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NSERC prizes - Polanyi

Call for nominations

Nomination deadline: April 1, 2021, 8 p.m. (ET)

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; however, the nominators must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada. 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. 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 win 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.

A selection committee of distinguished 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

  • a letter of nomination signed by the nominator(s); it must be no longer than three pages and must clearly describe 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
  • a brief, one-paragraph description of the nominator including confirmation of Canadian citizenship or permanent resident of Canada status and background
  • up to four documents relating to the recent, outstanding advance that provide evidence of recognition by the scientific and engineering community
    • At least one of these must be a peer-reviewed article
    • The other documents may include proof of prizes received with their accompanying citations, testimonials attesting to the significance and impact of the advance, journal articles and reports
  • the names and addresses (mail and email) of six Canadian and/or international researchers who, in the opinion of the nominators, could be approached by NSERC to conduct an impartial review of the nomination
    • The majority of these proposed referees should be from outside Canada, and none should 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 nominees suggest a cross-section of reviewers with expertise in their area of research (i.e., from early career to established researchers, including women and other under-represented groups, researchers at a variety of academic and non-academic institutions)
    • Applicants must not contact suggested external reviewers in advance; please note that NSERC reserves the right to select all or none of the suggested referees
  • an up-to-date NSERC personal data form (form 100) or This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Common CV or an up-to-date CV in another format (maximum 10 pages) for each member of the team
  • a brief letter from the team identifying one of the members as the spokesperson of the group; this individual 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 (team nominations only)
  • a terms and conditions form for nominees signed by each nominee
  • a terms and conditions form for nominators signed by each nominator

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.

The nominators are responsible for assembling the required documentation, which must adhere to the 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 presentation 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.

Nominations must be submitted electronically via NSERC’s Innovative Collaborations and Science Promotion (ICSP) Programs Secure Submissions Site. Documents must be submitted in portable document format (PDF) as a single document.

The program collects self-identification data from all nominees. Self-identification data provides information on the diversity of the population applying for and receiving agency funds. This data is important for monitoring the fairness of our programs and informing future measures to increase equity, diversity and inclusion among all those involved in the research enterprise. The questionnaire covers age, gender, Indigenous identity and/or identity as a member of a visible minority group and/or as a person with a disability. Completion of the questionnaire is mandatory, but each question includes the option “prefer not to answer.” Self-identification data will not be seen or used by NSERC peer reviewers.


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. A winning team must designate one of its members to be responsible for the administration of the award. This member must be eligible to hold an NSERC grant. Refer to NSERC's Eligibility criteria for faculty regarding this matter.

The winning individual(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 winning individual(s) will be asked to submit a payment schedule.

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


The names of the winning researcher or team of researchers will be announced at a public ceremony in 2022.