The following policies and guidelines are designed to provide a framework for the evaluation of scientific research supported by the Space Science Program of the Canadian Space Agency while maintaining the strategic directions identified by the scientific community. The process is based on fairness, openness and responsibility. The Announcement of Opportunity (AO) process is designed to work with the various government procurement processes.
Purpose of the Announcement of Opportunity Process
The AO process is used to select scientific investigations that are appropriate for support by the Space Science Program (SSP) of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA).
The AO process does not award funds by itself. Funds are awarded through the usual mechanisms available to the SSP, usually contracted via Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC).
The officer responsible for the process is the Director, Science Programs who releases the announcement, and receives and records the submitted proposals. The Director, Science Programs is responsible for informing the applicants of their outcome.
The steps in the AO process are:
Preparation of an Announcement of Opportunity is the responsibility of the Program Scientist for the relevant discipline. The structure and format may vary somewhat from discipline to discipline, but the AO should include:
The AO is released to the relevant scientific communities in Canada. These should include individuals and research teams, etc. but must include all academic institutions with relevant research programs.
A reasonable length of time should be allowed before the closing date. Six weeks is considered a minimum.
Proposals are to be submitted to the Director, Science Programs. All proposals will be date stamped with date and time of receipt. All proposals will be logged by the clerk responsible for proposals, who will also maintain a central registry of all proposals. Acknowledgment of receipt will be sent to the proposer within one working day of the receipt of the proposal. Note that normally only a single Principal Investigator (PI) of the proposal will be contacted by the CSA; notification to all other team members is the responsibility of the PI.
Proposal will be considered received based on the CSA time stamp. A courier stamp is not acceptable as the date and time of reception by the CSA. Electronic proposals will be considered received based on the time stamp of the CSA system. Allowance will be made for postal service disruption or CSA e-mail system failure.
One copy of all proposals submitted will be maintained by the Director; all other copies will be forwarded to the Program Scientist responsible for the review.
Prior to review, proposals will be screened against the criteria listed in the AO. Typically proposals are screened for programmatic area, type of proposal (flight or ground), length of proposal, compliance with the requirements of the AO, and receipt of supporting documents. There may be other screening factors. Proposals that do not meet the minimum requirements identified in the AO, or are considered non-competitive by virtue of failure to meet or address several of the assessment criteria, may be rejected at this stage of the competition. Screening is the responsibility of the Director, Science Programs with the concurrence of the Program Scientist. Notification to proposers of proposals that have been rejected by this screening process will normally take place at the same time as other notification letters are released (see 9., below).
The peer review process is the responsibility of the appropriate Program Scientist. Conventional processes for the discipline should be followed. These normally include external reviews by experts in the field and an externally constituted review committee. The review committee will produce a summary of its review as well as a score and ranking of proposals. A copy of all reviews will be retained by the CSA.
When there are diverse areas of expertise required several review panels may be established for the same AO. Each panel must however review sufficient proposals to allow ranking by the panel.
Conflict of interest must be addressed at the time that reviewers are invited to participate.
Evaluation of technical feasibility is the responsibility of the manager responsible for implementation of the relevant discipline. The size of the technical review panel may vary, depending upon the complexity of the particular project, but should normally consist of no less than three individuals. The appropriate Program Scientist should be a member of the technical review team. The review team will operate by consensus.
The technical evaluation should include an estimate of risk as well as an estimate of cost. It may be appropriate to identify a proposal as unfeasible. A summary of all technical reviews, including the process, will be produced by the panel. A copy of all reviews will be retained by the CSA.
Only proposals with appropriate science scores will normally be reviewed for technical feasibility.
Evaluation for programmatic merit will be performed by CSA staff and is the responsibility of the Program Scientist. Evaluation will be against the criteria established in the Announcement of Opportunity. Typically three individuals will review the proposal. This would include the appropriate Program Scientist, and the manager responsible for implementation of the relevant program.
Proposals will normally be scored and ranked for programmatic merit.
The final ranking of proposals will be based on the following factors in the following order of priority:
In general, scores will be provided for scientific merit, based on peer review, and risk, based on technical feasibility. Other considerations, such as programmatic cost and schedule will be dealt with in a qualitative manner, however, proposals which are deemed to provide excessive risk may be eliminated from consideration. The final ranking, including appropriate explanations, will be forwarded to the Director, Science Programs.
The final ranking will be approved by the Director, Science Programs and the Director responsible for program implementation with the concurrence of the Director General, Space Science Program
While the funding plan for a particular AO is developed by the appropriate Program Scientist and Program Manager, based on the final ranking and the funds available, the final decision with regard to the approval and funding of the proposals is made by the SSP Management Committee.
Letters indicating the outcome of the AO will be sent to all proposers by the Director, Science Programs. All letters will be sent on the same day. Notification should normally be within two weeks of the completion of the selection process. Each letter will include a summary and score from the scientific review, a summary of technical feasibility, and an overall numerical score relating to the specific proposal. For proposals judged non-compliant, a brief explanation will be included.
Letters to successful proposers will describe the process by which funds may be made available. Letters will not imply that funding is guaranteed.
Implementation of funding for successful proposals is the responsibility of the Program Manager responsible for implementation of the specific discipline. The Program Manager will work with PWGSC and the Program Scientist to ensure that an appropriate funding mechanism, within the budget guidelines, is established. The Program Scientist will verify that the final arrangement implements the proposal selected by the review process.
Unsolicited proposals are not considered to be a suitable method to determine relative scientific merit. Unsolicited proposals should be included in the regular AO cycle for the specific discipline.
Responses to Foreign AOs
From time to time Canadian scientists wish to apply to AOs issued by other space agencies. Normally a letter of support from the CSA is required with the application.
In general, international AOs will be supported through a special Announcement of Opportunity process run by the CSA Space Science Program. In such cases, the CSA scientific review process may be less rigorous and could rely on the usually more comprehensive peer review process used by the foreign agency in order to select successful proposals. The main aspects that will be carefully analysed by the CSA during this competitive process will be related to schedule, budget and risk. The responsible scientific advisory committee will be informed of the opportunity and asked for their opinion as to the importance of the opportunity in view of other scientific priorities and programmatic pressures.