Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Getting Funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR)

By Maurice A. Feldman, PhD and C. T. Yu, PhD


As stated on their website (, "CIHR is Canada's premier federal agency for health research. Its objective is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened health care system."


CIHR consists of 13 "virtual" institutes, two of which are most relevant to behavior analytic researchers: (a) Human Development, Child and Youth Health and (b) Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addiction. Moving beyond the traditional medical model ("body parts research"), CIHR institutes strive to fund multidisciplinary research that encompass four "pillars," (1) biomedical, (2) clinical science, (3) health systems and services, and (4) social, cultural and other factors that affect the health of populations. Currently, CIHR funds 3,251 grants, 1,625 awards, 644 Career Awards and approximately 4,000 trainees.


What is Entailed in Applying for Grants from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research


Rather than duplicating information, we refer readers to the link "How to apply for funding", We would add that CIHR is revising its peer-review committee structure. Studies dealing with childhood and adolescent disorders should be submitted for review to the new committee on Children's Health (CHI). Studies related to the behavioral problems of the elderly should be referred to the new committees on Biological and Clinical Aspects of Aging (BCA), or Social Dimensions in Aging (SDA). Other applied behavioral research should be referred to the long-standing "Behavioral Sciences B Committee," whereas basic research should go to the "Behavioral Sciences A Committee".


Advice for Behavioral Researchers Seeking Funding


Again, we refer to another "must read" link, "Tips for writing a successful CIHR grant application or request for renewal," In addition, we offer the following advice that may not be covered in the above link (these suggestions probably are relevant for any grant application, not just CIHR).


Write in language understandable to non-behavioral researchers. While CIHR asks you to provide the names of several possible external reviewers, reviewers of your proposal will most certainly include researchers from diverse disciplines. Members of CIHR review committees are listed on their website.


Recommend reviewers who appreciate and understand behavior analytic research. CIHR is quite open to suggestions for foreign reviewers. This is particularly important for Canadian behavior analytic researchers because there are so few of us, and we often collaborate, making us ineligible to review each other's applications (even when we are not on them).


Your summary is crucial because when the committee meets to make its final funding decisions, not everyone on the committee would have read your entire proposal. Ensure that your summary conveys the originality and potential contribution of your proposed study to knowledge translation and improving the health of Canadians.


It is highly desirable to include pilot data to support proposed studies.


Include power analysis to justify your proposed sample size for group designs or justify the use of within-subject and/or time series designs. Include statistical consultation where appropriate (this is a fundable expense).


Include letters of support from partners and agencies, especially those you will be approaching for participant recruitment.


Collaborating to Support Behavioral Funding


CIHR strongly supports multi-site, interdisciplinary collaborative projects. Behavioral scientists can often contribute to large-scale applications, for instance, by designing and conducting sub-projects covered within the larger application. For example, we are Team or Site Leaders of an international consortium of autism researchers ( headed by Jeanette Holden, a geneticist at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. The consortium has obtained over C$4 million funding from CIHR to run a suite of studies examining genotyping, phenotyping, early identification and prevention of Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD). Among other things, our behavioral expertise is being utilized to design and conduct the latter two initiatives.


Check the CIHR website regularly for updates and announcements of new requests for applications, beyond the regular funding programs. Frequently, requests for applications are announced for multi-site collaborations in specific areas or by individual institutes.


CIHR provides grants for multidisciplinary research training to build capacity in traditionally under-represented areas of health research. For example, we are part a six-year transdisciplinary training program in ASD that has just been funded by CIHR. We will offer training in behavior analytic research models and techniques to students and research trainees from a variety of disciplines.


CIHR also offers salary awards for researchers at different levels. There is significant new funding for post-doctoral fellows and new health researchers. Again, CIHR is committed to a broad definition of health research and innovative approaches, particularly for marginalized populations and under serviced conditions. Thus, CIHR may be more disposed than in the past to fund behavioral researchers who often conduct treatment research with persons who have developmental disabilities, behavior disorders, or acquired brain injury.




Modifed by Eddie Soh