Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Plastics science for a cleaner future

Overview
Duration

1 to 4 years

Application Deadline July 8, 2020 – letter of intent deadline
October 1, 2020 – full application deadline (only if invited by NSERC)
Application Forms
  • Form 100A – Personal Data Form
  • Form 101 – Application for a Grant
Find the application instructions here. To create or access an application, select On-line System Login.
For More Information Consult the Contact List

Context

The Government of Canada has made reducing plastic pollution and its impacts a priority. In 2018, to help reduce plastic waste and pollution and to shift to a circular economy for plastics in Canada, the Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) released a This link will take you to another Web site Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste.

To support a role for science in achieving the goals of the strategy, the federal government also developed This link will take you to another Web site Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda (CaPSA). CaPSA identifies priority research areas to inform research investments for detecting plastics in the environment; understanding and mitigating potential impacts to wildlife, human health, and the environment; and advancing sustainable plastic production, recycling and recovery.  

Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) and Health Canada recently released a This link will take you to another Web site Draft science assessment of plastic pollution, which reviews the available scientific information on the occurrence and impact of plastic pollution on the environment and human health. The report also identified key knowledge gaps and recommended further research to improve understanding of the hazards posed by plastic pollution. This call for proposals will increase the available science in these areas.

Informed by CaPSA and the Draft science assessment of plastic pollution, ECCC and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) are collaborating to support research that will increase scientific knowledge to achieve Canada’s zero plastic waste targets (outlined in the strategy and the This link will take you to another Web site Ocean Plastics Charter) and to inform the advancement of policy and regulatory measures. This call focuses on research to detect and characterize plastics in the environment, and exposure and effects of plastics on wildlife and human health. This call is to fund multidisciplinary, collaborative networks of researchers to address the research objectives. This approach will help advance knowledge of standardized and harmonized methods and will support innovative, robust, and authoritative studies on plastic pollution.

Individual proposals should not exceed four years or $1,000,000. This competition aims to fund an average of two projects per research objective. To apply, you must submit a letter of intent. If your project is selected, you will be invited to submit a full application.

You are encouraged to collaborate with knowledge users (such as government policymakers, stewardship councils, communities, etc.) to support knowledge mobilization. You are also strongly encouraged to bring together multidisciplinary expertise within networked project teams (e.g., resin experts to support innovative characterization methods, various laboratories to assess methods, and artificial intelligence or remote sensing experts to support identification, characterization, and modelling).

All project expenditures are subject to the principles and directives governing the appropriate use of grant funds as outlined in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration. The maximum level of total government assistance (from federal, provincial, and municipal governments for the same eligible expenditures) must not exceed 100 per cent of eligible expenditures. You must follow the Tri-Council Open Access Policy, and you are also encouraged to make any publication data resulting from funded projects open access.

Program objectives

Plastics science for a cleaner future will provide funding for a series of projects, to:

  • increase research capacity, as well as collaboration, to help close the gaps in our understanding of plastic pollution and its impacts
  • generate new knowledge to support policy and decision-making related to plastic pollution, as well as to the objectives of the Canada-wide strategy on zero plastic waste

Research objectives

The proposed research project must address at least one of the following research objectives:

  • Detection, quantification, and characterization of microplastics in the environment: to help understand the sources, fate and different types of microplastics, with consideration for their structural and chemical properties, by either:
    • developing novel methodologies or improving techniques for the detection, quantification, and characterization of microplastics in biological or environmental samples
    • comparing, evaluating, and validating analytical methodologies and protocols for the detection, quantification, and characterization of microplastics in order to contribute to their standardization, validity, and reliability
    • contributing knowledge to the study of occurrence, sources, transportation, and break-down/transformation of microplastics in: air, dust, drinking water, wastewater, food, terrestrial ecosystems, and fresh water and marine ecosystems.  
  • Impacts on human health, wildlife (biota), and the environment: to advance research on the effects of macroplastics and microplastics, including:
    • developing new methodologies or improving current techniques for studying the effects of plastics on human health, biota, and the environment
    • studying the acute and chronic effects (in vitro and in vivo) of environmentally-relevant plastic pollution at the individual-, community-, and population-level for wildlife and humans; this includes project components to research the degradation of plastics within various environmental settings

Applicants

You must meet NSERC’s eligibility criteria when you apply and when funding is released.   

Letter of intent submission and review

You must submit a letter of intent (LOI), including a cover page (one page) and research proposal (three pages). All documents should follow the NSERC On-line Presentation and Attachment Standards.

The cover page must include:

  • the project title
  • up to 10 keywords
  • an approximate budget request, by project year
  • the applicant’s name, affiliation and email address
  • a list of co-applicants, with affiliation and email address
  • a list of non-academic collaborators, with affiliation and email address, if applicable

The research proposal must describe:

  • the main research objectives and expected outcomes
  • how the research fits within the program and research objectives
  • the novelty of the project and main concepts and approaches
  • members of the team, their expertise and expected contributions
  • key elements of a proposed knowledge mobilization plan
  • relevance of the project to Canada and stakeholders

The LOI should be saved as a single portable document format (PDF) document and uploaded to NSERC’s secure portal by the deadline. 

LOIs will be reviewed by a selection panel comprising representatives of NSERC, ECCC and Health Canada (as well as other federal agencies, if applicable) using the evaluation criteria (below). The LOI will be evaluated against these criteria on a six-point scale: outstanding, excellent, very strong, strong, acceptable or inadequate. The results of the evaluation cannot be appealed. NSERC will invite full applications for the most highly rated LOIs.

1) Relevance

The project must support the objectives of Plastics science for a cleaner future. The LOI must explain how the project will address one or more of the specific research objectives and how a networked project team will be mobilized. The LOI must also demonstrate how the project will help address gaps in current knowledge about plastic pollution, for example, as discussed in Canada’s Plastics Science Agenda and the This link will take you to another Web site Draft science assessment of plastic pollution.

2) Knowledge mobilization

The proposal must demonstrate how knowledge will be shared, communicated and disseminated by the research team and exploited by knowledge users, collaborators and/or stakeholders. The proposal must also address how the research team will make linkages to, or build relationships with, knowledge users, so that new knowledge will support policy- and decision-making on plastic pollution. 

Full application submission and review (by invitation)

You must submit the application by the deadline. NSERC will screen all applications to ensure they are complete and adhere to program requirements and objectives. If your application does not meet all program requirements, it will be rejected. An evaluation committee composed of distinguished members from academia and non-academic organizations (such as industry, government or not-for-profit organizations) will review applications. In making an overall funding recommendation for each application, the evaluation committee will consider the evaluation criteria (below). The results of the review cannot be appealed.

A complete application includes:

  • Proposal: Application for a Grant (Form 101)
  • Applicant: Complete a Personal Data Form with CCV Attachment (Form 100A)
  • Co-applicants: Complete a Personal Data Form with CCV Attachment (Form 100A)

Collaboration outside the natural sciences and engineering

You are encouraged to collaborate with experts in fields other than the natural sciences and engineering, where appropriate, since implementing policy or applying the research results can depend on socioeconomic considerations as well as scientific understanding. Academic researchers outside the natural sciences and engineering may participate in proposals as co-applicants if they meet NSERC’s eligibility requirements for the type, duration and nature of the appointment. Research costs for these collaborations may account for up to 30 per cent of the project costs and must be identified in the project budget. All project expenditures are subject to the principles and directives governing the appropriate use of grant funds as outlined in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

NSERC is acting on the evidence that equity, diversity and inclusion strengthen the scientific and engineering community and the quality, social relevance and impact of research. Increasing diversity and gender equity in the research enterprise are key priorities in our current strategic plan, NSERC 2020, and are highlighted in the strategic goal of “Building a Diversified and Competitive Research Base.” You must strive for diversity and increased gender equity when developing your group of co-applicants, collaborators and trainees. See the Guide for Applicants: Considering equity, diversity and inclusion in your application.

Evaluation criteria

Applications will be evaluated according to the following criteria. More details on each criterion are provided in the application instructions. Each criterion is given equal weight in the evaluation.

Merit of the proposed activities: The quality, originality and feasibility of the proposed activities will be assessed, as well as how new knowledge generated will impact the field of research. Open access and open data commitments will be highly regarded.

Competence of the research team: The research team must have all the expertise needed to address the defined objectives and complete the project successfully. The contributions of individuals to the research effort must be clear. Their expertise must be appropriate to the proposed project, the expertise of individual members of the team must be complementary, and their combined expertise must be sufficiently broad. Team composition must take into account diversity and gender equity. Interdisciplinarity is strongly encouraged and will be highly regarded.

Relevance to Canada: The research activities should generate results that will further knowledge, contribute exploitable research results, provide benefits to Canada and stakeholders, as well as support the program objectives. Demonstrated relevance to policy will be highly regarded.

Knowledge mobilization plan: Projects must incorporate a knowledge mobilization plan that includes mechanisms to share new knowledge with knowledge users. Direct collaboration with knowledge users will be highly regarded. Consideration will be given to the researchers’ track record in transferring research results to a user sector.

Contribution to training: Projects must contribute to the training of students and other highly qualified personnel to increase research capacity on plastic pollution and its impacts. Projects must have appropriate measures to advance diversity and gender equity within the project’s training activities.

Project work plan: The project work plan must be clear, coherent and achievable. It must explain how the project team will function. The budget must be justified to support the proposed research activities, and its appropriateness will be evaluated.

Reporting

You will be informed of reporting requirements and the corresponding schedule when you are notified of your award. ECCC and NSERC will strive to streamline their reporting requirements to lessen the burden on researchers.