Multiple Sclerosis Society of Canada

Review Process and Criteria

General Overview

The principal aim of the MS Society is to stimulate and support innovative research in multiple sclerosis (MS). The MS Society welcomes research funding applications related to basic biomedical science as well as applied studies, both non-clinical or clinical in nature, including projects in patient management, healthcare, epidemiology and rehabilitation, that may serve in any way to advance the mission of the MS Society.

The MS Society is committed to ensuring that research of the highest quality and scientific merit is funded. Each application submitted to any one of the MS Society’s research funding opportunities is rigorously scrutinized by experts in the field; their role is to identify the proposal’s strengths and weaknesses, and determine whether the research will advance knowledge in the field and/or improve health and quality of life. Members of the public – called community representatives – are also summoned to review the applications, in order to provide a public voice to the prioritization and funding of research and to ensure that dollars are spent on research that is relevant and impactful to people affected by MS. Community representatives read and comment on the lay summaries of the projects, and provide feedback on ways that researchers can communicate their work in an understandable way for the public, which is equally as important as their ability to communicate their work scientifically.

The principles that guide the independent review at the MS Society are confidentiality, conflict of interest and fairness.

Review Process

Selection of Committees

When a research competition is launched, the MS Society invites expert researchers and clinicians in the field of MS to form review committees based on their areas of expertise. The size and type of committee convened to review applications for a given funding opportunity can vary based on the type of opportunity, number of applications received, expertise required, etc. In addition to scientific reviewers and community representatives, each committee include a chair – an established researcher in the MS scientific community who oversees the entire process and presides over the review meetings to ensure that they function efficiently and guides the committee to a consensus rating. Some committees may also have a scientific officer (SO), who supports the chair in his or her role during the review and summarizes the feedback from the committee.

Below is a list of current review committees for the MS Society:

  • Biomedical Research Review Committee: this committee reviews operating grant applications for research that uncovers the biological, pathological, and mechanistic aspects of MS, and provides fundamental knowledge about the development and progression of disease. Topics include myelin biology, neurobiology, neurophysiology, immunology, neuropathology, imaging, and studies can involve in vitro, animal, and human models.

Click here to view the committee membership

  • Clinical and Population Health Research Review Committee : this committee oversees operating grant applications for research studies investigating the epidemiology, health economics, and risk factors for MS. Topics can include healthcare delivery/policy, treatment monitoring and health assessment, symptom management, rehabilitation and social aspects of MS.

Click here to view the committee membership

  • endMS Personnel Awards Review Committee: this committee reviews applications for studentship awards – both master’s and doctoral – as well as Postdoctoral fellowships in both biomedical and clinical/population health research. These awards are vital for attracting and retaining bright young minds to the field of MS and training the next generation of MS researchers.

Click here to view the committee membership

  • MSSRF Team Grant International Review Committee: this committee is composed of international experts in the field of MS who review applications for the multi-centre, collaborative Team Grant. Studies funded by the Team Grant stimulate frequent exchange of knowledge, data, and research techniques across international borders, with an emphasis on transformative research that can have significant scientific, socio-economic and health impacts.

Assignment of Applications

Once committees are selected, the committee chairs, in collaboration with MS Society staff, assign each application to reviewers who have considerable expertise in that particular research topic. At this stage in the process, any potential conflicts of interest are also identified and applications are re-assigned accordingly to prevent the opportunity for bias during the review. The number of applications that each reviewer is asked to evaluate can vary depending on the number of applications submitted, the reviewers’ expertise, conflicts, etc.

Evaluation of Applications

The cornerstone of the MS Society’s decision-making approach to awarding funding for research is the independent review process, which includes a scientific and lay review of each application.

In general, evaluation of applications for funding follow two steps: (1) an in-depth "at-home" review, wherein the reviewers assess the applications in private, and (2) a committee meeting to discuss the applications and determine which studies will be recommended for funding. This process can vary depending on the funding opportunity.

Once final funding decisions are made, applicants are notified of their status and receive a copy of the reviewers’ comments. Constructive advice allows the applicant to improve the quality and rigour of the proposed research, as well as address any concerns should they wish to apply in successive competitions. Feedback from the community representatives enables the applicant to improve upon her or her lay writing skills, in order to effectively communicate their work in a manner that is understandable and engaging to the public. Reviewer comments are made anonymously to ensure the confidentiality of the research process.

Review Criteria

The criteria that scientific reviewers and community representatives use to evaluate each application vary depending on the funding opportunity. Refer to the list below to access funding program-specific review criteria and scoring charts.

Operating Grants

endMS Personnel Awards

MSSRF Collaborative Team Grant

* Full applications are only reviewed for applicants who have progressed past the LOI stage.

Final Decision and Approval

Each committee’s recommendation for funding is presented to the MS Society’s Medical Advisory Committee (MAC), a team of senior researchers and clinicians who oversee scientific and medical matters that impact the MS Society and its stakeholders. In this case, the MAC provides guidance throughout the research review process and examines the list of recommended applications through the wider lens of emerging trends in MS research. Once the MAC reviews the recommendations, it presents a final recommendation for funding to the MS Society’s National Board of Directors.