Grant Mentoring and Grant Writing
revised 27 February 2012

Applying for grants is a normal and expected part of academic life for tenured and tenure-stream professors in the Faculty of Science. This is often an arduous task, especially for young faculty and those new to the Canadian system. The Faculty of Science works with its constituent departments to help provide mentoring to those who wish it. Additionally, the Office of Research Services and the Office of the Vice President, Research provide mentors for certain types of grant applications. Also, a number of grant writing workshops are typically offered each year, some targeted to specific programs and these can be very useful.

In the Faculty of Science, grant opportunity and workshop announcements are typically distributed via the (approximately) weekly research digests sent to all researchers by the Associate Dean, Research (ADR). Many announcements are also archived on the Office of Research Services web site.

For most Faculty of Science researchers, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research council of Canada (NSERC) will be a primary source of funding for their curiosity-driven research. NSERC funding is awarded based on a relatively broad "program" of research rather than a specific "project" as with some other funding agencies (e.g. NSF in the United States). NSERC funds are not subject to overhead and their use is quite flexible making them attractive. Typical grant levels, however, are not large so most researchers will want to look for other funding sources. This is strongly encouraged.

NSERC grant applications, both Discovery Grants (DGs) [for operations] and Research Tools and Instruments (RTI) grants [for equipment] are due in Ottawa at the start of November. Earlier deadlines for review in the Faculty of Science and Office of Research Services will be set and announced. This makes September and October a very busy time of the year and faculty planning on making grant applications should plan accordingly. Ideally, your grant should be read by at least one other faculty member in your department who understands the science involved in the proposal.

Once submitted to the Faculty of Science, your grant will also be read by the ADR who will provide comments related to the NSERC review process and on any recent changes to programs.

Finally, a higher-level review will typically be provided by someone from the Office of Research Services. This procedure should be considered a minimum review process, particularly for first-time applicants. You should certainly take advantage of any opportunity to get additional reviews. Ultimately, it will be up to you to decide which suggestions to incorporate and, possibly, which to omit. Be sure you understand why someone has made a suggestion before discarding it. Sometimes the reasoning may not be immediately obvious if you are not familiar with the funding programs and environment.

NSERC also offers a number of other programs including strategic project and strategic network grants and a number of industrial partnership programs including Collaborative Research and Development (CRD) grants and Innovation To Idea (I2I) grants. Researchers should be aware of all NSERC programs and feel free to contact the ADR to discuss the details and any potential opportunities. While most Faculty of Science researchers will apply to NSERC for their operating funds, alternative sources are also available, depending on research area.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) are NSERC's counterparts in the health and social sciences. Some researchers may find opportunities with these agencies or via one of the joint programs offered by NSERC and one of the other "tri-council" agencies (e.g. the Collaborative Health Research Projects (CHRP) program). Additional sources of funding that might be considered include the Manitoba Health Research Council (MHRC), the Manitoba Medical Sciences Foundation (MMSF), the Province of Manitoba Science and Technology International Collaboration fund (STIC), Genome Canada & Genome Prairie and the Health Sciences Center Foundation .

On the equipment side, NSERC RTI grants are currently limited to $150,000. Larger equipment grants are funded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) which provides a range of programs that are co-funded by the Manitoba Research and Innovation Fund (MRIF) on a 40%:40%:20% basis with the final 20% frequently being funded by the supplier of the equipment in terms of beneath educational price discounts. Finally, the University of Manitoba also provides a small grants program, the University Research Grants Program (URGP) , which is designed primarily to help new and established researchers begin new research initiatives.

Grant applications normally require the approval of your Department Head and Dean who are responsible for meeting any associated infrastructure (e.g. space) needs. A Funding Approval Application Form (FAAF) must be completed and distributed for signatures prior to submitting your grant application.

Please be sure to allow some time to gather the necessary signatures and also discus any resource implications with your head/dean well in advance of requesting a signature. Whether you are preparing your applications online (the norm) or on paper, do not leave things to the last minute. We are all prone to procrastination and also want to make our applications as "perfect" as possible. If you plan to finish one week ahead of any deadline, you will have enough time to deal with any unanticipated issues (which will arise) and will also avoid problems related to technical or other failures such as: submission server crashes or overloading, late arrival of couriers, or the illness of proofreaders.



Need help with grant applications?

The University of Manitoba is pleased to offer a new research facilitation service for researchers in the Natural Sciences and Engineering.  More information can be found on the Research and Grant Support page.