Directive on Scientific Directors and CIHR Funding

Issue Date: February 13, 2018

This Directive has been issued under the authority of the CIHR Conflict of Interest (COI) Officer and should be interpreted and applied with the reference to the CIHR Policy on Conflict of Interest Prevention and Management for Scientific Directors, Members of Governing Council and Advisory Bodies (Policy on COI Prevention and Management). It applies prospectively from its date of issue. Inquiries regarding this Directive should be addressed to the Office of the COI Officer at


In order to reduce the risk of actual, potential or perceived conflict between the personal/professional interests of Scientific Directors (SD), as researchers, and their official responsibilities to CIHR, SDs are not permitted to compete for CIHR funding as Principal Investigators, Co-Principal Investigators or collaborators, once they accept their appointment and during their tenure at CIHR.


  1. Along with the requirements of the Policy on COI Prevention and Management, this Directive relies on the general principles of eligibility to compete for funding, established in Section 6.1 of the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Policy of the Federal Research Funding Organizations, which prohibits to otherwise eligible applicants to apply for funding if (1) they are in a conflict of interest with regard to the funding opportunity (due to extensive and direct involvement in its development), or (2) they have a Funding-decision Authority for it.

  2. Scientific Directors’ appointments permit them to continue their research programs outside of the time dedicated to the provision of services to CIHR. As a result, SDs carry out and have to reconcile their CIHR responsibilities with those as leaders of research programs at their host institutions. While these two roles are not inherently conflicting or antagonistic in nature, when performed together, they create an increased risk of conflict of interest, or, at a minimum, its perception.

    Thus, for example, if SDs were to compete for CIHR funding, they may obtain or appear to obtain an undue advantage over other applicants due to having access to internal, not publically available CIHR information, and due to their close working relationships with CIHR management and staff. In addition, having a personal interest in the outcome of a given competition may impair their ability to impartially perform their duties to CIHR. This may place SDs in conflict between their official responsibilities to CIHR and their external interests as active researchers.

  3. In recognition of the risk of COI, the President’s Letter of Appointment for SDs has historically stipulated that, among other conditions of their appointment, SDs are not eligible to apply as a nominated principal applicant or co-applicant or be named as a research collaborator on CIHR-funded research, either through open or targeted funding opportunities during their term as Scientific Directors.

    To acknowledge the potential impact of this condition, CIHR has been providing SDs with funding to support their research during their term and during the transition period back into being full-time researchers. The terms of this funding are specified in the SDs’ individual letters of appointment.

Clarifications and Additional Information

  1. SDs remain responsible for managing the risk of COI in relation to CIHR funding granted prior to their appointment. In some cases, this may require reducing or relinquishing their responsibilities in research programs or in related CIHR duties.
  2. On accepting the position of an SD, appointees must:
    • declare CIHR funding they hold and have applied for, in order to allow for a full and timely management of potential COI situations; and
    • discontinue involvement in active applications to CIHR on which funding decisions have not been made.
  3. SDs remain eligible to apply for grants of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and other sources, as long as CIHR does not provide funding and does not have decision-making powers in relation to those grants.
  4. SDs can act and be named as supervisors on the funding applications of their students or post-doctoral fellows, provided their Institute is not involved in shaping the initiative related to the application, application selection or funding decision, and that no funding flows to the SD himself/herself.
  5. SDs can also continue collaborating on CIHR and Tri-Agency funded research projects of their colleagues on the condition that they are not named on a funding application and do not receive CIHR funding.
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