Self-Identification Data Collection in Support of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion


As of summer 2018, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) ask everyone submitting an application for funding competitions (grants, scholarships and fellowships) and increasingly individuals involved in the merit review of applications to self-identify with information on age, gender, Indigenous identity, visible minority and population group or disability. The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and the Canada Foundation for Innovation have also implemented this requirement.

The granting agencies previously collected information on some identity factors but it was incomplete, collected in different ways, and lacked comparability. To address these concerns, the granting agencies are now using the same questions and categories of responses, which are closely aligned with the way similar data is collected by Statistics Canada.

The questionnaire was revised in 2020, in light of legal requirements, new legislation, and feedback from the research community. For example, the 2019 Addendum to the 2006 human rights settlement agreement pertaining to the Canada Research Chairs Program requires revisions to the self-identification form to collect data on nominees and chairholders who identify with LGBTQ2+ communities and who identify as white. The revised questionnaire asks about eight dimensions of identity, adding sexual orientation and language to the previous questions.

Why self-identification data collection is important

The collection of self-identification data is driven by the Government of Canada’s commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion in the federal research enterprise.

The changes to the collection of self-identification data is also being guided by

  • The Canada Research Coordinating Committee's work plan which includes “removing barriers faced by under-represented and disadvantaged groups to ensure equitable access across the granting agencies and establish Canada as a world leader in equity, diversity and inclusion in research”;
  • Budget 2018 which requires the granting agencies “to publish an annual report for Canadians on progress in addressing challenges in the research system, including equity and diversity, and support for researchers at various career stages”; and
  • Canada's Fundamental Science Review's recommendation 5. 2 which states that federal funding agencies “should collaborate to improve data collection and analysis”.

A harmonized self-identification data collection process allows the granting agencies to monitor the diversity of participants in its programs and design new measures that achieve greater equity, diversity and inclusion in the research enterprise.

Completing the self-identification form will be mandatory, but for each category there is an option for "I prefer not to answer."

Privacy and Collection of Information

The self-identification information is collected, used, disclosed, retained and disposed of in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. The information will be managed in accordance with Treasury Board Secretariat policies, directives and guidelines on information management and protection of personal information, and with the agency's retention and disposition schedules.

Choosing to self-identify or not will have no consequences for an application. In funding opportunities where the agency may offer special consideration for members of a specific population group, you will be asked to provide your consent separately to use your self-identification information for that purpose.

Appropriate privacy notices will be provided and consent obtained when the voluntary self-identification information is collected.