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Subatomic Physics Major Resources Support program

NSERC recognizes that the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting researchers’ and students’ capacity to conduct their regular research and training activities. NSERC has published guidelines on the consideration of the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on research and training activities. These guidelines provide direction on how to describe these impacts in an application and information on how they will be considered in the review of contributions to research and training and research and training plans.

To lessen the impact of COVID-19 and to support all of our researchers and highly qualified personnel, all eligible active Discovery Grant holders will be given the opportunity to receive a one-time one-year extension with funds at their current funding level. For more information, refer to the frequently asked questions.

Duration Up to five years
Application deadlines August 1, 2023 (notification of intent to apply)
October 2, 2023 (application)

Important: Your application must be received at your institution’s research grants office by its internal deadline date; contact your research grants office for that deadline.
Application procedure See below
How to apply
Contact Consult the contact list.

Important information


The objective of the Subatomic Physics Major Resources Support (SAP-MRS) program is to facilitate the effective access by Canadian academic researchers, working in the field of subatomic physics, to major and unique national or international (based in Canada) experimental or thematic research resources, by financially assisting these resources to remain in a state of readiness for researchers to use. The SAP-MRS program also enables Canadian researchers to come together as national user consortia to access a necessary major international resource located outside of Canada.


SAP-MRS grants assist major and unique national or international subatomic physics experimental and thematic research resources located in Canada to cover their operating and maintenance costs. Supported resources are those that cannot fully cover such costs by using other research grants or by user fees, or those where user fees cannot be leveraged. The grants assist resources that are significant in size, value or importance and that are not customary in the discipline or commonly available in Canadian universities.

Supported resources must be used by researchers from several institutions across Canada including universities, or government laboratories.

Major resources supported by this program may include

  • unique specialized experimental facilities or items of research equipment
  • thematic research institutes that promote and trigger interactions within the constituents of relevant communities
  • a team of highly skilled technical or professional research support staff essential to the research activities of users
    • the team (resource) must be national or international1 in the nature of its support (i.e., must provide support to a national base of users, beyond one institution or region)
    • the team must be accessible to members of the community beyond the host institution or a region, and beyond a single project or collaborators
    • availability of the team and the access procedure must be made known to the subatomic physics community

SAP-MRS grants also assist Canadian researchers from more than one project who come together as national user consortia to access major resources located abroad, for which no equivalent is available in Canada. Such support excludes any direct contribution toward the operating and maintenance costs of foreign resources. The support is not given to individual researchers, but rather to the user consortia, which must be composed of researchers from several institutions (including universities or government laboratories) across Canada.

Research resources are defined as experimental research facilities or thematic research organizations such as institutes. An institute is defined as a research resource that promotes and triggers national, and possibly international, interactions within a given research community, and it provides a place where researchers meet, collaborate and exchange ideas. Institutes are infrastructures that provide an environment that serves to accelerate research.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

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 (EDI).

Applicants are expected to increase the inclusion and advancement of underrepresented groups in the natural sciences and engineering, as one means to enhance excellence in research and training. Where applicable, consideration of sex, gender and diversity in the research design should be addressed in the proposal. EDI considerations should be developed into the rationale for the composition of research teams, including trainees. For more information, refer to the application instructions and the NSERC guide on integrating equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in research.

Note: Research teams should strive for a diverse group of team members, including balanced gender representation. EDI considerations should be reflected in the rationale of the team composition and in the designated roles within the team. Moreover, where applicable, the applicants should describe how they have implemented and/or will implement strategies and practices to support EDI within the team (e.g., recruitment of team members, management of the team, mentorship, etc.).

Eligibility of applicants and co-applicants

The applicant and all co-applicants must be eligible for NSERC funding. One person must be designated to administer the grant. This person is the applicant and is responsible for completing and submitting the notification of intent (NOI) to apply and the full application on behalf of the resource. Consult NSERC’s Eligibility requirements for faculty to apply for or hold grant funds for more information on the role of applicants and co-applicants.  

Application procedures

To apply to the SAP-MRS program, applicants must first submit a notification of intent (NOI) to apply by the deadline date. The NOI is a mandatory step in the application process. It allows NSERC to determine the most appropriate review mechanism for the grant application. Resources for which an NOI is not submitted will not be able to submit a full application.

Both applicants and co-applicants must complete and submit the NSERC version of the This link will take you to another Web site Canadian Common CV (CCV) at both the NOI and full application stages for this program. The CCV can be updated following the submission of the NOI and before the submission of the full application.

Use of grants funds

Eligible costs

Support of resources located in Canada

SAP-MRS grants provide funding to assist with coverage of the following costs (where applicable):

  • salaries of technical and professional research support staff employed to operate and maintain the resource and to provide assistance to users
  • operation and maintenance of the resource
  • materials, supplies and minor equipment essential to the operation and maintenance of the resource
  • travel expenses for resource support staff of the facility to attend conferences, as part of the resource’s plan to keep abreast of scientific and technical advances
  • dissemination costs, as part of the resource’s outreach activities toward relevant user communities
  • operation of scientific review panels and governing bodies

Furthermore, in the case of thematic resources, SAP-MRS grants also provide funding to assist in paying the following costs, which should be listed as part of the operating costs:

  • remuneration of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows involved in a context of thematic or collaborative programs
  • visitor expenses, including travel and local support
  • honoraria for invited speakers

In the case of resources that apply user fees for their access, the costs of operating the facilities should be split into two major components: non-recoverable and recoverable costs.

  • Non-recoverable costs are those expenses necessary to keep the experimental resource in a state of readiness for researchers to use, and to increase the potential user communities’ awareness of the activities and opportunities offered by the resource. They are independent of the number of researchers using the resource and are not associated with specific research projects.
  • Recoverable costs comprise expenses directly incurred when researchers and their highly qualified personnel use the resource. An example is the cost of consumables that are used for a specific project. The same user fees should be applied to all Canadian academic researchers and their students, without regard to their institution or project.

Support of access to resources located outside Canada

SAP-MRS grants assist national user groups, beyond one single project, in accessing major resources located abroad, the equivalent of which is not available in Canada. Such support excludes any direct contribution toward the operating and maintenance costs of such resources. The following costs are eligible for SAP-MRS funding:

  • membership or access/user fees
  • minor equipment needed to accommodate the specific needs of the Canadian users
  • travel related to the use of the foreign resource (i.e., field work)
  • salaries of Canadian technical and professional research support staff employed to assist in the use of the resource by Canadian users

Ineligible costs

SAP-MRS grants cannot be used to pay for any indirect costs of research or expenses that are central or departmental institutional costs. All project expenditures are subject to the principles and directives governing the appropriate use of grant funds, as outlined in the Tri-agency guide on financial administration.

Review procedures

SAP-MRS grant applications are reviewed by the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section. No external input is usually sought, however the Section may request expert input from individual referees, if necessary. For any application requesting an average of $1,000,000 per year or more, the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section may also receive input from an expert ad-hoc committee that would perform an evaluation and review of the application. NSERC reserves the right to perform an evaluation and review of any subatomic physics resource, even for requests that are less than an average of $1,000,000 per year. Resources may be invited to make a presentation during the Large Project Day held every year by the Section.

The Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section makes the conclusive recommendation to NSERC on any grant application to the SAP-MRS program.

Selection criteria

Any application to the SAP-MRS program will be assessed on the basis of the eight selection criteria listed below. Each criterion lists the factors that will be considered. To be eligible for SAP-MRS funding, a resource must meet all eight criteria. The onus is on the applicants to thoroughly address each criterion in their application and provide detailed information to the Subatomic Physics Evaluation Section.

  • Uniqueness of the resource
    • the research resource is not standard in a discipline and is not commonly available in Canadian universities
    • the national or international nature of the resource
    • the uniqueness of the resource compared to any other Canadian resources that may be providing similar services
    • significant use of the resource by a sufficiently large number of users from outside the host institution and region
  • Use of the resource by the research community
    • past, current and projected level of use of the resource by researchers in the field nationally and internationally; can discuss trends as compared to past levels of use, if applicable
    • demonstrated accessibility of the resource to, and significant use by, researchers beyond the host institution and region
    • potential for collaboration with complementary Canadian or, if applicable, international resources
    • extent to which the resource can accommodate the specialized needs of the users
    • demonstrated outreach to potential Canadian or, if applicable, international user communities
    • existing or proposed initiatives that specifically encourage participation by under-represented groups
  • Need for access to the resource for the research programs
    • impact of the resource on the advancement of the research programs of current and projected users and, when applicable, on the dissemination and use of the knowledge generated in the supported area(s) of research
    • consequence of the loss of access to the resource on the users’ research programs
  • Merit of the research programs that rely on access to the resource and excellence of the user community
    • in the case of experimental resources: quality, significance and pertinence of ongoing research programs of the users
    • in the case of thematic resources: quality, pertinence and impact of the past (if applicable), current and planned scientific activities; and significance of the research themes to the related communities
    • scientific excellence and impact of past, current and planned research activities
    • excellence of the users and, in the case of thematic resources, excellence of activity organizers and users and their level of commitment to the activities within the resource
  • Demonstrated need for support through an SAP-MRS grant
    • demonstrated need for, and effectiveness of, support through a SAP-MRS grant, as opposed to other NSERC grants and contributions from other sources
    • nature and extent of the commitment and support from universities, other organizations and users
    • justification of the requested funds from NSERC
    • proposed sharing of costs, including user fees (if applicable)
    • rationale for the proposed user fees (if applicable)
  • Management of the resource
    • effectiveness of the management structure to direct, manage and integrate the activities of the resource
    • administration and allocation of access to the resource by different users (internal and external, from universities, government or industry)
    • plan and budget for maintenance and operation
    • plan of the resource to keep abreast of scientific and technical advances, as well as to sustain well-coordinated and leading-edge research activities
    • consideration of EDI in the composition of governance bodies
    • activities or initiatives aimed at supporting the establishment of and ensuring an equitable and inclusive research and work environment
  • Contribution of the resource to the training of highly qualified personnel (HQP) (see new Guidelines on assessment of contributions to research, training and mentoring)
    • importance of the resource for training, including unique and inclusive mentorship and training opportunities that are complementary with, and add value to, training carried out in other sectors
    • quality and impact of past training of HQP (e.g., postdoctoral fellows, graduate and undergraduate students, technicians), including
      • training environment provided for HQP
      • HQP awards and research contributions
      • outcomes and skills gained by HQP
    • demonstration of EDI considerations in past and planned training activities
  • Synergy
    • defined as the extent to which a grouping of equipment, staff or participants enhances the value and capability of a resource and enables researchers to obtain results or carry out studies that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible


For grants whose average award is $500,000 per year or higher, the payment of the second and any subsequent yearly instalment is conditional on the submission of an annual activity report to NSERC. The submission deadline for this report is January 15. NSERC reserves the right to request an activity report from any supported subatomic physics resource, even for grants that receive less than an average of $500,000 per year.

1The international scope of a resource requires the latter to first serve a national community of users, in addition to significant use by a sufficiently large number of users from outside of Canada.