Guiding Principles for Applicants and Reviewers

Guiding Principles for Applicants and Reviewers

  • The Institute’s limited size and well-integrated network mean that we cannot follow strict guidelines related to Conflict of Interest for Internal Peer Review.  It is considered acceptable for a member to review for a ‘regular’ competition (eg. CIHR) in which (s)he is submitting themselves, and for familiar colleagues to review applications on which they are not a current co-investigator.
  • Members may be asked to review a project that is not in obvious alignment with their own expertise.  Reviewer/applicant ‘matches’ are sometimes suggested to represent certain methodologies, certain funding agency experience, etc.  In some cases, a better-aligned member is not available to review (currently, or at all within the Institute), and a thoughtful, non-expert review is deemed more helpful than no review at all.
  • In some cases, University colleagues outside of the membership may be invited to provide an IPR.
  • Peer Review is an extremely important aspect of a researcher’s career, and members are encouraged to dedicate time and effort to develop both their applicant and reviewing skills, through internal opportunities:


Guiding principles for IPR applicants. 

Respect colleagues' time

Respect your colleagues’ valuable time: arrange and maintain a mutually agreeable schedule and allow sufficient time for appropriate internal peer review to occur before the grant deadlines

Draft applications

Consider providing your draft application in the submission format (so that the reviewer can assess your responses in the context of the agency questions/guidelines) and/or in an editable version in which they can easily add feedback.

Make use of feedback

Make best use of both internal and external reviewers’ feedback: take time to critically assess it, with humility and fresh eyes; garner experienced colleagues’ advice in interpreting it; and respond to it appropriately in revised applications.

Thank you!

Acknowledge your colleagues’ efforts: thank them and let them know if you are eventually successful with the application!

Maintaining effective internal peer review

To maximize both your return on investment and your reviewers’ time, here are some suggestions on how one can get the most out of internal peer review, as well as some new resources that will help you prepare for IPR.

Mock Review Toolkit – Project Grant Competition

Check out resources designed to support the planning and delivery of Mock Peer Review. The Toolkit is intended to accommodate a wide range of audiences, from university administrators looking to host a mock peer review session at their institution, to trainees, such as PhDs and postdocs, looking to learn more about CIHR’s peer review process. Learn more.


Guiding principles for IPR reviewers. 

Review when possible

Accept invitations to review when possible and communicate with O’Brien staff when you have reached your ‘limit’ for the period in question

Giving advice

Dedicate the amount of time/level of detail possible, offering both high-level, strategic advice (even if it might not be addressable in the current competition timeline) and more immediately addressable suggestions on ‘grantsmanship’.

Acknowledgement letters

Make use of the Institute’s annual acknowledgement letter to inform your Department Head or other upward report of this valuable academic service.


Avail yourself of ‘how to be a good reviewer’ resources: review quality, review quality checklist, conducting quality reviews video, CIHR Reviewer Pathway resource