University Research Services

University Research Services
University Research Services

New Frontiers in Research Fund Exploration 2020 - FAQ

Jump to: Eligibility | NOI Requirements | Application Requirements | Future Competitions

This website is meant to serve as a repository of frequently asked questions URS has received related to the New Frontiers in Research Fund - Exploration competition. For additional FAQ answers, please see the agency FAQ page. For full details on the program, including help files and the submission process, please see the URS NFRF webpage.


To be eligible, does a project need to involve two or more disciplines that would fall under different Tri-Council mandates (e.g., SSHRC + NSERC)?
  • No, the disciplines do not need to fall under different Tri-Council mandates. To be eligible, the proposed research project must include elements from at least two different disciplines (i.e. Fields of Research), as defined by a highest group-level classification based on the Canadian Research and Development Classification.
  • Please be aware that the intent of this program is to fund research that could not be easily funded through existing Tri-Council programs. Projects that cross agency boundaries (e.g., SSHRC + CIHR) may be more readily recognized by peer reviewers as interdisciplinary projects matching the spirit of the NFRF program.
Is it advantageous if the project will involve lots of disciplines and/or disciplines that fall under different Tri-Council mandates?
  • Projects that involve many disciplines and/or disciplines that fall under different Tri-Council mandates will NOT automatically rank higher in the competition. Ultimately, the evaluation will depend on the details of the project.  For example, if reviewers believe that an element of the project is under-developed or ‘tacked on’, this may negatively influence the evaluation. However, if all of the project elements are well-formulated/articulated and add synergistically to a robust approach that is more likely to solve a difficult problem, this may positively influence the evaluation. Under the program evaluation criteria, one of the ways that ‘high risk’ research is defined is “bringing new disciplines together with different perspectives to use novel approaches for solving existing problems.” If you would like to discuss the specifics of your project further, please contact your discipline-specific projects advisor.
Can a co-Principal Investigator (co-PI), co-applicant, or collaborator be from a foreign (non-Canadian) institution?
  • Yes, co-PIs, co-applicants, and collaborators can be from foreign institutions.
Would a project eligible for funding from the NSERC/CIHR Collaborative Health Research Projects program also be eligible for this funding opportunity?
  • Yes - so long as the proposed project is considered "high-risk, high-reward, interdisciplinary research", it is eligible for this program.
What does the call mean by "high-risk" research?
  • According to the evaluation criteria, high-risk is defined by elements such as:
    • defying current research paradigms;

    • proposing unique scientific directions; and/or

    • bringing new disciplines together with different perspectives to use novel approaches for solving existing problems.

What does the call mean by "high-reward" research?
  • According to the evaluation criteria, high-reward research is defined by elements such as:
    • the degree of impact and the size of the community affected;

    • significantly advancing current knowledge, methods and/or technologies;

    • resolving a longstanding scientific issue; and

    • transforming and/or disrupting conventional thinking.

Can I have more than one co-Principal Investigator (co-PI) listed on my grant?
  • No. Applicants can only have a max of one co-PI on their grant.
Am I able to pay a stipend/salary/honorarium to a non-academic team member listed as a co-applicant or collaborator?
  • You are allowed to provide compensation to a non-academic team member listed as a co-applicant.
  • Collaborators are NOT allowed to have access to grant funds and so you cannot provide a collaborator with any form of compensation.
Can I apply to this program as an individual PI or do I need a team of researchers involved?
  • A team must include one Nominated Principal Investigator (NPI) and one other person in the role of co-principal investigator and/or co-applicant.  There can be additional co-applicants or collaborators as part of the team as well.
Does a collaborator need to be an academic?
  • Collaborators do not need to be academics. Any individual who will contribute to the project is eligible to be a collaborator. However, collaborators cannot have access to grant funds and cannot be individuals who would be supervised by the PI, co-PI, or co-applicants (e.g., graduate students).
Can a collaborator be a co-supervisor for a student paid for by grant funds?
  • Yes, a collaborator can be a co-supervisor for a student paid for by grant funds. But, please be aware that collaborators cannot receive grant funds directly.
Who can I contact to confirm whether or not I am eligible to apply for this program?
If I am a post-doc/research associate and I hold a position as an adjunct professor, am I eligible to apply for the NFRF?
  • Unfortunately, post-docs and research associates cannot apply to this funding opportunity, even if they hold an adjunct professor title.
Can a "co-applicant" on an NFRF application also act as a “collaborator" on another one?
  • Yes, a co-applicant may also serve as a collaborator on another grant, but they may not be a Nominated Principal Investigator, co-PI or co-applicant on more than 1 application. They may participate as collaborators on multiple grants, as they do not have access to grant funds and are expected to bring their own resources with them to the project.
Can a trainee (Ph.D. student, post-doc, etc.) or a research staff member be listed as a co-applicant on the NFRF application.?
  • No, they cannot be listed as co-applicants because they are not considered independent researchers. A trainee or research staff member could be listed as a collaborator but ONLY if i) they are not directly supervised by the NFRF PI, co-PI or co-applicants and ii) they would not be receiving compensation (i.e., stipend, salary) for their activities on the grant.


NOI Requirements

What written documents need to be prepared for the NOI?
  • Detailed NOI instructions are available on the agency website.
  • The main written component is a 2,500 character (~3/4 page) research summary.
If a co-applicant or co-PI listed on the NOI then decides not to participate, could the PI change the co-applicants or co-PI after the NOI stage?
  • After the NOI stage, changes can be made to the research team, but the Nominated Principal Investigator cannot change.
Are NOIs adjudicated (i.e., by a peer review panel)?
  • No, NOIs are not adjudicated.
Are NOIs used to check the project’s eligibility for the program?
  • Staff may look at the NOI to see if it meets basic eligibility criteria. In particular, staff may check: i) if there are at least two disciplines chosen (i.e. Fields of Research), as defined at the highest "group" level by the CRDC; and, ii) if the Nominated Principal Investigator and Co-PI are early career researchers. The NOIs are not adjudicated.


Application Requirements

Do we know how long the written proposal will need to be?
  • The research proposal for the full application is a maximum of four pages.  Please refer to the Full Application Guide for details. 
Can I change the research summary I submitted for the NOI at the application stage?
  • No, the research summary submitted as part of the NOI can not be changed prior to the Full Application deadline.
Can I add / remove team members after the NOI stage?
  • •It is expected that roles will not change between the NOI and Full Application, but team members can be added.  The only team member who cannot change is the Nominated Principal Investigator (PI).
If a project involves multiple team members, will be budget need to be split equally between them?
  • At this time, there are no requirements on how the funded budget must be split between team members. This will vary by project, depending on the project needs. 

Can we request funding to support a team-building workshop as part of this grant?

  • Unfortunately, requesting funding to organize a workshop or conference is NOT eligible in this funding opportunity.

Do I need to provide a detailed breakdown for indirect costs in my budget justification?

  • No, you do not need to explain how the overhead will be spent. We recommend including the allowable $25K/y in the row for overhead without mentioning it in the budget justification. You only need to address direct costs of research in the budget justification.

Do PI, co-PIs, or co-applicants need to provide CVs?

  • No, you do not need to provide CVs. However, applicants will be required to submit a 2-page description of the research team’s biographical information (see application instructions).

What is the definition of an ECR-led application?

  • As described in the NFRF Competition Overview, a proposal is considered ECR-led if both the NPI and, if applicable, Co-PI are ECRs. Co-applicants can be senior-, mid-, or early-career researchers. See the Eligibility section for more detail).

Does the request for both years each have to be below $100K, or would it be OK to spend more than $100K in one year and below $100K in the other year as long as the total stays below $200K?

  • The maximum one can request per year is 100K, you would not be able to spend less one year and more the second.


Future Competitions

If I am awarded an Exploration grant as a PI, co-PI, or co-applicant, will I be able to apply in future competitions?

  • If you are a grantee or co-grantee on an Exploration award as a PI, co-PI, co-applicant, you will only be able to apply for future competitions AFTER your current funded grant is complete (i.e., after the 2-year grant period is over).
If an applicant applies to the Exploration program under the NFRF, is there any plan to EXCLUDE them from being able to apply for the Transformation or International streams when they launch?
  • No, there is no plan to exclude applicants to the Exploration program from applying to the Transformation or International streams.
Could an applicant hold an Exploration grant and also apply to the Transformation or International streams? Or, would they need to wait until their Exploration grant is completed?
  • They can apply to Transformation and International streams if they hold an Exploration grant. They simply cannot apply for another Exploration grant while they still hold an Exploration grant. They must wait for their Exploration grant to be finished before applying for a new Exploration grant.
If I am unsuccessful in this funding call, will I be able to submit an application in a future competition?
  • Applicants will NOT be allowed to submit the SAME application in the next competition. However, applicants could submit an application on the same research topic, provided that the application has been substantially revised since the previous competition.

Last Updated: July 13, 2020