Information for referees

The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships (Vanier CGS) program provides funding to world-class doctoral nominees, both nationally and internationally, who will positively contribute to the country's economic, social- and research-based growth. For more information about the program, refer to the About Us section of our website.

The objectives of the Vanier CGS program are to:

Nomination for this scholarship includes an assessment from two (2) academic referees. Refer to the application/nomination instruction for more details.

Referee assessment

Vanier CGS nominations are reviewed by one of three multidisciplinary selection committees based on broad discipline areas: Health (CIHR), Natural Sciences and/or Engineering (NSERC), or Social Sciences and Humanities (SSHRC).

Selection committee members consider referee assessments as part of their overall review and to corroborate their own evaluation of the application. Since referee assessments play a critical role in the review process, referees should be mindful of using them to evaluate (versus advocate for) the nomination. There are three parts to their assessment:

  1. Academic excellence
  2. Research potential
  3. Leadership (potential and demonstrated ability)

Since the selection committees are multidisciplinary in nature, providing evidence and examples to support the assessment in comparison to normal expectations for PhD students in the research area(s) is very useful. For example, it would be useful to:

The following instructions are provided to referees for completing the assessment in ResearchNet:


It is the applicant’s responsibility to provide referees with the information that they need in order to complete their assessments.

Referees must complete all sections of the assessment online via ResearchNet. They will not be able to upload documents in ResearchNet or submit assessments off-line. Only once all sections (including the section requiring information about the referee) have been completed will the submit button be available.

The email requesting assessment is automatically generated by ResearchNet may be filtered into junk mail. If the email requesting assessment is misplaced, the applicant may generate another unique URL by resending the invitation. Resending the invitation, or deleting and re-inviting a referee, will render all URLs contained in previously sent emails inactive.

Reducing unconscious bias

Biases may manifest themselves in several ways and could be based on a school of thought, fundamental versus applied or translational research, areas of research or approaches (including emerging ones), size or reputation of a participating institution, age, cultural background, language, personal factors or gender of the applicant.

Referees are cautioned against using any inappropriate judgment of an application based on such factors and are asked to constantly guard against the possibility of implicit bias influencing their assessment or the review of the application by the selection committee.

The use of inclusive language is encouraged (e.g., "the applicant" or "they" instead of "he/she"). Referee assessments should be free from words or sentences that reflect prejudiced, stereotyped or discriminatory language of particular people or groups, or their institution.

Research has shown that, when compared to letters of recommendation for male applicants, those written for women were more likely to, among other issues, be shorter, include fewer "standout" adjectives and include more "doubt raisers."

The use of stereotypical adjectives when describing character and skills, especially when providing a letter for a woman (e.g., avoid words like nice, kind, agreeable, sympathetic, compassionate, selfless, giving, caring, warm, nurturing, maternal, etc.) should be avoided. For more information, refer to the Tips on reducing unconscious bias in the review process guide for letter writer.

Referees should consider whether their assessment unintentionally includes gaps, or doubt-raising, negative or unexplained statements (e.g., 'might make an excellent leader' versus 'is an established leader').

The agencies are actively engaged in promoting equity and diversity, as well as decreasing unconscious bias in their review processes. You must review the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion page before beginning your assessment of an applicant.

For research involving and engaging with Indigenous communities, see the "Research respectfully involving and engaging Indigenous communities" section of the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion page.

The following best practices and considerations should be taken into account when providing a referee assessment:

Request for an assessment

Referees will receive a request via e-mail from ResearchNet (an application platform used by the Vanier CGS program) with instructions on how to link to the assessment form. This email is automatically generated by ResearchNet, so be sure to check your spam/junk folder.

The email sent by ResearchNet will include a unique URL that allows you access to the referee form. You will not receive access to the application package; speak to the candidate to receive the information that you will need to complete this task.

If the email requesting assessment is misplaced, the student may generate another unique URL by re-sending the invitation (see Task 8 – Identify Referees in the instructions for applicants). If the student resends the invitation, or deletes and re-invites you as a referee, this action will render all previously sent URLs inactive.

Deadline for the assessment

The referee assessment must be submitted via ResearchNet no later than the Assessment Required Deadline date displayed on the online referee assessment page. Please contact the nominee if you have any questions about the deadline.

The applicant will not be able to submit their application if the referee assessment is not received by their submission deadline.

Referee should keep a copy of the assessment submitted.

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