Systemic Racism and Canada’s Health Research Funding System

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As Canada’s national health research funding agency, we recognize the influence our institution has in building an equitable ecosystem, and we acknowledge that we have a

First time joining the online discussion?

We ask that you please complete a one-minute, anonymous demographic questionnaire before participating. Completing this questionnaire is an important step that will allow CIHR to understand the diversity of participants in the online discussion. This questionnaire is located on a different survey platform as a measure to protect your privacy.

Access the demographic questionnaire

After completing the questionnaire, please return to this page to join the online discussion.

As Canada’s national health research funding agency, we recognize the influence our institution has in building an equitable ecosystem, and we acknowledge that we have a key role to play in enabling a more diverse and inclusive research culture. We also recognize that differing views, ideas and approaches, and equitable and inclusive practices help promote research excellence that better addresses the needs of a diverse Canadian population. As such, we have committed to taking action towards positive change. We acknowledge the recent commitment by the Government of Canada to address systemic racism and to do so in a way that is informed by the lived experiences of Black and other racialized communities, and Indigenous Peoples (First Nations, Inuit and Métis). This includes recognition that the experience of systemic racism will be different for different communities. We concurrently recognize that Indigenous Peoples are rights-holding nations as First Peoples of Canada and a distinct approach is necessary to address the legacies of colonialization.

Through existing literature, feedback from the community, social media commentary and our own data, we know that biases and inequities exist in the health research funding system. In recent years, CIHR has implemented a range of interventions to address some of the issues raised by the research community, most notably focused on sex and gender, and Indigenous health research. However, we recognize that there is much more work to be done, including implementing specific actions to increase representation of racialized and Indigenous communities in our funding system. Using the best available evidence, we must expand our focus to consider issues around racial diversity and inclusion, as well as examine our programs, policies, and processes through an intersectional lens.

CIHR recognizes that the issues surrounding systemic racism are considerable. This is why we would like to participate in open dialogue with the health research community to identify and discuss specific measures we could implement to address barriers faced by racialized and Indigenous researchers and trainees.

While conscious of the importance of co-developing these measures, we do not wish to increase burden on historically excluded groups by asking individuals to share expertise and lived experiences that are already well documented in the public domain. As such, our aim is to use an inclusive and transparent approach to invite discussions on systemic racism specific to CIHR’s funding system.

The objectives of this online dialogue are to:

  • Identify barriers for racialized and Indigenous communities within CIHR’s programs, policies and processes, and suggest ways for CIHR to address them;
  • Provide a space for dialogue with CIHR on systemic racism within the health research ecosystem; and
  • Inform the development of an action plan on anti-racism that addresses systemic barriers in CIHR’s funding system.

Following this online dialogue, CIHR will host distinct small group sessions to determine what measures we can take, specific to the health research system, to:

  • Address systemic barriers faced by racialized communities in our programs, processes and policies; and
  • Supplement our Indigenous health research action plan in a way that further recognizes and addresses systemic racism.

We recognize that the terms racialized and Indigenous communities both encompass a diversity of individuals who have differing lived experiences. Recognizing this diversity of experience, we are offering a shared platform in order to learn from one another as a starting place in this journey.

While this initial dialogue will be fundamental to outlining the issues and barriers faced by racialized and Indigenous health researchers, CIHR recognizes the need to follow up with targeted discussions. As such, CIHR will host distinct small group sessions with racialized researchers and with Indigenous researchers to determine what actions we can take, specific to the health research system to:

  • Validate, and supplement, what we heard in the online dialogue;
  • Address systemic barriers faced by racialized communities in our programs, processes and policies using an intersectional approach; and
  • Discuss how CIHR can supplement our action plan to build a healthier future for First Nations, Inuit, and Métis Peoples in a way that further recognizes and addresses systemic racism. In the meantime, we also welcome Indigenous communities to participate in this current broader online discussion about systemic racism in Canada’s health research funding system.

This interactive website is meant to foster discussion, challenge beliefs that perpetuate biases and barriers in the system, share ideas and find solutions to inform the development, implementation, and monitoring of an action plan to address systemic racism within the health research funding system.

In the Forum tab, we invite you to answer questions, share thoughts and chat with other participants. In the Ideas tab, you are able to post ideas to a message board and respond to suggestions put forward by other participants. In order to create a safer space, CIHR staff will monitor comments as they are posted.

However, as a neutral third party, Bang the Table conducts moderation of the website according to their Rules of Moderation.

We thank you for your willingness to engage, share, and respect the spirit of inclusion and open-mindedness as you participate.

CLOSED: This discussion has concluded.
Discussions: All (8) Open (8)
  • Research Funding

    9 months ago
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    • CIHR has taken steps to target funding for research related to Indigenous health through Building a healthier future for First Nations, Inuit, and Metis peoples action plan and to address anti-Indigenous racism and systemic racism on Indigenous Peoples in alignment with priorities in the Institute of Indigenous Peoples’ Health Strategic Plan. Other funding agencies, such as the U.S. National Institutes of Health, have also suggested targeted funding focused on examining and addressing racism in the research system could provide the necessary opportunity to design, evaluate and assess solutions to make the health research sector more equitable and inclusive of racialized researchers. In your opinion, should such an approach be prioritized in the Canadian health research context? If yes, are there specific funding elements or foci that you would like to see CIHR offer?

    • What other funding-related measures could CIHR implement to identify and address racism in the research system?
  • Application Rates & Proportion of Funding

    9 months ago
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    • Self-identification data from CIHR’s 2018 and 2019 Project Grant competitions show that between 19.7% and 24.3% of applicants, and between 10.2% and 13.2% of funding recipients identified as visible minorities. Of note, the number of applicants who self-identified as Indigenous Peoples was too low to report publically. What measures could CIHR implement that would increase application rates and the proportion of CIHR funding that goes to racialized and Indigenous applicants?

    • What measures could CIHR implement specific to capacity development that would increase the recruitment of racialized and Indigenous trainees in the Canadian health research funding system?

    • What measures could CIHR implement specific to capacity development that would increase the retention of racialized and Indigenous trainees in the Canadian health research funding system?

    • What else could CIHR do to strengthen the cadre of racialized and Indigenous trainees and researchers, across the entire career continuum?
  • Peer Review

    9 months ago
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    • CIHR has received feedback, including through our strategic planning consultation process, to diversify membership on our peer review committees. What recruitment strategies could CIHR implement to increase the diversity of our College of Reviewers and peer review committees?

    • What retention strategies could CIHR implement to increase the diversity of our College of Reviewers and peer review committees?

    • What measures could CIHR implement to ensure that members of peer review committees remain accountable for operating in an inclusive manner?

    • Through our College of Reviewers, we have heard of instances where applicants considered reviewer comments to be discriminatory. What actions could CIHR prioritize to ensure that training and/or quality assurance practices for our peer review are grounded in our commitment to anti-racism and decolonization?

    • What else could CIHR do to foster a diverse and inclusive peer review process?
  • Research Design

    9 months ago
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    • Canada’s Federal Anti-Racism Strategy points to data and evidence as necessary for identifying inequities and enabling corrective action toward the elimination of racism. Some CIHR funding opportunities require that applicants describe how identity factors beyond sex and gender, such as race and ethnicity, will be examined at all stages of the research process. However, this is not a standing requirement, and training for applicants and peer reviewers on intersectionality is limited. What approaches, guidance or tools could CIHR implement to encourage applicants to ethically include race and racism considerations in their research?

    • What approaches, guidance or tools could CIHR put in place for research that involves Indigenous communities to respect the principle of ‘by and with’ (i.e. ensuring research empowers Indigenous communities) and considerations of Indigenous data sovereignty, collection, ownership, protection, use and sharing?

    • What else could CIHR do to ensure research proposals ethically integrate race and Indigenous considerations (e.g. Ways of Knowing) and the health effects of systemic racism, in order to improve health outcomes for racialized and Indigenous individuals and communities?
  • Institutional Linkages

    9 months ago
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    • Many actions are currently being taken by Canadian institutions that conduct research (e.g., universities, academic hospitals) to raise awareness about systemic racism, redress the resulting inequities, and value diversity through inclusive processes. How could CIHR complement, avoid duplication of and amplify these actions by institutions?

    • CIHR is aware that concepts of research and researcher excellence can perpetuate systemic discrimination and limit opportunities for racialized and Indigenous scholars in the Canadian research enterprise. In your opinion, how should CIHR leverage our relationship with research institutions to help shift Canada towards a more inclusive concept of research excellence?
  • Engagement

    9 months ago
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    • Data on the academic sector shows that there are few racialized or Indigenous researchers and trainees in the research system. This means that racialized and Indigenous researchers and trainees are often overburdened by requests to fulfill advisory roles. How can CIHR ensure that our existing advisory groups are diverse while not contributing to this challenge?

    • Building upon the question above, how can CIHR ensure advice from racialized and Indigenous researchers guides our anti-racism work without increasing this burden?
  • Communication and Knowledge Translation

    9 months ago
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    • CIHR plays an important communications and knowledge translation role, in promoting our funded projects and mobilizing research findings. What activities would you like to see CIHR undertake to raise the public profile of racialized and Indigenous researchers and trainees, and research conducted in racialized and Indigenous communities? 
  • Actions to Prioritize

    9 months ago
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    • CIHR is committed to advancing equity, diversity and inclusion through specific, measurable and sustainable actions to counter obstacles faced by racialized and Indigenous researchers, including systemic barriers, explicit and unconscious biases, and inequities. What initial actions would you suggest CIHR prioritize to lay the foundation for this work?