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

Common menu bar links

Subatomic Physics Discovery Grants program (individual and project)

NSERC recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting researchers’ and students’ capacity to conduct their regular research and training activities. NSERC has published guidelines on the consideration of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on research and training activities. These guidelines provide direction on how to describe these impacts in an application and information on how they will be considered in the review of contributions to research and training and research and training plans

To lessen the impact of COVID-19 and to support all of our researchers and highly qualified personnel, all eligible active Discovery Grant holders will be given the opportunity to receive a one-time one-year extension with funds at their current funding level. For more information, refer to the frequently asked questions.

Duration Individual: Up to five years
Project: Up to three years
Application deadline August 2, 2022 (notification of intent to apply)
October 3, 2022 (subatomic physics project applications requesting $500,000 or more per year)
November 1, 2022 (application) 
Application procedure See below.
How to apply
Contact Consult the contact list.

Important information


The Subatomic Physics (SAP) Discovery Grants program assists in

  • promoting and maintaining a diversified base of high-quality research capability in the natural sciences and engineering in Canadian universities
  • fostering research excellence
  • providing a stimulating environment for research training


The SAP Discovery Grants program supports both ongoing programs of research, with long-term goals (SAP Individual), as well as research projects with long-term visions and short-term objectives (SAP Project). These grants recognize the creativity and innovation that are at the heart of all research advances, whether made individually or as a collaboration. Researchers are free to work in the mode most appropriate for the research area.

NSERC recognizes that, while being of a grant-in-aid nature, SAP Discovery Grants must be sufficient to support a program or project of quality research that can have a meaningful impact on the field of study.

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 (EDI).

Applicants are expected to increase the inclusion and advancement of under-represented groups in the natural sciences and engineering, as one means to enhance excellence in research and training. Where applicable, consideration of sex, gender and diversity in the research design should be addressed in the proposal. EDI considerations should be developed into the rationale for the composition of research teams, including trainees. Ad-hoc expert reviews for large projects (see Review procedures and selection criteria section below) will be expected to address equity, diversity and inclusion considerations. For more information, refer to the application instructions and NSERC’s guide on Equity, diversity and inclusion considerations at each stage of the research process.

Note: Research teams or collaborations should strive for a diverse group of team members, including balanced gender representation. EDI considerations should be reflected in the rationale of the team composition and in the designated roles within the team. Moreover, where applicable, applicants should describe how they have implemented and/or will implement strategies and practices to support EDI within the team (e.g., recruitment of team members, management of the team, mentorship, etc.). For more information, applicants should refer to the application instructions and the guide, EDI considerations for research teams.

General eligibility principles

Individual grants

  • Researchers can apply for only one Individual Discovery Grant (either SAP or not) at a time.
  • Recipients of SAP Individual Discovery Grants are not restricted to the specific activities described in the application but may pursue new research interests, provided they are within NSERC’s mandate and adhere to the principles and directives governing the appropriate use of grant funds, as outlined in the Tri-agency guide on financial administration.
  • Researchers who hold an Individual Discovery Grant cannot reapply for another Individual Discovery Grant until the last year of their current award.
  • SAP Individual Discovery Grants are awarded for one to five years, the normal duration being five years. Applicants requesting a shorter duration for other reasons must provide strong justification. NSERC may award a grant of the normal duration even if a shorter period is requested.

Project grants

  • Researchers can hold or apply for a SAP Project Discovery Grant, as either an applicant or co-applicant, at the same time as they hold or apply for an Individual Discovery Grant.
  • Researchers can concurrently hold or apply for more than one SAP Project Discovery Grant, as either an applicant or co-applicant.
  • SAP collaborations that hold a Project Discovery Grant cannot reapply for another Project Discovery Grant that relates to the same research program until the last year of their current award.
  • Members of a SAP collaboration who are applying for a SAP Project Grant cannot normally apply for another SAP Discovery Grant to support research activities that are part of the collaboration’s program of research. If you wish to submit a concurrent application, please consult NSERC.
  • When joining a SAP collaboration that is supported by an ongoing SAP Project Grant, researchers can apply for bridging funds through a SAP Project Grant for a duration that would, upon completion, align with the collaboration’s renewal application.
  • Should an applicant apply for bridging grant funds, a letter of support from the primary applicant of the main award must be included which describes:
    • how the activities in the bridging grant application fit within the scope of the main project;
    • why the proposed activities cannot be supported with funds already awarded to the main project; and
    • what impact an unsuccessful bridging grant application would have on the project.
  • Eligible researchers who wish to join a SAP collaboration without bridging funds can do so by being added as a co-applicant to an existing award at any point throughout the duration of the award. If you wish to add a co-applicant to an existing award, please consult NSERC.
  • SAP Project Grant application must include at least one co-applicant.
  • SAP Project Grants are awarded for one to three years, the normal duration being three years. Applicants requesting a shorter duration must provide strong justification.

Subject matter eligibility and funding from other sources

Applicants to the SAP Discovery Grants program must present a program of research or a research project that is eligible under NSERC’s mandate, which is to promote and assist research in the natural sciences and engineering, other than health. The objectives of the research program or project must be to advance knowledge in the natural sciences or in engineering. The application will be rejected if NSERC determines, at any time during the review cycle, that the subject matter is outside of its mandate. Refer to This link will take you to another Web site Selecting the appropriate federal granting agency, the Addendum to the guidelines for the eligibility of applications related to health, the Peer review manuals, the Peer review manual and NSERC Discovery Grants process for decisions on mandate eligibility for further information on the eligibility of subject matter.

Applicants to the Discovery Grants program must present a program of research or a project that is conceptually distinct from research supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) or the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

NSERC encourages researchers to obtain funds from other sources to support the full costs of the research program or project presented in their Discovery Grant application, as long as the funding source is not CIHR or SSHRC and the funds cover different expenses from the ones proposed in the Discovery Grant application.

Refer to the peer review manuals and Instructions for completing an application for further information.

Applicant categories

Applicants to the Discovery Grants program are categorized as either early career researchers or established researchers. Refer to the Discovery Grants - applicant categories for more information. Applicant categorization is the responsibility of NSERC staff and is based on the information provided by the applicant in the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Common CV (CCV) and application.

Application procedures

To apply for a SAP Discovery Grant, applicants must first submit a SAP notification of intent to apply (NOI) by the deadline date. The NOI is a mandatory step in the application process. It allows NSERC to start the review process (e.g., confirmation of assignment to the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section, selection of appropriate external reviewers and determination of the most appropriate review mechanism for project applications requesting major financial support). Applicants must then submit the application by the deadline date.

Both applicants and co-applicants must complete and submit the NSERC version of the CCV at both the NOI and full application stages for this program. The CCV can be updated following submission of the NOI and before submission of the full application.

Review procedures

Applications are reviewed by the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section. For each application, expert input is sought from external reviewers. Furthermore, for any application requesting an average of $1,000,000 per year or more, the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section may also receive input from an ad-hoc committee that would perform an expert review of the application. NSERC reserves the right to perform an expert review of any application that applies to the SAP Discovery Grants program, even for requests that are less than an average of $1,000,000 per year. Applicants may be invited to make a presentation during the Large Project Day held every year by the committee. For Large Projects, past messages from the Evaluation Section may be provided to reviewing members.

NSERC assigns SAP Individual applications to the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section and other evaluation groups on the basis of the research topics, the objectives of the proposed research program and advice from the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section and other evaluation groups. NSERC will make the final decision regarding the assignment.

Selection criteria

Applications are assessed according to the following criteria. The onus is on applicants to address these explicitly in their proposal. As part of an ongoing commitment to ensure that a wide range of contributions are considered and valued in the merit review, applications will be considered according to the Guidelines on the assessment of contributions to research, training and mentoring.

  • Scientific or engineering excellence of the researcher or collaboration 
    • knowledge, expertise and experience
    • quality of contributions to, and impact on, the proposed and other areas of research in the natural sciences and engineering
    • importance of contributions to, and use by, other researchers and end-users
    • complementarity of expertise of the members of the team and synergy (where applicable)
  • Merit of the proposal
    • originality and innovation; extent to which the proposal suggests and explores novel or potentially transformative concepts and lines of inquiry
    • significance and expected contributions to research; potential for technological impact
    • clarity and scope of objectives
    • clarity and appropriateness of methodology
    • feasibility
    • extent to which the scope of the proposal addresses all relevant issues, including the need for varied expertise within or across disciplines
  • Contribution to the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) 
    • quality and impact of past contributions to the training of HQP (e.g., postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, technicians), including
      • training environment provided for HQP
      • HQP awards and research contributions
      • outcomes and skills gained by HQP
    • quality, suitability and clarity of the planned training of HQP, including
      • overall training philosophy
      • research training plan for individual HQP
    • consideration of equity, diversity and inclusion in past and planned training of HQP
  • Need for funds
    • appropriateness of, and justification for, the budget
    • explanation of the relationship between other sources of funding, held or applied for, and the current application
    • special needs related to the nature of collaborative activities or infrastructure costs, such as user fees