Canadian Institutes of Health Research

Client: The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is Canada’s premier federal agency for health research. CIHR operates with a mission to create scientific awareness, knowledge translation and effective health care products and services for the Canadian healthcare system.

Challenge: CIHR conducts research funding competitions multiple times a year. During the competition, the management of research papers, its assignment to the right reviewers and paper re-assessment was being carried out manually. CIHR needed consultancy services to automate these processes for assistance in getting optimized results with no room for errors. A tool was required to design and build a flexible advanced analytics model for grant application reviewer assignments. SSI performed a detailed analysis of the challenge and proposed a dual-phase mathematical model as a solution for the funding competition delivery process.

Solution: SSI developed an application for the optimization of CIHR’s grant application reviewer assignment. The model consisted of two phases:

  • The first phase involved the assignment of applications to the right reviewers based on their competency and ability to state conflicts and reviews.
  • The second phase involved the re-assignment of these applications to the right individuals for peer-reviews after the reviews (and comments) from the first-phase responses were received.

The following rules were applied to the model to resolve constraints identified before the automation of the whole process.

  • English applications have to be reviewed by English reviewers and French applications have to be assigned to reviewers with the ability to review in French.
  • Reviewers are excluded based on the defined criteria (for example, reviewers cannot be assigned to their own application)
  • Assignments are not granted where the minimum suitability threshold is not met.
  • The number of reviewers assigned to each application has to be greater than, equal to, or lesser than the associated minimum or maximum input respectively.
  • The number of applications assigned to each reviewer has to be greater than, equal to or lesser than the associated minimum or maximum inputs respectively.

Implementation of these rules did not only resolve the constraints but also helped in managing the whole assignment process more efficiently and effectively.

Result: With the introduction of an application with a scoring model that took into account, multiple limitations and variables allowed CIHR to make its research funding process efficient, accurate and transparent. It allowed the CIHR team to reduce the number of man-hours needed to manage each funding project.