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NSERC prizes - Polanyi

Call for nominations

The new dates for the call for nominations for this prize will be announced later in the year.

The NSERC John C. Polanyi Award was created to recognize and support a university researcher or team of researchers whose work has led to a recent outstanding Canadian advance in a field of the natural sciences or engineering.

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.


Candidates may be nominated by any individual or group. Self-nominations will not be accepted. In the case of individual candidates, posthumous nominations will also not be accepted. Current NSERC Council members are not eligible for nomination.

Candidates can be at any stage in their career, but at least one of the candidates must hold an NSERC research grant. Also, the research that led to the advance described in the nomination must have been supported by NSERC. NSERC reserves the right to rule on the eligibility of nominations and nominees.

NSERC strongly encourages nominators and university officials to consider equity, diversity and inclusion in their nomination processes.

In the case of a team nomination, members may be from academia, government or industry, and may be research associates, postdoctoral fellows or students. The team can be part of an international effort, but the majority of the nominated team members must be employed at a Canadian university or public or private organization. NSERC recognizes that teams may change between the time of the specific research achievements and the time of nomination. Nominations will be accepted when changes have occurred, but only where the core of the team remains intact.

An individual or team may be nominated for the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award and other NSERC prizes (Herzberg, Brockhouse, McDonald, Synergy or Strickland) in the same year, but can only receive one prize in a given year.

Selection criteria and evaluation

Nominations will be judged on the significance and impact of the advance. Note that the stature of the candidates is not an evaluation criterion for this prize. While the interpretation of a “recent” advance is different among disciplines, NSERC has ruled that a period of less than ten years would be appropriate for most disciplines.

A diverse selection committee of academic, government and industry research representatives from a variety of disciplines will review the nominations and recommend the successful candidates to NSERC. Members are selected according to NSERC’s Guidelines governing membership of selection committees. Since the selection committee is multidisciplinary, the nomination material should be written for non-specialists.

The selection committee may recommend not to award the prize in a given year if there is no outstanding nomination.

Nomination process

The nomination package must include

  1. a letter of nomination (signed by the nominator[s]; three pages maximum; use the following points as headings) that clearly describes the recent outstanding advance, outlining the nature of the advance, its significance and impact; the letter must also include a summary of the advance for public release

  2. up to four documents relating to the recent, outstanding advance that provide evidence of its significance and impact on the scientific and engineering community

    • At least one of these must be a peer-reviewed article

    • The other documents may include testimonials and publications like journal articles, workshop papers/posters, communications, pre-prints, monographs, memoirs or special papers, review articles, conference/symposia proceedings and abstracts, government publications, and reports documenting contributions to engineering practice, among others

  3. the names and email addresses of six researchers who, in the opinion of the nominators, could be approached by NSERC to conduct an impartial review of the nomination

    • The proposed referees should not be in conflict of interest (see This link will take you to another Web site Conflict of interest and confidentiality policy of the federal research funding organizations)

    • NSERC strongly recommends that nominators suggest a cross-section of reviewers with expertise in the nominee’s area of research (i.e., Canadian and/or international researchers; from a range of career stages; members of under-represented and marginalized groups, including women; researchers at a variety of academic and non-academic institutions)

    • Nominees must not contact suggested external reviewers in advance; please note that NSERC reserves the right to select all or none of the suggested reviewers

  4. for team nominations only, a brief letter from the team identifying one of the members as the spokesperson of the group; this spokesperson must be eligible to hold an NSERC grant and will be the contact person for NSERC on any matter related to the outcome of the competition (refer to NSERC's Eligibility criteria for faculty)

  5. a one-page demonstration of the nominee’s or team’s eligibility for this prize, addressing the items included under Eligibility

  6. a terms and conditions form for nominees signed by each nominee

  7. a terms and conditions form for nominators signed by each nominator

Contributions to research and their impact

As a signatory of the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), NSERC recognizes that scholarly contributions are not limited to published journal articles but can also include, amongst other contributions, article preprints, datasets, software, protocols, well-trained researchers, societal outcomes and policy changes resulting from research. Some contributions that are often overlooked, such as communication and knowledge translation with the public, community service such as membership on committees, journal editorships and/or advisory boards, and work done by nominees to advance equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility in the research ecosystem, are also important scholarly contributions.

Surrogate measures of quality and impact, such as the prestige of a publication venue or citation-based metrics (e.g., journal impact factor, or h-index), must not be used as they introduce bias in the merit review process. Indicators of the impact of research contributions include influence on the direction of thought and/or activity of other researchers, in the specific field, in the discipline as a whole or in other disciplines, or beyond academia. Impact can be seen as advancing knowledge, developing technology, addressing socio-economic or environmental needs, or increases to equitable and inclusive participation in the research ecosystem, among other things. The relevance of such considerations may differ depending on the discipline and the nature of the research being conducted.

The nominator should clearly describe the quality and impact of contributions within this larger context for the multidisciplinary selection committee members.

For nominations in engineering or the applied sciences, nominators should consult the NSERC's Guidelines for the preparation and review of applications in engineering and the applied sciences and prepare the nomination accordingly.

Nominators are responsible for preparing the required documentation, which must adhere to NSERC’s General presentation guidelines. Documents that do not meet the presentation standards may be rejected or at a disadvantage in comparison with those that meet the standards. Only the documents requested by NSERC will be made available to the selection committee.

For re-nominations, nominators are asked to submit a complete and updated nomination package. The list of suggested referees should also be updated to include new individuals.

Compile your documents into a single portable document format (PDF) and submit your nomination electronically via the ICSP Secure Submission Site.

The program collects self-identification data from all nominees. This data provides information on the diversity of the population applying for and receiving agency funds. This information increases NSERC’s capacity to monitor its progress on increasing equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in its programs, to recognize and remove barriers, and to design new measures to achieve greater EDI in the research enterprise. If you do not want to self-identify, you have the option to choose “I prefer not to answer” for each question, but you are required to select a response for the questionnaire to be marked as complete. Self-identification information is not part of the nomination and will be neither accessible to, nor shared with, external reviewers and/or selection committee members.


Before you, as a nominee, can submit your documents to the nominator, you must read and agree to the terms and conditions form for nominees. It is your responsibility to retain a copy of the agreed terms and conditions for your records.

Before you, as a nominator, can submit your documents to NSERC, you must read and agree to the terms and conditions form for nominators. It is your responsibility to retain a copy of the agreed terms and conditions for your records.

Conditions and reporting

The grant is tenable only at, and with the consent of, the Canadian university named in the nomination material.

The recipient(s) will be asked to confirm, by email or letter, their acceptance of the award and their ability to use the full value of the accompanying research grant. Because the grant may be distributed in either one or several instalments, the recipient(s) will be asked to submit a payment schedule.

The recipient(s) will be asked to report on the impact that the award has had on their research activities.


The name(s) of the recipient(s) will be announced at a public ceremony.