Information for referees
The Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship (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 Canada Graduate Scholarship program are to:
- attract and retain top-tier doctoral talent, both nationally and internationally;
- develop their leadership potential;
- position them for success as research leaders of tomorrow.
Nomination for this scholarship includes an assessment from two (2) academic referees. Refer to the application/nomination instruction for more details.
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:
- Academic excellence
- Research potential
- 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:
- identify existing knowledge gaps within the discipline related to the proposal
- outline avenues for research dissemination, according to disciplinary norms and/or the needs of knowledge users
- explain authorship norms for publications within the discipline
- describe the impact of the applicant’s various research and leadership contributions ( e.g., impact on the discipline and/or community, significance for collaborating partners and/or knowledge users, prestige of publication venue)
- assess the track-record in the context of research/leadership opportunities available to the applicant, career stage etc.
- highlight how the applicant has overcome challenges in their academic/research endeavor (if applicable)
The following instructions are provided to referees for completing the assessment in ResearchNet:
- Academic excellence: (max 2250 characters) Provide an assessment of the candidate’s academic excellence as demonstrated by past academic results and by transcripts, awards and distinctions. Since the review committee is multidisciplinary, please provide an assessment that references the norms and expectations of the student’s discipline. If applicable, please also comment on results achieved outside of the university environment.
- Research potential: (max 2250 characters) Provide an assessment of the candidate’s research potential as demonstrated by their research history, interest in discovery, the proposed research and its potential contribution to the advancement of knowledge in the field and any anticipated outcomes. Include examples to support your assessment in comparison to the norms particular to the research area(s) (e.g. publication norms for the discipline etc.)
- Leadership: (max 4500 characters) Provide an assessment of demonstrated and potential leadership ability. Because there is no opportunity to interview the students, please elaborate for the committee how the candidate has gone above and beyond the opportunities presented in order to achieve a goal, contribute to their community, or how they have taken on responsibility for others. Note that high achievement, while admirable, does not necessarily constitute leadership. Be sure to provide context for the committee that illuminates how the candidate’s participation in activities (e.g., volunteer or work, sport or art, and any other participation) goes above and beyond active participation and becomes leadership.
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.
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.
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 Tri-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 application.
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:
- Be accurate, fair, clear and balanced.
- Avoid being unduly personal and use the applicant’s surname instead of their first name.
- Support your points by providing specific examples of accomplishments where possible.
- Use superlative descriptors (e.g., excellent, outstanding) judiciously and support them with evidence.
- Do not include information related to ethnicity, age, hobbies, marital status, religion, etc.
- Avoid sharing personal information about the applicant. Such information may be helpful only in explaining academic delays or interruptions and should be addressed with caution.
- 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.
- Consider whether the assessment unintentionally includes gaps, or doubt-raising, negative or unexplained statements (e.g., ‘might make an excellent leader’ versus ‘is an established leader’).
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.
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