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Report on the applicant

Instructions for completing a report on the applicant – Form 201

General information

Complete the report if you have agreed to evaluate an applicant for an NSERC Postgraduate Scholarship – Doctoral (PGS D) or Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF). The report cannot be completed by a proposed supervisor unless that person is, or has been, the applicant's supervisor.

Refer to the Frequently asked questions for references completing a report on the applicant – Form 201 for more information.

Before proceeding

By submitting your report to NSERC, you confirm that you have read and understood these instructions. This is in addition to your acceptance of the terms and conditions for references. Refer to the Signatures section below.

Best practices for limiting unconscious biases

NSERC is committed to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion to ensure equitable access across its programs.

The following best practices and considerations should be taken into account when drafting the report:

  • Be accurate, fair, clear and balanced.
  • Avoid being unduly personal.
  • Support your points by providing specific examples of accomplishments where possible.
  • Use superlative descriptors (for example, excellent, outstanding) judiciously and support them with evidence.
  • Include only information that is relevant to the selection criteria (for example, do not include information related to ethnicity, age, hobbies, marital status, religion, disability status, financial need, etc.).
  • Avoid sharing personal information about the applicant. Such information may be helpful only in explaining academic delays or interruptions and should be addressed with caution.

Limiting unconscious bias

NSERC strongly encourages the use of inclusive language (for example, “the applicant” or “they” instead of “he/she”). The report should be free from words or sentences that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory language of particular people or groups or their institution.

Use of inclusive language has been shown to decrease unconscious bias during the evaluation process. For more information, refer to the Canada Research Chairs guidelines for letter writers on Limiting unconscious bias.

You should also refer to the tri-agency Bias in peer review training module as a guide for preventing unconscious bias in merit review.

For further information on unconscious bias, please consult the Department of Women and Gender Equality’s (formerly Status of Women Canada) This link will take you to another Web site Unconscious bias – Additional resources webpage.


Applicants have been advised to provide their references with a deadline that is well before the application deadline, to allow applicants to submit their completed application on time. NSERC will not consider the application as complete without your report.

Personal information

The collection, use and disclosure of personal information provided to NSERC is outlined in the following policy statements:

The information you provide in your report is collected under the authority of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council Act. NSERC is subject to the This link will take you to another Web site Access to Information Act and the This link will take you to another Web site Privacy Act. The information you provide is 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.

NSERC routinely gives applicants access to information about themselves that is kept in its files, but does not provide the applicant with the name of the person who submitted the evaluation or the names of any other applicants mentioned in a comparative context. However, due to the nature of the application process, applicants are usually aware of who has completed their evaluation. As a result, you cannot expect privacy or anonymity.

Help with the NSERC online system

  • Consult the Frequently asked questions on how to use the online system.
  • Review the instructions available in the application.
  • Contact the online services helpdesk. Send an email to or call 613-995-4273. Include your email address and telephone number.

Completing the report

Applicants will indicate in their application for a PGS D or PDF the name and email address of the two references who will complete the report. An email will be generated by the online system inviting you, as a reference, to complete the report. Follow the instructions in the email to provide your contact information and your assessment of the applicant. Complete and submit this information by the date specified by the applicant. You will also have access to the application submitted by the applicant.

Length of report

  • PGS D: You are limited to the space available in the box, which is approximately half a page.
  • PDF: The first box represents approximately half a page. You may use the second box to provide additional comments (approximately three-quarters of a page).

It is imperative that you preview your report before it is submitted to ensure that the text fits within the available space. Text that is not visible on the previewed report will not be seen by NSERC staff or the selection committee members.

Once the report is completed and submitted, the status of the report on the applicant’s portfolio will change to Completed. The report must be typed into the allotted text box(es). Submitted reports that direct the reader to an external source will be considered “incomplete” and the application will be rejected. Once the report is submitted, you will no longer have access to it. If you wish to make changes, you must communicate with the applicant and request that the report be “unlocked” for revisions. Once the report is unlocked, you will be able to make the changes and resubmit the report electronically. Once the applicant has submitted the full application to NSERC, this functionality will no longer be available.

Content of your report

In your report, comment on the selection criteria listed below. Rather than providing general comments, assess the applicant’s strengths and limitations for each criterion. Include examples of the applicant’s accomplishments and contributions to support your assessment, while taking measures to mitigate implicit or unconscious bias, as previously mentioned.

In preparing their report, references should consult the Selection criteria and indicators section and Appendix A of the Selection committee guide for Postgraduate Scholarships Doctoral and Postdoctoral Fellowships programs, which provides useful information on what committee members should look for in assessing applications.

Selection criteria

Refer to the Canada Graduate Scholarships – Doctoral (CGS D) program description for information on selection criteria.

For PDF applications

Criteria Description Weight
Research ability and potential
  • significance, feasibility and merit of research proposal
  • contributions to research and development (publications, conference presentations and/or proceedings, poster presentations, technical reports or patents)
  • academic training and relevant work experience
  • scholarships and awards
  • researcher attributes (critical thinking, application of knowledge, judgment, originality, initiative, autonomy and enthusiasm for research)
  • justification for location of tenure (PDF only)
  • ability to complete projects within an appropriate time period (if applicable, the applicant’s explanation of any special circumstances must be taken into consideration)

Communication, interpersonal and leadership abilities

  • professional, academic and extracurricular interactions and collaborations with supervisors, colleagues, peers, students and members of the community
  • teaching, mentoring, supervising and/or coaching
  • managing projects
  • participating in science promotion, science/community outreach, volunteer work and/or civic engagement
  • chairing committees and/or organizing conferences and meetings
  • participating in departmental or institutional organizations, associations, societies and/or clubs
  • industrial work experience
  • awards for papers, reports, posters, oral presentations, teaching and/or volunteer/outreach work
  • participation in publication writing


NSERC does not require original signatures on applications or other documents submitted electronically through its online system. The electronic submission of applications through this system represents approval and replaces the traditional “physical” or “wet” signatures.