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Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Doctoral Research Award

Information on this page is subject to change pending updates from the agency.

This web page relates to the fall 2023 CIHR Doctoral Research Awards competition and the University of Waterloo's internal administration of the program. For information pertaining to the Tri-Agency Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's (CGS M) competition, please visit Waterloo's Tri-Agency (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) Canada Graduate Scholarships Master's (CGS M) website.


CGS D Harmonization

In fall 2019, the three national granting agencies (CIHR, NSERC, SSHRC) harmonized the CGS D competitions. They share the same program guide, eligibility, and selection criteria, however the agency-specific doctoral awards (e.g. CIHR Doctoral Foreign Study Award, etc.) were not harmonized and continue to have their own unique program guides, eligibility, and selection criteria.

Award Description

The CIHR Doctoral Research Awards provide special recognition and funding to students who are pursuing a doctoral degree in a health-related field. There are two types of CIHR Doctoral Research Awards available:

  1. Canada Graduate Scholarships - Doctoral Program (CGS D)- for study in Canada. Valued at $35,000 a year for three years.
  2. Doctoral Foreign Study Award (DFSA) - for study abroad (outside of Canada). Valued at $35,000 for up to three years.

Current and prospective doctoral students apply to the CIHR Doctoral Research Awards competition within “ResearchNet”. Top-ranked candidates are awarded a CGS D or DFSA depending on the proposed location of the doctoral research. *Changes from proposed location from Canada to abroad or the opposite will NOT be considered by CIHR.

Applying for an CIHR at Waterloo

Waterloo’s allocation of CIHR Doctoral Scholarships for Fall 2023 is 4. This is number of applications that we can put forward from our institution to be reviewed at the national competition.

Recipients of CIHR Doctoral Research Awards who hold their scholarship at Waterloo are also eligible to receive the President’s Graduate Scholarship (PGS).

Important dates

The dates below are applicable to students whose applications will be considered at Waterloo. To determine where your application should be considered, applicants should refer to Step 2: Confirm where your application should be considered in the Critical Steps section.

  1. Transcript request deadline - Wednesday, September 13, 2023.
  2. Application deadline - Tuesday, October 10, 2023 at 8:00 p.m. (ET).

Critical steps

1. Eligibility

It is the applicant’s responsibility to confirm that the minimum eligibility criteria of this award are satisfied before they begin the application process. Interested applicants must review the eligibility and selection criteria on the official CGS D Program website and the CIHR DFSA website before beginning their application.

Note 1: Applicants may also be eligible to apply for the Vanier CGS; applicants MUST apply for the Vanier CGS and for the CIHR Doctoral Research Award separately. Details about the Vanier CGS are available on the official agency website; details about the Vanier application process through the University of Waterloo can be found on Waterloo’s Vanier web page.

Note 2: Applicants may be eligible to apply to the CGS M program for their first year of doctoral funding. Applying for a CGS M, if eligible, will maximize the potential period of funding. Applicants are responsible for choosing the type of award for which to apply.

2.  Confirm where your application should be considered

The student’s registration status at the time of application will determine where their application should be considered (either through Waterloo, another Canadian University or directly by CIHR). Applicants should review the flowchart regarding “How to Submit an Application to CIHR’s Canada Graduate Scholarships Doctoral Program (CGS D)” to ensure their application is submitted appropriately. Applicants who apply incorrectly will be deemed ineligible.

3. Contact the proposed supervisor

Students interested in applying and holding the CIHR CGS D at Waterloo must do so in conjunction with the support of their proposed/current supervisor. The faculty member should be someone who is conducting research in an area that interests the applicant and who is willing to supervise them as a graduate student. To find a potential supervisor, prospective applicants are encouraged to visit University of Waterloo department/school or Faculty websites

4. Transcripts

Transcripts are required for all programs of study listed in the CIHR CV, including if you just started your program in fall 2023. Students are unable to submit their application until they have uploaded all transcripts to their application.

The process to obtain these transcripts is as follows:

  1. Applicants must request their transcripts using the Tri-Agency Doctoral Scholarships Transcript Request Form (Graduate Studies Forms website) This request is free of charge and is due by September 13, 2023.
  2. GSPA will fulfil transcript requests by retrieving official transcripts that were submitted as part of the student’s Waterloo admission application*. In order for GSPA to fulfil these requests, students must have provided their official transcripts from previous institutions as part of their application for admission.
  3. If there are any transcripts which GSPA is unable to provide because they are not on-file, the student is responsible for ordering a new hardcopy version. The student must then scan the hardcopy and merge it with the pdf sent by GSPA.
  4. GSPA will email a single pdf file of the requested transcripts to the student via the email provided in the form. It is the student’s responsibility to then upload the file to their CIHR Online Application. As per the application instructions, applicants must merge their Doctoral Studies Timeline form with their transcripts and upload as a single PDF.

*Applicants who are in the following situations are responsible obtaining their own final official transcripts from previous post-secondary institutions:

  • Students who went on exchange for any terms and the courses do not have an actual grade showing on your home university transcript, you will require official transcripts from the exchange institution.
  • Students who have not provided their final official transcripts from previous institutions to GSPA for graduate admission purposes.

Note: Students who are in the above situations and are having issues with obtaining their official transcripts must contact Miranda Bilotta in GSPA, by Wednesday, September 13, 2023 for further direction.

5. Read the application instructions

Applicants must ensure that they follow the detailed instructions regarding the competition process including how to create the Common CV (CCV website), creating the application in ResearchNet, the number of sponsors/referees required, etc. Application instructions can be found on the CIHR website.

As per the official application instructions, if the proposed research is being conducted in Canada, the signature page (CIHR website) only requires the supervisor(s) signature; institutional signatures (i.e., from GSPA) are NOT required on the page at the time of application.

6. Create a ResearchNet and Canadian Common CV account

The CIHR Doctoral Research Award application is now available in ResearchNet. If the applicant does not yet have a ResearchNet account, they will need to register for one. The applicant then applies to the CIHR Doctoral funding opportunity and completes the series of tasks required before they can submit it within the application portal.

Applicants must complete a specific CIHR Academic CCV on the Canadian Common CV website that will be linked to the CIHR award application within ResearchNet. The CV must be completed within the CCV portal.

7. Select and contact referees (sponsors)

Applicants must contact two potential referees as soon as possible but no later than three weeks prior to the application deadline.  

Applicants can manage the deadline by which sponsors must submit their assessments. By default, the Sponsor Required Deadline in ResearchNet is set for two days before the application deadline. However, applicants can adjust this to any date prior to the application deadline. Applicants can only submit their application using CIHR’s online system when both referees have completed and submitted their assessment. It is the applicant's responsibility to follow up with sponsors to ensure the assessments are submitted prior to the deadline date and therefore ensure the application completeness.

Important information for applicants on how to set a deadline for the referees to complete the Report, how to send them reminders, etc. can be found on CIHR's Doctoral Research Awards – Application instructions.

Applicants must direct their potential referees to CIHR's Reviewers Guide for Doctoral Research Awards so that they may see the selection criteria and know how applicants are evaluated.

Tips for selecting referees and reference letters

  • Applicants should select referees who know them well and are capable of making an informed assessment from an academic perspective (i.e., past or current supervisor) based on the evaluation criteria.
  • Applicants should be up front and ask their potential referees if they have the time and are able to provide a supporting reference letter that can address the applicant’s strengths based on the evaluation criteria. Letters should highlight qualities such as academic and non-academic leadership as well as research ability/potential, academic accomplishments, and the importance of any publications, if applicable.
  • Referees will not be able to see the student’s application in ResearchNet. As such, the applicant should provide them with a package of information that will assist them in writing a strong letter of support. This package should contain the following documents:
    • Current curriculum vitae
    • Transcripts
    • A list of research contributions; applicants are encouraged to request referees to address the importance of their publications and contributions in the letters of appraisal (e.g. focus on the impact your research has received outside of the academy and the applied outcomes that have positively influenced society, governance, industry or other sectors, etc.)
    • A copy of the research proposal
    • A list of community involvement or other extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership qualities

8. Research proposal

As per the application instructions, the research project summary is one of the most important components of this application and should be completed in collaboration with the proposed supervisor(s). The proposed research project must be eligible within CIHR’s mandate. To confirm the proposal falls under the correct agency, applicants should refer to “Selecting the Appropriate Federal Granting Agency” web page on the Government of Canada website.

9. Components of a complete application

The following components are required for a complete CIHR Doctoral Research Award application package. Applicants are encouraged to use the “preview” feature before submitting their application.

  • Routing slip and signature pages
    • Routing slip (1 page, no page #)
    • Participant/Supervisor signatures (page 1/2, listed as page #2 bottom right)
    • Institution paid/Research institution signatures (page 2/2, listed as page #3 bottom right)
  • Application (6 pages)
  • Lay title and lay abstract
  • PDF attachments
    • Training expectations (2 page max for English, 2.5 page max for French)
    • Research project summary (1 page max English, 1.5 page max for French)
    • Voluntary self-identification form for Indigenous applicants (if applicable)
    • Confirmation of scientific area form
    • Doctoral studies timeline (2 pages, second page can be excluded) and Transcripts (combined PDF)
  • Reference letters (2 required)
  • Canadian Common CV (CCV)
  • Publications List (2 pages max)
  • Proof of citizenship or permanent residence
  • Relevance form (only if applicable)

10. Tips to avoid common application issues:

  • Before downloading signature pages:
    • Obtain supervisor’s CIHR PIN and add it to the “Identify Participants” task. Otherwise, their name will be missing from the signature pages.
    • Add title to the “Enter proposal Information” task. Otherwise, the title will be missing from the Routing Slip (page 1).
  • Sole supervisors should be added as a “primary supervisor”. Co-supervisors should be added as “primary supervisor” and “supervisor”.
  • Verify that lay title is included on the “Lay title and Lay Abstract” page.
  • Proposed start date should include one of the following dates: 2024-05-01, 2024-09-01 or 2025-01-01.
  • Verify that Scientific Area Form has been uploaded in the "Attach Other Application Materials" task.
  • Verify that Publications List is uploaded within the “Identify Participants” task.
  • Verify that Doctoral Studies Timeline form is merged with transcripts file and uploaded as single PDF in the "Attach Other Application Materials" task.

Ranking and results

For applications where the University of Waterloo is responsible for the review and ranking, the following process takes place: 

  1. After the deadline, applications will be distributed to departments based on where the applicant is currently enrolled. Departmental award committees will review and rank the applications received to determine which applicants should be considered for scholarship offers at the institutional level using the Selection Criteria as defined by the agency.
  2. Based on the institutional quota, the institutional selection committee* will review and assess the applicants using the same selection criteria to determine which applicants will go forward for national adjudication. Given the limited quota of awards available, Waterloo is required to be strategic in determining the number of applicants selected for institutional endorsement. The selection process within institutions tends to be quite rigorous.
  3. GSPA will communicate with applicants to advise them of the decision after the institutional level adjudication. Only applicants selected for endorsement who require revisions to their application, in order to strengthen it and address eligibility concerns, will receive an email with feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  4. In April, CIHR will communicate results to all applicants via the Extranet for Applicants and will also notify our office.

*At Waterloo, the institutional selection committee is comprised of the Associate-Vice, President, GSPA (chair), both of the Assistant Vice-Presidents, GSPA, and the six Faculty Associate Deans, Graduate Studies (ARTSENGENVHEALTHMATHSCI), or designates as appropriate. All reviewers are encouraged to follow unconscious bias training and are subject to the Conflict of Interest and Confidentiality Agreement for Review Committee Members, External Reviewers, and Observers.


Visit Waterloo’s CIHR Doctoral Research Award timeline for further details on the CIHR competition at Waterloo.

Helpful resources

Questions regarding this competition at Waterloo can be directed to Miranda Bilotta, Manager Graduate Financial Aid & Awards in Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs.

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August 3, 2023