. These grants are awarded based on a competitive merit assessment and typically last for five years. By supporting ongoing research programs with long-term goals, rather than a single short-term project or collection of projects, the DG Program provides the flexibility to explore the most promising avenues of research as they emerge.

Successful applications must meet a high standard of quality on the following three equally weighted selection criteria:

  • Scientific or engineering excellence of the researcher;
  • Merit of the proposal;
  • Contributions to the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP).

Merit assessment

Every year, NSERC engages experts from universities, government, and industry to participate in the merit assessment process as external reviewers or members of our review committees. These national and international experts in scientific and engineering disciplines devote considerable time and effort, on a volunteer basis, to reviewing applications.

Review committee members use established merit indicators to rate each of the selection criteria. As a signatory to the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), NSERC is committed to excellence in research funding and to ensuring that a broad range of contributions to research, training and mentoring are considered and valued as part of the assessment process.

Funding decisions

Funding decisions are the responsibility of NSERC and are based on the merit assessments. NSERC uses the merit indicator ratings assigned to applications to award grants on a competitive basis. There is a minimum rating threshold considered acceptable for funding; the final funding decisions also take into account budget availability.

Funding decisions are guided by the following principles to ensure the objectives of the DG Program are met and the total grants awarded in each competition do not exceed the available budget:

  • Support research excellence, as determined through a competitive merit assessment, that values a wide range of contributions to the natural sciences and engineering. 
  • Recognize the value of diversity in scientific research and engineering advancements by supporting a diversified base of high-quality research in the natural sciences and engineering. Diversity could include institution size, research area, career stage, perspective, and experience. 
  • Award comparable funding to successful applications of comparable merit. 
  • Provide long-term operating funds that serve as a foundation for internationally competitive research and can facilitate access to funding from other programs.

Increasing equity in funding outcomes

NSERC recognizes that a broad range of perspectives, experiences, and ideas enrich research excellence, drive innovation, and contribute to meaningful societal impact. However, systemic barriers have perpetuated underrepresentation and limited the full participation of all talented individuals in scientific research and engineering.

NSERC aims to create a more inclusive and merit-based evaluation process through measures such as unconscious bias training for peer reviewers, the adoption of DORA principles, the development of policy tools to better identify and support Indigenous Research and Indigenous researchers, and guidance on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research.

DG applicants are also given the option to consent to the use of their self-identification information in funding decisions. This self-identification information may be used to adjust the proportion of funded applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups relative to the proportion of applications received from these groups. The adjustments would only be made amongst meritorious applications. All self-identification information, including the consent, is not accessible to, nor shared with, external reviewers and/or committee members.


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