2023 NSERC Discovery Horizons Grants
Award amount and duration:
Academic appointment eligibility
You must hold or have a firm offer of an academic appointment at the University of Calgary. The appointment can be:
- a tenured, tenure-track or professor emeritus position, or
- a term or contract position of no less than three continuous years
Your position at the University of Calgary must:
- require you to engage in natural sciences and engineering research that is not under the direction of another individual, and
- permit you to supervise or co-supervise the research of postdoctoral fellows or students registered in an undergraduate or graduate degree program
Applicants and co-applicants
Both individuals and teams may apply to the Discovery Horizons program. The applicant and any co-applicants must all be eligible to hold NSERC funding. One person must be designated to administer the grant; this person is the “applicant” and is responsible for completing and submitting the full application on behalf of the team. NSERC’s eligibility requirements for faculty can provide more information on the role of applicants and co-applicants. While the research team is expected to have significant expertise in NSE research, not all members need to engage in research in the NSE. College faculty members who meet the relevant eligibility criteria can participate in Discovery Horizons as co-applicants.
There are no requirements with respect to team size or composition. However, individuals are only allowed to hold or apply for one Discovery Horizons grant as either an applicant or co-applicant. Additionally, individuals participating in a Discovery Horizons grant as an applicant or co-applicant cannot hold both a Discovery Grant and Discovery Horizons grant. Note that the applicant may add or remove invitations to co-applicants and collaborators at both phases of the application process (LOI and full application).
Collaborators contribute to the execution of research activities but do not have access to grant funds. Any individual whose contributions to the project will be supervised by a member of the research team and/or by another collaborator cannot be considered a collaborator.
Applicants and co-applicants to the Discovery Horizons program are categorized as either early career researchers or established researchers. Refer to the Discovery Grants applicant categories page for more information. Applicant categorization is the responsibility of NSERC staff and is done based on the information provided in the application.
Subject matter eligibility
An eligible proposal must meet both of the following criteria:
- Its primary objective must be to advance knowledge in the NSE
- It must integrate or transcend disciplines in ways that would significantly benefit from peer review by a tri-agency interdisciplinary committee
Discovery Horizons grants support investigator-initiated individual and team projects that broadly integrate or transcend disciplines to advance knowledge in the natural sciences and engineering (NSE). In partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), NSERC is piloting this interdisciplinary peer review mechanism. The shared peer review committee will assess all full applications submitted to NSERC’s Discovery Horizons program, as well as relevant applications submitted to SSHRC’s Insight Grants and CIHR’s Project Grants programs.
In the context of this funding opportunity, the term “interdisciplinary” should be understood to fully encompass all research that connects, crosses or falls in between the traditional disciplines of the three agencies, including transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary, convergence research and other approaches at the interface. Discovery Horizons grants are expected to be valued from $50,000 to $100,000 per year and will be commensurate to the size of the research team. For this competition, NSERC is expecting to award approximately 10 to 20 grants this year.
The Discovery Horizons program provides NSERC’s entry-point to the tri-agency interdisciplinary peer-review mechanism. It supports Discovery research projects that would significantly benefit from being assessed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee, and aims to:
- answer NSE research questions that are best addressed through interdisciplinary approaches
- advance NSE disciplines through cross fertilization and new ways of thinking about research questions; ideas and frameworks; approaches and methods; platforms, tools and infrastructure; people, partners and trainees
- provide leading-edge NSE training for highly qualified personnel (HQP) in interdisciplinary research environments
The Discovery Horizons application process has two stages: the LOI stage and the full application stage.
Letter of intent
Step 1A: NSERC LOI submission
The LOI is mandatory and includes a brief summary (2,500 characters max) and responses to the four points below. Reviewers will assess program fit, to identify a limited number of LOI applicants who will be invited (no later than August 16) to submit a full application.
- Explain how your project would benefit from being assessed by a tri-agency interdisciplinary peer review committee, as opposed to a joint review by NSERC's Discovery Grants evaluation groups (1,000 characters max)
- Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary approach is essential to achieving the project goals (1,000 characters max)
- Describe how the interdisciplinary approach enriches HQP training (1,000 characters max)
- Demonstrate that the interdisciplinary elements are integrated and inseparable (i.e., not sub-projects that could be reviewed on their own merit) (1,000 characters max)
See the instructions for completing a letter of intent for more details.
STEP 1B: RMS record
- Letters of Intent must also be submitted for institutional approval through the University of Calgary's Research Management System (RMS) by the RSO internal review deadline of 12:00pm MT, June 13, 2023.
- Complete a "Pre-Award/Letters of Intent" record on RMS (login at https://research.ucalgary.ca/rms).
- Use the “2023 NSERC Discovery Horizons Grants” funding opportunity and once completed - “Submit for academic approvals” (Under Save & Progress) in good time to allow for approvals from your Department Head and/or ADR prior to the Research Services deadline.
Stage 2: Full application
Selected applicants will be invited to submit a full proposal and will receive further guidance on application requirements with that invitation.
RSO internal deadline
Pre-application program deadline
RSO detailed review deadline
RSO final internal review deadline
Program application deadline
NOTE: Consult your Faculty Associate Dean (Research) (ADR) regarding Faculty-specific deadlines and submission processes.
Principal Investigators: Complete a Research Management System (RMS) record, including a copy of your complete application, and submit this for approvals in RMS.
Approvals: The University of Calgary requires that all funding applications be approved prior to submission. Approval requires signatures via either RMS or the RFAA Trainee form, in the following order:
- Principal Investigator
- Department Head
- Faculty ADR/Dean
- Research Services (on behalf of the Vice-President Research)
Read the Meaning of Grant Signatures policy to understand what your approval means. Please see the agency guidelines for details about which signatures are required on your application, as it may differ from internal requirements.
Late submissions: Late submissions will only be accepted in cases of medical or family emergencies, or other exceptional circumstances. If you submit your RMS record to Research Services after the internal deadline has passed, you must secure additional approvals. Please read: Late Applications Process.
Frequently asked questions:
Given the hyper competition seen in the first 2 years of the Discovery Horizons pilot (842 and 411 Letters of Intent received in year 1 and year 2) and the overall goals of the program, we are aligning the Discovery Horizons pilot with the Discovery Grants program in year 3. Active DG holders are therefore not eligible. However, if their DG expires in 2024 or are automatically extended without additional NSERC funds they can apply to DH.
- Can applicant and co-applicant who hold a Discovery Horizons grant since 2022 and 2023 apply to Discovery Grants in future years?
The change in eligibility is forward facing only, meaning that grantees from the 2022 and 2023 DH competition are still eligible to apply to the DG program while holding their DH grant.
- Can applicants who are applying for a Discovery Grant in Fall 2023 submit a LOI to Discovery Horizons?
Individuals can apply to both programs, i.e. submit an LOI to DH and a NOI to DG, but those invited to submit a full proposal to DH will have to choose which program they would like to submit a full application, depending on the nature of the proposed research.
- Can applicants who hold a Discovery Development Grant submit a LOI to Discovery Horizons?
- Can co-applicants be from non-NSE disciplines (Economics, Sociology …)
As long as the faculty members meet all eligibility requirements they can be from any departments. However, in the Discovery Horizons proposal, they must work towards advancing knowledge in the NSE.
- Can outstanding Discovery Grant installments be declined to accept Discovery Horizons funding?
DG holders must terminate their DGs before the June 16th deadline for submission of a Letter of Intent to DH. Termination of a grant is final, should their DH LOI or application not be successful, they will not be able to reinstate their DG grant, nor will they be able to apply to the current DG competition. They will have to wait till next summer to apply to either DG or DH program again.
- Can applicants hold a Discovery Horizons and a Discovery Grant, Subatomic Physics (SAP) individual or SAP project fund?
SAP Individual and SAP Project funds holders are not eligible to apply for DH.
- Is it mandatory for applicants to have research activities involving Indigenous peoples and communities ?
Research involving Indigenous Peoples and communities is particularly welcome in Discovery Horizons, but it is not a requirement.
- Does the application need to have all three components: (1) social sciences and humanities, (2) natural sciences and engineering, and (3) health and wellness?
No, Discovery Horizons applications must be rooted in the NSE and integrate elements from the social sciences and humanities and/or health and wellness.
- How does the Discovery Horizons Program and the Tri-Agency Interdisciplinary Peer Review process differ from the interdisciplinary research funded under the New Frontiers in Research Fund?
Although the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) was also created to fund interdisciplinary research in response to the Fundamental Science Review’s recommendations, it is focused on high-risk, high-reward, and fast-breaking research and supports research that proposes novel interdisciplinary approaches that bring together disciplines that do not traditionally work together. Please see the New Frontiers in Research Fund website for more details. Discovery Horizons, as well the other funding opportunities reviewed by the Tri-Agency Interdisciplinary Peer Review Committee will complement NFRF by focusing instead on investigator-initiated interdisciplinary research projects that are aligned with the core funding programs at each of the three major funding councils, including research projects that use existing interdisciplinary approaches.
- Can I submit the same application to more than one of the funding opportunities participating in the Tri-Agency Interdisciplinary Peer Review Committee?
No, applicants may not identical or essentially identical applications to more than one funding opportunity participating in the pilot of the Tri-Agency Interdisciplinary Peer Review Committee, NSERC’s Discovery Horizons, SSHRC’s Insight Grants and CIHR’s Project Grants. In addition, all applications must meet the eligibility requirements and guidelines of the funding opportunity to which they apply, including those related to multiple applications. As a result, it is important to consult the funding opportunity’s webpage.
- How do I determine which funding opportunity to apply in order to have my application reviewed by the Tri-Agency Interdisciplinary Peer Review Committee?
Applicants should apply to the agency funding opportunity that supports the dominant research area of the proposal.
- Will interdisciplinary applications that fall entirely within the research areas of one agency be considered by the Tri-Agency Interdisciplinary Peer Review Committee?
No, applications that fall entirely within the research areas of one agency should be directed towards existing committees or evaluation groups, based on the practice and criteria of each agency. For example, interdisciplinary research solely within the natural sciences and engineering, with no social science, humanities, health, and/or wellness components should be directed towards another NSERC program, such as the Discovery Grants Program.
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)