Women less likely to receive Canadian federal research funding

October 22, 2019

Women are significantly less likely than men to be awarded grants and New Investigator personnel awards from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), according to a new study published this week in PLOS Medicine by Karen Burns of the University of Toronto, Canada, and colleagues.

Research has already shown that women at all career stages are more likely to leave academia than men, and studies have hinted that women also receive less funding. In the new study, the researchers retrospectively reviewed 55,700 grant and 4,087 personnel award applications submitted to CIHR between 2000 and 2015.

Over the time studied, women submitted 31.1% and 44.7% of grant and personnel award applications respectively. Across all 13 institutes of CIHR, women applicants were significantly less likely to win grants (risk ratio 0.89, 95% CI 0.84-0.94, p<0.001) and to win personnel awards (risk ratio 0.75, 95% CI 0.65-0.86, p<0.001). Women who directed applications to four institutes in particular (Cancer Research, Circulatory and Respiratory Health, Health Services and Policy Research, and Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis) were significantly less likely to be funded than men, while women who directed applications to the Institutes of Aboriginal People's Health were more likely to be funded than men. The researchers did not have access to metrics that reflected applicant or peer-reviewer demographics or experience level.

"Additional research is urgently needed to explicate the reasons for gender differences in success rates, overall and by content area, and to identify 'bias-enhancing conditions' in the peer-review process," the authors say.
Research Article


The authors received no specific funding for this work.

Competing Interests:

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.


Burns KEA, Straus SE, Liu K, Rizvi L, Guyatt G (2019) Gender differences in grant and personnel award funding rates at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research based on research content area: A retrospective analysis. PLoS Med 16(10): e1002935. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1002935

Image Credit: stevepb, Pixabay

Author Affiliations:

The Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The Interdepartmental Division of Critical Care, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Health Research Methods, Evidence and Impact, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Division of General Internal Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

In your coverage please use this URL to provide access to the freely available paper: http://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002935

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