Research Grant Proposal (CIHR style)


All Ph.D candidates registered in the Department of Physiology are required to complete the PSL1066H "Research Grant Proposal" course.  This consists of an information session that is scheduled approximately 3 months prior to the submission deadline, production of a written Research Grant Proposal, a 2-page response to the Readers' comments, and an oral defense of the proposal. 

Course registration timelines for PhD students:  

Students with a completed MSc or transfer status must take this course within 13 months of beginning their first full term session as a registered PhD student.  PhD (direct entry) students will take this course within 30 months of entry to the PhD program (unless they decide to transfer to the MSc program within 18 months.)  All students have the option to complete the course earlier by submitting their grant proposal before their course completion deadline. Students are advised to start working on their proposal well ahead of the deadline (e.g. 6 months) and must register for the course on ROSI prior to the deadline for submission of the Grant Proposal (October 1 or February 15).  Students must be in good standing with the Department of Physiology to be accepted into the course. 

Should the student fail to register for and take the course within the required time period, the student will have only one additional opportunity to take the course and must register to take the course the next time it is offered.  With this deferral, the student forfeits the option to resubmit a revised proposal at the next scheduled session of the course in the event of obtaining a failing grade for the written grant proposal; the student also forfeits the right to repeat the oral defense in the event of obtaining a failing grade in the oral examination (Note: Official University of Toronto leave-of-absences are not considered "deferrals").

Objectives of the Course

The student will learn how and gain experience in:

  • Preparing a formal grant application for submission to a major granting agency (CIHR format)

  • Preparing and delivering an oral summary of a grant proposal and answering questions pertaining to it

  • Preparing a written and oral rebuttal/response to the 3 grant reviews

Format of the CIHR Style Operating Grant Proposal

The Proposal must be submitted on the modified CIHR Operating Grant Application forms and follow CIHR submission rules.  The Proposal must include the Research Module and the Operating Budget Module.  The student is also required to complete the "Common CV Module" which can then be updated in the future for use in award and grant applications. The student and supervisor will also submit the names of at least four suggested Readers on a separate page. Students will first obtain a written commitment from each of the four potential reviewers by email and submit these along with their grant application.  Note: When inviting a reviewer to read and review the grant proposal, the student must also indicate that this is a two-part process/commitment for the reviewer, and that they will also be expected to attend the oral defense of the proposal at a later agreed upon time. The course committee will choose three reviewers from this group.  The reviewers should have a faculty appointment, but do not have to be a member of the Department of Physiology, although this is preferred.  Students will recognize that members of their advisory committee have already made a substantial commitment to the student and therefore should not be expected to participate as a reviewer for PSL1066H, although it is their choice to accept or decline. Students may include one (1) committee member only.  In the past, students have found it helpful to obtain intellectual input from a professor that is familiar with the topic but not part of the advisory committee. The student must supply an electronic version (PDF document) by the required deadline (October 1st or February 15th).  Incomplete or late proposals will not be accepted.

The student's supervisor must assure the Committee, in a letter appended to the Grant Proposal, that the Proposal has been read by the supervisor and is of sufficient merit to proceed to review by the Readers. The letter must also affirm that the proposal is substantially the student's own work, and must briefly describe the supervisor's role in preparing the proposal.

Recommended guidelines on preparing grant applications can be reviewed at the two links below:
"The Art of Grantsmanship" by Dr. Jacob Kraicer and a powerpoint presentation  ("Good Grantsmanship:The Key to Success" ) by Dr. Stephen Matthews. 

The Proposal will be reviewed and rated by 3 reviewers (Readers) using the CIHR rating scale.  In cases where not all rankings are above or below the passing ranking of 3.0 (out of a maximum possible of 4.9), the committee will evaluate and discuss the reviews and decide whether the student can proceed to the oral defense (e.g. the student has passed the written component), or is required to re-take the course at the next scheduled session (e.g. the student has not passed the written component).  If the student has passed the written component (the Proposal) but fails the subsequent oral exam, he/she will be required to retake the oral examination within 6-weeks (please note that this is not an option in the event of a deferred submission).  If the student fails to pass the second oral component of the course, she/he will be required to withdraw from the Ph.D program.

Role of the Ph.D Research Course Coordinator

The Graduate Office will check each Proposal as it is received for completeness and prepare for the course coordinator a summary sheet containing the registration date of the student in the Ph.D program, the composition of the supervisory committee and the names of the 4 readers suggested by the student and supervisor.  Shortly after the submission deadlines of October 1st or February 15th of each year, the course coordinator assigns readers for each Proposal.  The course coordinator considers and makes any required changes to the list of readers supplied by the student and supervisor.  The course coordinator reserves the right to send the Proposal to readers not on the list provided by the student and supervisor.  The Graduate Office will distribute the Proposals and related documents to each of the readers assigned by the course coordinator.  As soon as all the assessments from the Readers have been received, the course coordinator reviews them.  All students are then informed whether they have passed or failed the written component of the course and are sent the reviews.

The Oral Defense of the Ph.D. Research Grant Proposal

In order to encourage critical evaluation of the proposal the student is required to submit to the Graduate Office a "Response to Reviewers", of not more than two pages in length (one extra page listing references may be attached), at least seven days before the Oral Defense.  This will be distributed to members of the Oral Defense Committee to lead to a more productive oral presentation and discussion.

1. Appointment and Composition of the Oral Defense Committee

The Oral Defense Committee consists of the three readers of the written proposal and the student's supervisor(s). The Chair of the Oral Defense Committee will normally be one of the three readers. 

The three readers of the written proposal will normally form the three voting members of the Oral Defense Committee. Each of the readers will receive a copy of the other reviewer's comments prior to the Defense. These will be distributed by the Graduate Program Office.

The supervisor and co-supervisor, if applicable, are expected to attend the Defense but are non-voting members of the Oral Defense Committee.  If it is not possible to schedule the Defense within a reasonable time following receipt of the Readers' reviews due to absence of the supervisor(s), then, upon approval of the Course Director, the Defense may be allowed to proceed without them.

The Chair will ensure that the Defense process follows the guidelines (see item 3 below), that it is fair and that a consistent standard is achieved. The examination is a "Pass/Fail" examination.

The Chair will either be the Course Director or the Chair position will be assigned to one of the readers by the Course Director. 

2. Establishing the Oral Defense

Each student, in consultation with his or her supervisor, will be responsible for arranging the date and time of the Oral Defense (the Graduate Office must be notified as soon as possible of this date for the purpose of distributing the official oral defense date notice). Students must begin arranging their oral defense date immediately after receiving their grant reviews and notice to proceed from the Graduate Program Office.

The Oral Defense is a closed examination.

A quorum consists of the three voting committee members. 

3. Procedures for the Oral Defense

Initially, the committee will meet in the absence of the candidate. At this time the Chair will ask the supervisor, or if appropriate the co-supervisor, what has been in their judgment the contribution of the student to the written Proposal. The Chair may at this time make further inquiries at his or her discretion. The candidate will be asked to join the committee and the Chair will ask the candidate what contribution the candidate has made to the written Proposal. The student will then present a 15 to 20 minute summary of the written Proposal, to include a response to the comments/criticisms of the Readers. The Chair will strictly enforce this time limit.

The committee members will then ask questions to test the student's knowledge of the Proposal and of the background information required to support the Proposal. It is expected that the student will answer at least 75% of the questions to the satisfaction of the examiners. The duration of the question period should not exceed 60 minutes. At the end of the question period, the three voting members of the committee will meet (in the absence of the student) to discuss the student's performance and vote. If one or more of the members vote "fail" then the student is deemed to have failed the oral component of the course; abstentions are not permitted.  The voting members of the committee will then fill out a Department of Physiology Assessment Form for the Oral Defense of the Doctoral Grant Proposal.  The signed form will then be forwarded to the Graduate Office.  The Chair may request a deferral of the final decision pending discussion with the Course Director and possibly also the Graduate Coordinator.  The supervisor and candidate will then be informed of the outcome of the examination in writing.

Failure in the first oral defense of the Ph.D. Research Grant Proposal will result in the student having a single opportunity to repeat the oral component of the examination within a 6-week time frame.  If the student fails to pass the second oral defense, she/he will be required to withdraw from the Ph.D program.

Instructions for Readers

Readers are to follow CIHR guidelines.  Readers should follow the criteria delineated in the CIHR Referee's Report Form (copies of these criteria will be supplied by the Graduate Office to each reader).  The report should be full and detailed so as to provide the student with a challenging critique.  The students are required to provide a 2-page response to the reviewers' comments.

Readers should temper their rankings based on an understanding of the student's level of experience.

Readers must supply their detailed reviews by the required deadline (30 days from receipt of the Proposal).  The reader should send the review to the Graduate office care of the Chair, Ph.D Research Proposal Committee.

Details Regarding Required Format of Proposal

The proposal forms that need to be completed are in the 'PSL1066H GRANT PROPOSAL FORMS' file which can be downloaded from the Department website (under Graduate Courses, Forms).  Please carefully follow all of the instructions included with the downloaded document.

You must also submit the CV module, which should be completed online at:

Please submit your application as a PDF document to the Graduate Office via email by the deadline (October 1 or February 15).

In cases where the student must repeat the course, as detailed above, the student should resubmit the entire Proposal, including a response to the reviewers' comments.

All questions about this course should be directed to the Course Coordinator.