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Instructions for completing a letter of intent (LOI) to apply for a Discovery Horizons grant

General information

About the program

Read the program description before completing your LOI.

Am I eligible to apply?

Consult the Eligibility criteria for faculty to ensure that you can participate in this grant program as an applicant. NSERC verifies the eligibility of researchers only at the full application stage; however, it is important that you consult the eligibility criteria now and discuss any concerns with your institution’s research office.

Whom should I contact for help?

Collection and use of personal information

The information you provide in your application 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 on the Use and disclosure of personal information provided to NSERC page, in the NSERC program literature and below. The information is used in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Self-identification information

You are required to complete the self-identification form in order to apply for NSERC funding; however, you may select “Prefer not to answer” for any or all questions. NSERC appreciates your participation, which supports the granting agencies in monitoring the equity of their programs and strengthening equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in the research enterprise.

The self-identification information is collected as part of your user profile when you register in the Convergence Portal. It is not part of your application and is neither accessible to, nor shared with, external reviewers and/or selection committee members.

Discovery Horizons applicants and co-applicants will also be asked to provide consent for NSERC to potentially use their self-identification information to improve equity and diversity in funding decisions. Priority may be given to letters of intent and/or applications from those who self-identify as members of underrepresented groups, amongst similarly ranked LOIs and applications.

Application deadline

Your letter of intent to apply (LOI) must be received at NSERC by 8:00 p.m. (ET) on June 15, 2021. The LOI will not be accessible to edit once it is submitted.


You must complete your LOI using the Convergence Portal.

Create your LOI

  • Sign in to the Convergence Portal. If you currently have an account on NSERC’s Research Portal, please use your existing credentials.
  • Select Funding Opportunities.
  • Select the Discovery Horizons funding opportunity labelled Stage: Letter of intent and select Create Application.

Participant eligibility

If you have previously completely an eligibility profile on Convergence, some fields will be pre-populated. You will be asked to review each screen and will have the opportunity to update any information you have previously provided.

Step 1 – Applicant eligibility: Answer the series of questions confirming the eligibility of your position and whether you fit NSERC’s definition of an early career researcher.
Step 2 – Affiliations: List all of your current affiliations and identify your primary affiliation. Select the organization that will administer the grant, even if you have not started the position yet.
Step 3 – Equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI): Complete the self-identification form, as required in order to apply for NSERC funding, however, you may select “Prefer not to answer” for any or all questions; see the self-identification section above for more information. 
Step 4 – Fields of research: List your This link will take you to another Web site fields of research and indicate at least one as a primary area of research. These do not need to be directly related to the application.
Step 5 – Keywords: Provide a minimum of five keywords that best describe, overall, your areas research. They do not need to be directly related to a specific application and will not be used for evaluation purposes.
Step 6 – Summary: Review the content submitted and click Create Application.
Step 7 – Terms and conditions: Accept the terms and conditions to begin the application process.

Completing the LOI

Please note that some information provided in your LOI will flow through to pre-populate the relevant sections of your full application, and can be revised at that stage.

Application details

Application title: Provide a short and descriptive title. It may be used for publication purposes. Limit the use of abbreviated forms (e.g., DNA, NATO, etc.), and avoid company or trade names.

Language of the application: Indicate the language in which the application will be submitted. The main body of your application should be written in either English or French, rather than in a mix of both official languages.

Fields of research

List the fields of research that best describe this specific application according to the This link will take you to another Web site 2019 version of the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC). You must provide at least one primary field of research, and you may list up to a maximum of five fields of research.


List a minimum of five keywords that best describe this specific application. You may list up to a maximum of ten keywords.


Invite the co-applicants for this project. Note that co-applicants can be added or removed at both application stages (LOI or full application).

Those invited will receive an email, which will include the applicant’s name, email address, and the project title, as well as a link to the Convergence Portal. Once they have selected Accept Invitation and completed their own eligibility profile, co-applicants’ names will be displayed in the Participants section of your application.

Eligibility criteria for Discovery Horizons co-applicants is the same as for applicants; consult the Eligibility criteria for faculty to ensure that potential co-applicants can participate in this grant. NSERC verifies the eligibility of researchers only at the full application stage, however, it is important that potential applicants consult the eligibility criteria now and discuss any concerns with their institution’s research office.

Note: Email addresses are not verified and bounce backs are not registered. We strongly recommend that you follow up directly with invited co-applicants if an individual has not accepted your invitation in a timely manner.


This section lists all co-applicants who have successfully joined the project. If an individual has not accepted your invitation, follow up with them to confirm they have received it. If an invited co-applicant is listed as Pending Eligibility, they have accepted your invitation, but not yet completed their eligibility profile.


List the collaborators that will contribute to the execution of research activities, but who will not have access to grant funds.

Any individual whose contributions to the project will be supervised by a member of the research team and/ or another collaborator cannot be considered a collaborator.

Suggested reviewers

Provide the contact information for a minimum of five external reviewers for your full application who

  • are not in a conflict of interest (see below for the guidelines surrounding conflicts of interest)
  • are not from your own institution
  • are from different institutions
  • can provide an independent assessment of your application
  • are capable of reviewing your application in the language in which it is written

Applicants are encouraged to suggest a diverse cross-section of potential reviewers with appropriate expertise (Canadian, international, established and early career, women and other underrepresented groups, from academic and non-academic institutions).

Applicants must not contact suggested external reviewers in advance.

Conflict of interest guidelines

A conflict of interest may be deemed to exist or perceived as such when external reviewers 

  • are a relative or close friend, or have a personal relationship with the applicants 
  • are in a position to gain or lose financially/materially from the funding of the application 
  • have had long-standing scientific or personal differences with the applicants 
  • are currently affiliated with the applicants’ institutions, organizations or
    companies—including research hospitals and research institutes 
  • are closely professionally affiliated with the applicants, as a result of having in the last six years 
    • frequent and regular interactions with the applicants in the course of their duties at their department, institution, organization or company 
    • been a supervisor or a trainee of the applicants 
    • collaborated, published or shared funding with the applicants, or have plans to do so in the immediate future 
    • been employed by the institution, when an institution is the applicant 
  • feel for any reason unable to provide an impartial review of the application

NSERC reserves the right to resolve areas of uncertainty and to determine if a conflict of interest exists. For more information on conflicts 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.

Reviewer exclusions

You may request that some researchers, organizations or large collaborations not be involved in the review of your application. Note that this request may be accessible to these researchers, organizations or collaborations under the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

If you wish to exclude a research collaboration, whole department or institution, please contact the Discovery Horizons program staff at

Project summary and fit for program

LOIs will be assessed by peer reviewers evaluating the project’s relevance and fit to the Discovery Horizons program. Reviewers will rate the application, using the merit criteria grid included in the program description, based on the information you provide in your Project summary and your responses to the four open text fit-to-program points listed below.

  • Explain how this project would benefit from being assessed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee, as opposed to a joint review by NSERC's Discovery Grants evaluation groups
  • Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary approach is essential to achieving the project goals
  • Describe how the interdisciplinary approach enriches HQP training
  • Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary elements are integrated and inseparable (i.e., not sub-projects that could be reviewed on their own merit).

Finalizing your LOI

Complete the sections identified by an exclamation mark before submitting.

Click on the Submit button at the bottom of the Finalize Application page and accept the terms and conditions.

You will receive a confirmation message on the web page. To verify the status of your submission, return to the home page. The status will be Received by Agency.