Discovery Grants: applicant categories

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Note: Applicant categorization is the responsibility of NSERC staff and is based on the information provided by the applicant in the Canadian Common CV (CCV) and application.

What is an early career researcher?

Early career researchers (ECR) are applicants who have held their first independent academic position within the last five years. For example, to be classified as an ECR, a researcher submitting an NOI in August 2024 would have been hired on or after July 1, 2019. The five-year window for being considered an ECR is adjusted to take into account instances where a researcher has had an eligible delay in research. All eligible leaves (for example, maternity and parental leave, personal illness, chronic illness, or disability associated with reduced research activity, leave taken by applicants for family-related illness, bereavement), as well as delays related to COVID-19, are credited as twice the amount of time taken. For example, a researcher submitting an NOI in August 2024 and who took a seven-month parental leave within the past five years must have been hired on or after May 2018 to be considered an ECR. Professional leaves (for example, training, sabbatical, administrative) are not credited.

What is an established researcher?

Established researchers (ER) are applicants who have held an independent academic position with a start date before the last five years.

What does NSERC mean by independent academic position?

An independent academic position is a position that

  • is a university faculty appointment (tenured or non-tenured)
  • requires that the researcher engages in research that is not under the direction of another individual
  • authorizes the researcher to supervise or co-supervise the research of students registered in an undergraduate or graduate degree program or postdoctoral fellows

How does NSERC support ECRs?

While applications from ECRs are evaluated against the same selection criteria as ERs, the assessment process for ECRs includes provisions for cases where the applicant’s past contributions to training are minimal. Furthermore, NSERC monitors the success rates for ECRs to ensure they are acceptable, and it may implement a different quality cut-off for funding of ECRs.  

NSERC devotes additional funds to ECRs through their Discovery Grants (DG) and through the Discovery Launch Supplement program. NSERC offers ECRs who are scheduled to apply for their second DG the option of requesting an additional year of funding on their existing DG at the same level. This optional one-year extension is meant to provide additional time for ECRs to establish their research programs before reapplying to the Discovery Grants program as ERs.

An applicant may hold only one NSERC Discovery Grant of standard duration as an ECR, after which time the applicant will be considered an ER.

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