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Instructions for completing a letter of intent (LOI) to apply for a Discovery Horizons grant

On this page

General information

About the program

Read the program description before completing your LOI.

Am I eligible to apply?

Consult the Eligibility requirements for faculty to ensure that you can participate in this grant program as an applicant. NSERC verifies the eligibility of researchers only at the full application stage; however, it is important that you consult the eligibility criteria now and discuss any concerns with your institution’s research office. Co-applicants at the interdisciplinary frontier between natural sciences and engineering (NSE) and the areas covered under the umbrella of SSHRC and CIHR may be included in your application. College faculty members who meet the relevant eligibility criteria can participate in Discovery horizons as co-applicants.

Individuals participating in a Discovery Horizons grant as an applicant or co-applicant cannot hold both a Discovery Grant and a Discovery Horizons grant. Individuals who plan on submitting a Discovery Grant NOI for the current competition may participate in a Discovery Horizons LOI as an applicant or co-applicant. However, they will need to choose which program they wish to pursue before proceeding to the full application stage, as a full application may be only submitted to one program.

Whom should I contact for help?

Personal information

The information you provide in your application is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act. The collection, use, disclosure, retention, and disposal of this information are outlined in the following policy statements:

For more information, refer to the Personal Information Banks described in NSERC’s Info Source.

Self-identification information

You are required to complete the self-identification form in order to apply for NSERC funding; however, you may select “Prefer not to answer” for any or all questions. NSERC appreciates your participation, which supports the granting agencies in monitoring the equity of their programs and strengthening equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the research enterprise.

Self-identification information is collected as part of your user profile when you register in the Convergence Portal. It is not part of your application and is neither accessible to, nor shared with, external reviewers and/or selection committee members.

Discovery Horizons applicants and co-applicants will also be asked to provide consent for NSERC to potentially use their self-identification information to improve equity and diversity in funding decisions. Priority may be given to letters of intent and/or applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups, amongst similarly ranked LOIs and applications.

Application deadline

Your letter of intent to apply (LOI) must be received at NSERC by . The LOI will not be editable once it has been submitted.


You must complete your LOI using the Convergence Portal.

Create your LOI

  • As the applicant, you must create, complete and submit your LOI using the Convergence Portal. If you currently have an account on the Convergence Portal, please use your existing credentials. You can only access the Convergence portal with the latest versions of Google Chrome, Microsoft Edge, Apple Safari or Mozilla Firefox.
  • Select Funding Opportunities.
  • Select the Discovery Horizons funding opportunity labelled Stage: Letter of intent and select Create Application.

Participant eligibility

If you have previously completed an eligibility profile on Convergence, some fields will be pre-populated. You will be asked to review each screen and will have the opportunity to update any information you have previously provided.

Step 1 – Applicant eligibility: Answer the series of questions confirming the eligibility of your position and whether you fit NSERC’s definition of an early career researcher.

Step 2 – Affiliations: List all of your current affiliations and identify your primary affiliation. Select the organization that will administer the grant, even if you have not started the position yet.

Step 3 – Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI): Complete the self-identification form, as required in order to apply for NSERC funding. You may select “Prefer not to answer” for any or all questions; see the self-identification section above for more information.

Step 4 – Fields of research: List your fields of research and indicate at least one as a primary area of research. These do not need to be directly related to the application.

Step 5 – Keywords: Provide a minimum of five keywords that best describe, overall, your areas of research. They do not need to be directly related to a specific application and will not be used for evaluation purposes.

Step 6 – Summary: Review the content submitted and click Create Application.

Step 7 – Terms and conditions: Accept the terms and conditions to begin the application process.

Completing your LOI

Please note that some information provided in your LOI will flow through to pre-populate the relevant sections of your full application. You will be able to revise and/or modify those fields at the full application stage.

Application details

Application title: Provide a short and descriptive title. It may be used for publication purposes. Limit the use of abbreviated forms (e.g., DNA, NATO, etc.), and avoid company or trade names.

Note: You may edit the application title at the full application stage.

Language of the application: Indicate the language in which the application will be submitted. The main body of your application should be written in either English or French, rather than in a mix of both official languages.

Indigenous research: You must indicate if your proposed research involves Indigenous communities, societies or individuals and meets the specifications below to qualify as Indigenous research according to NSERC.

NSERC specifies Indigenous research as research in any field or discipline related to the natural sciences or engineering that is conducted by, grounded in, or meaningfully engaged with First Nations, Inuit, Métis or other Indigenous Peoples and Nations, communities, societies or individuals, and their wisdom, cultures, experiences or knowledge systems, as expressed in their dynamic forms, past and present.

Meaningful engagement means engagement at all stages of the process, “ensuring that various world views are represented in planning and decision making from the earlier stages of conception and design of projects through to the analysis and dissemination of results” (Tri-council policy statement 2). Indigenous research requires that research activities respond to community needs and priorities. This may involve:

  • contributing to the enhancement of community members’ skills and/or community capacity;
  • exploring opportunities for reciprocal learning and transfer of skills and knowledge between the community and the research team;
  • supporting a community in maintaining its culture, language and/or identity, as well as supporting its self-determination.

For additional guidance on NSERC’s expectations, read the CCI guide for research involving Indigenous Peoples and communities.

Fields of research

List the fields of research that best describe this specific application according to the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC) 2020 Version 1.0. You must name one primary field of research, and you may list up to a total of five fields of research.


List a minimum of five keywords that best describe this specific application. You may list up to a maximum of ten keywords.


Invite the co-applicants for this project. Note that co-applicants can be added or removed at both stages of the application (LOI or full application).

Those invited will receive an email, which will include your name (as the applicant), your email address and the project title, as well as a link to the Convergence Portal. Once they have selected Accept Invitation and completed their own eligibility profile, co-applicants’ names will be displayed in the Participants section of your application.

Consult the Eligibility criteria for faculty to ensure that potential co-applicants can participate in your project. Co-applicants at the interdisciplinary frontier between NSE and the areas covered under the umbrella of SSHRC and CIHR may be included in your application. College faculty members who meet the relevant eligibility criteria can participate in Discovery horizons as co-applicants. NSERC verifies the eligibility of researchers only at the full application stage, however, it is important that potential applicants consult the eligibility criteria now and discuss any concerns with their institution’s research office.

Note: Email addresses are not verified and bounce backs are not registered. We strongly recommend that you follow up directly with invited co-applicants if an individual has not accepted your invitation in a timely manner.


This section lists all co-applicants who have successfully joined the project. If an individual has not accepted your invitation, follow up with them to confirm they have received it. If an invited co-applicant is listed as Pending Eligibility, they have accepted your invitation, but not yet completed their eligibility profile. Before submitting your application, you must remove any invited participant(s) who have not completed their enrollment.


List the collaborators that will contribute to the execution of research activities, but who will not have access to grant funds.

Any individual whose contributions to the project will be supervised by a member of the research team and/or another collaborator cannot be considered a collaborator.

Suggested reviewers

Provide the contact information for a minimum of seven external reviewers for your full application who:

  • are not in a conflict of interest (see below for the guidelines surrounding conflicts of interest)
  • are not from your own institution
  • are from different institutions from one another
  • can provide an independent assessment of your application
  • are capable of reviewing your application in the language in which it is written

You are encouraged to suggest a diverse cross-section of potential reviewers with appropriate expertise (including Canadian, international, established and early career researchers, women and other underrepresented groups, those from both academic and non-academic institutions).

You must not contact suggested external reviewers in advance.

Conflict of interest guidelines

A conflict of interest may be deemed to exist or perceived as such when external reviewers: 

  • are a relative or close friend, or have a personal relationship with the applicant or co-applicants
  • are in a position to gain or lose financially/materially from the funding of the application
  • have had long-standing scientific or personal differences with the applicant or co-applicants
  • are currently affiliated with the applicant or co-applicants’ institutions, organizations or companies-including research hospitals and research institutes
  • are closely affiliated professionally with the applicant or co-applicants, as a result of having in the last six years
    • frequent and regular interactions with the applicant or co-applicants in the course of their duties at their department, institution, organization or company
    • been a supervisor or a trainee of the applicant or co-applicants
    • collaborated, published or shared funding with the applicant or co-applicants, or have plans to do so in the immediate future
    • been employed by the institution, when an institution is the applicant
  • feel, for any reason, unable to provide an impartial review of the application

NSERC reserves the right to resolve areas of uncertainty and to determine if a conflict of interest exists. For more information on conflicts of interest, refer to the Conflict of interest and confidentiality policy of the federal research funding organizations.

Reviewer exclusions

You may request that some researchers, organizations or large collaborations not be involved in the review of your application. Note that this request may be accessible to these researchers, organizations or collaborations under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

If you wish to exclude a research collaboration, whole department or institution, please contact the Discovery Horizons program staff at horizons@nserc-crsng.gc.ca.

Project summary and fit for program

LOIs will be assessed by peer reviewers evaluating the project’s relevance and fit to the Discovery Horizons program. Reviewers will rate the application, using the merit criteria grid included in the program description, based on the information you provide in your Project summary (2,500 characters max) and your responses to the four open text fit-to-program points listed below.

  • Explain how your project would benefit from being assessed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee, as opposed to a joint review by NSERC's Discovery Grants evaluation groups (1,000 characters max)
  • Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary approach is essential to achieving the project goals (1,000 characters max)
  • Describe how the interdisciplinary approach enriches HQP training (1,000 characters max)
  • Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary elements are integrated and inseparable (i.e., not sub-projects that could be reviewed on their own merit) (1,000 characters max).

Finalizing your LOI

Complete the sections identified by an exclamation mark before submitting.

Click on the Submit button at the bottom of the Finalize Application page and accept the terms and conditions.

You will receive a confirmation message on the web page. To verify the status of your submission, return to the home page. The status will be Received by Agency.

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