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Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program

Instructions to external reviewers – Form 140

Before proceeding

Your signature on the paper version of the review form, or transmission of your final evaluation to NSERC either by mail or by using the electronic evaluation process, means that you have read these instructions and that you consent to these uses and disclosures.

In addition, you may refer to:

Information on the following topics is provided below:

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Conflict of interest

If you are in a conflict of interest or for any other reason unable to act as an external reviewer, please contact us directly or send us an email at as soon as possible. In order to identify yourself and the application(s) you are unable to review, please indicate your Personal Identification Number (PIN) and the committee and application number in the SUBJECT line of your e-mail message.

Suggested external reviewers should not be in a conflict of interest. Refer to the This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Policy of the Federal Research Funding Organizations for more information. In addition, external reviewers must sign the This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers before they access the application material.

Allegations of policy breaches

Allegations of policy breaches, as described in the This link will take you to another Web site Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research, must be treated separately from the peer review process. Should your review reveal concerns of possible policy breaches, report any allegation separately to the Secretariat on Responsible Conduct of Research. Your evaluation should only address the application you have evaluated according to the selection criteria and make no mention of the breach concerns.

Collection and use of personal information

The information you provide is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act and stored in a series of NSERC data banks described in This link will take you to another Web site Information about programs and information holdings. Details on the use and disclosure of this information are described in Use and Disclosure of Personal Information Provided to NSERC. The information is used in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

How to evaluate the proposal

Please assess the proposal using the evaluation criteria described below. For each criterion, please provide your comments in the text box located on the Referee Report/Application for a grant (Form 140).

Note on student identification: Applicants should not be penalized for not having the specific names of students if generic information is provided. NSERC requires applicants to obtain consent forms from students before including their names on a Personal Data Form (Form 100). As this is not always feasible, applicants also have the option of providing information on students without providing their names (this information might be more generic).

Evaluation criteria

The three criteria listed below will be weighted as follows:

  1. Merit of the proposed training program: 50%
  2. Excellence of the team of researchers: 25%
  3. Program management and long-term sustainability: 25%
1. Merit of the proposed training program
  • Will the training program uniquely prepare trainees to become well-rounded, high-quality students and fellows capable of productive careers in different sectors such as industry, university, government and non-profit organizations?
  • Will the mentoring and training environment be improved for Canadian researchers of tomorrow (for example, by improving their communication, collaboration and professional skills, and providing them with experience relevant to both academic and non-academic research environments)? Will the standards for best practices in the mentoring and training of researchers be raised?
  • Will the quality of students and fellows be improved given that the training program should bring qualitative added value compared to existing training initiatives, or what is already achieved by funding trainees from individual grants or by individual awards directly to trainees.
  • Will the research training experience focus on providing an enriched training experience for graduate (master's and doctoral) students through novel and interesting approaches?
  • Did the proposal indicate clearly how the candidates will meet the training needs for each category of trainees listed?
  • Did the proposal include a description of the potential employers and a qualitative assessment of the job prospects for trainees?

Applicable to all proposals

  • The extent to which the program will provide a high quality of training and facilitate the transition to the workforce;
  • The extent to which the program will provide opportunities for the trainees to develop professional skills;
  • The extent to which the program will allow trainees to analyze, synthesize and harmonize links within and between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole;
  • The research program’s focus and clarity of objectives, both short- and long-term;
  • How the research relates to the current scientific and/or technical developments in the field with references to the current literature.

Applicable to the industrial stream

  • The extent to which the program will be useful in developing professional skills that will benefit the industrial employer by improving job readiness immediately after graduation;
  • The extent to which the program will increase the supply of highly qualified personnel (HQP) for the industrial sector;
  • The extent to which the program will improve linkages between industry and academia.

Note: A financial contribution from industry is not a requirement but would be viewed as an asset.

As appropriate to specific proposals

  • How the training will benefit from the mobility of students and fellows between academic institutions and organizations within Canada or abroad, and the extent to which the program will promote interaction of the trainees with non-academic sectors, such as private companies, industry associations, not-for-profit organizations, government departments, etc.;
  • The degree to which the training program fosters research at the interface between the natural sciences and engineering (NSE) and the health and/or social sciences and humanities (however, the main focus of the training must still lie within the NSE);
  • The degree to which the program involves a variety of research disciplines and approaches. Applicants should explain how the training program's content/approach provides trainees with an appreciation for an interdisciplinary approach to research. Note: Interdisciplinary is defined as the ability to analyze, synthesize and harmonize links between disciplines into a coordinated and coherent whole.

2. Excellence of the team of researchers

  • Quality and impact of the team members’ past contributions to their respective areas of research;
  • Complementarities of the expertise of the members of the group to deliver on the collaborative research and training goals proposed. Applicants should explain their respective roles and responsibilities within the training program and should differentiate between key mentors and other team members, for example, those committing five or more hours per week to the program;
  • Quality and extent of past contributions to the training of highly qualified personnel;
  • If applicable, the role of current holders of, or participants in, an on-going CREATE Grant relative to their role in the proposed CREATE initiative must be explained.

Further information about guidelines on the assessment of contributions to research and training can be found on NSERC Web site under the Policy and Guidelines on the Assessment of Contributions to Research and Training.

3. Program management and long-term sustainability

  • The appropriateness of the proposed management structure, including the composition, the role and the responsibilities of the program committee;
  • The reliability of the project management plans for the implementation of the training program and for the evaluation of the program's performance against stated objectives;
  • The recruitment strategy for attracting a high quality and diverse group of trainees and the selection process that will be used, as well as the appropriateness of the various level of trainees involved (undergraduate to postdoctoral level);
  • In support of the NSERC 2020 goal of Building a Diversified Base, the CREATE program will build on its efforts to increase the participation of women in CREATE initiatives. In addition to the goal mentioned above, applicants are now required to describe their efforts to address gender equity within the "Program management and long-term sustainability" criterion of the program. Applicants must describe the current environment with regard to gender representation in their discipline and to describe what steps their CREATE initiative plan to take to make progress towards a balanced representation of trainees and in their supervisors, role models and mentors. How effective will the efforts described by the applicants be in supporting NSERC’s goal of Building a Diversified Base?
  • The evidence of the university's commitment to facilitate and further the plans and goals of the CREATE Program, during and beyond the term of the grant, including details of the steps taken to contribute to the success of the initiative;
  • The provision of adequate facilities for carrying out the research;
  • For industrial applications, how well are the industrial internships integrated into the program? Does the program committee structure include industrial participation that is appropriate?
  •  A plan for ensuring that the program will be self-sustaining beyond the period of the grant.


Overall, it is critical that applicants demonstrate the training program's excellence and that it brings added value, in terms of the approach to the research training, to what would have occurred in the absence of an NSERC CREATE Grant. External reviewers should take into consideration the following points when evaluating the proposal against the criteria.

  • Rationale/objectives
    • To what degree will the training program provide a high-quality training and mentoring environment with the potential to have a significant impact on an important research challenge?
    • Does the proposed training program meet the objectives of the CREATE Program?

  • Team of mentors
    • Consider the research achievements, potential and training/mentoring record of the faculty members and other instructors or consultants associated with the program.
    • These individuals should have a stellar track record of training successful researchers and bring a mix of disciplinary expertise and perspectives consistent with the program's objectives.
    • The roles of the team members should be clearly explained; applicants should differentiate between key mentors and other team members.

External reviewers should note that the program is also open to less experienced researchers. The excellence of the team should be assessed and the limited research experience of some candidates should be compensated for by other researchers’ strengths.

  • Curriculum, innovation and approaches
    • Plans for the development and dissemination of curriculum materials and innovative and more effective approaches to training and mentoring.
    • These innovations should represent improvements over current practices, and may focus on the unique experiences or facilities available to the trainees in the program.
    • With the addition of the industrial stream, an additional objective is to support improved job-readiness within the industrial sector by exposing participants to the specific challenges of this sector and training people with the skills identified as needed for a career in industry—such as leadership, business management, entrepreneurship and marketing.

  • Collaborative team research
    • How well does the program promote collaborative, team research by bringing researchers together from different disciplines to address major research challenges?
    • The training program should provide deep knowledge and technical skills in a chosen discipline and develop an ability to work collaboratively with colleagues in other disciplines and professions.

  • Professional skills, ethics and knowledge translation

    How well does the program support the development of well-rounded researchers by integrating training on:
    • professional skills such as communication, teamwork, project management and leadership;
    • the ethical conduct of research and related ethical issues;
    • knowledge translation.

  • Institutional support and long-term sustainability

    Commitment of the university:
    • to facilitate and further the plans and goals of the training program;
    • to create a supportive environment for collaborative team research that crosses disciplines;
    • to sustain the successful elements of the training program after NSERC funding ends.

Note: This includes all types of support, not just monetary, and takes into consideration the comparative ease with which different types of applications are likely to attract support.


On the balance of its strengths and weaknesses, would you recommend funding of this proposal?