Code of Ethics and Business Conduct for NSERC Council Members


As part-time Governor-in-Council appointees, NSERC Council members are subject to the Conflict of Interest Act. The Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner administers the Conflict of Interest Act and helps public office holders avoid conflicts of interest.

The NSERC Code of Ethics and Business Conduct for NSERC Council Members (NSERC Code) sets out additional standards of ethics and conduct to which members must adhere with respect to their roles, duties and responsibilities. Members must conduct themselves with the highest level of ethical behaviour so as to uphold public confidence in their integrity, objectivity and impartiality, and in the decision-making process of the Council. The Guidelines on Conflict of Interest for NSERC Council Members provide details on managing conflicts of interest, and the Declaration for NSERC Council Members is to be signed by Council members.

Throughout their term on the Council, members must also abide by NSERC By-Law 2. When the Council acts as a selection committee, the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Policy of the Federal Research Funding Organizations and the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers apply.

The President and the Council Chair are responsible for final decisions related to the application of the NSERC Code. Members may seek assistance from the Corporate Secretary in interpreting the Code as necessary. The Corporate Secretary in turn, may seek advice from the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner and/or seek advice from legal counsel and senior management. The NSERC Code may cover situations and requirements with respect to the ethics, conduct and integrity expected of members not necessarily covered by the Conflict of Interest Act.

Members may seek assistance concerning their obligations under the Conflict of Interest Act directly from the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner. More information may be found in the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner's Web site.

Council members are also subject to the Ethical and Political Activity Guidelines for Public Office Holders, administered by the Privy Council Office (PCO). Members may seek assistance concerning their obligations under these guidelines directly from PCO. More information can be found in the Privy Council Office's Web site.

Conforming with all of these requirements does not absolve individual members of the responsibility to take such additional action as may be necessary to avoid real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest, and to meet the highest standards of ethical behaviour.

Purpose of the Code

The purpose of the NSERC Code is to:

  • establish clear guidelines respecting ethics and conduct;
  • establish clear guidelines respecting conflicts of interest, including those not covered by the federal Conflict of Interest Act;
  • place these guidelines in the public domain; and
  • provide for the resolution of conflicts in the public interest.

Council’s Role

The Council collectively represents the academic and private sector Research and Development (R&D) communities in natural sciences and engineering, as well as other stakeholder groups in the Canadian innovation system. The Council’s main responsibilities are to set the strategy and high level policies for NSERC, and to advise on the activities and directions of the organization. The Council works to achieve the maximum strategic impact for Canada from the expenditure of public funds, and to advance Canada’s research and development agenda. The specific roles and responsibilities of the Council are set out in the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act and the Council Profile document.

The Council approves funding allocations to broad program areas for grants, scholarships and fellowships. The responsibility for reviewing funding applications rests with various NSERC selection committees. Members are not normally involved in these reviews. However, members may be asked, on an exceptional basis, to recommend funding on certain awards to the President. Members may also be asked to Chair or be members of special, advisory or standing committees (for prizes, for example, or ad hoc policy committees).

Members are appointed as individuals; they are not the advocates or representatives of their disciplines nor are they the delegates of any organization. However, members may be recipients of NSERC awards, senior administrators of universities that benefit from NSERC support, or officers or employees of companies that may partner with NSERC.

General Principles of Ethics and Conduct for Members

The Ethical Guidelines for Public Office Holders address general principles on ethical standards, public scrutiny, decision-making and government property. In addition, the following principles form the basis of the NSERC Code. In carrying out their Council-related duties, members will:

Ethical standards and values

  • At no time act in such a manner as to take improper advantage of their membership role.

Conflict of interest

  • Ensure separation between their roles as applicants, grantees, supporters of applications and/or peer reviewers and as Council members.
  • Upon appointment and on an ongoing basis, disclose to the Corporate Secretary any real, perceived or potential conflict of interest with respect to a matter before the Council, and take appropriate and timely action to resolve the conflict in favour of the public interest, including where necessary, recusing themselves from Council meetings, activities, discussions and decisions relating to the matter.
  • Arrange their private affairs in a manner that will prevent real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest from arising.


  • Ensure that their private views do not lead to bias in the decision-making or review process.
  • Speak publicly in an official capacity only and with a unified voice about Council decisions and other NSERC business.

Private interests

  • Ensure that their private interests and those of their relatives and friends do not influence Council decisions, or the conduct of their duties and their responsibilities as Council members (private interests include personal, family, financial, professional and employment relationships, affiliations, associations and activities).


  • Treat as confidential any NSERC, government, proprietary or personal information not in the public domain that they are privy to as Council members.

Disclosure and Confirmation of Compliance

At the time of their appointment, members must report all personal, family, financial, professional and employment or other relationships, affiliations, associations or activities that may be reason for real, potential or perceived conflicts of interest with respect to their Council roles, duties and responsibilities. Council members are required to sign the Declaration for NSERC Council Members and to submit this signed declaration to the Corporate Secretary.

Any document provided by members shall be kept in secure personal files in the NSERC Records Office. As well, any material related to members' activities will always be stored in separate sealed envelopes. Access to the foregoing material will be limited to the Corporate Secretary, the Executive Vice-President, the President and the Council Chair (or their designates), unless otherwise required by law.

Council members will review their obligations as necessary (at least once per year) and will report in writing to the Corporate Secretary, as required, regarding any changes.

In the event of any failure to abide by the declaration and the requirements outlined above, the President and Chair will discuss the matter with the member and, if necessary, inform the Minister of Industry, the Privy Council Office and/or the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner.

September 2009

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