Guidelines for Proposals

Guidelines for Proposals

Please read the descriptions of our various programs before preparing your proposal. Proposals should be submitted using the online form.

Please indicate the subject area of your proposal. If the codes are not adequate (particularly for emerging fields), use Other and specify in Additional Comments.

We follow the Tri-Agency’s Action Plan on EDI, available here:

For ideas and resources on crafting an EDI positive program, please refer to: Resources for Equity, Diversity and Inclusion.

1. Organizing committee

For a 5-day workshop, we require a minimum of two and a maximum of five organizers (including the main and supporting organizers) per proposal, and we allow only one organizer per institution. Additional organizers may be listed under Comments, if needed. Please provide reasons for such additions. One of the organizing committee members should be designated as the main Contact Organizer. All organizers are expected to be on-site during the delivery of their program and to participate actively in the execution of the event.

In accordance with BIRS’s mandate to promote equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI), we strongly recommend that an organizing committee include:

(A) At least one early-career researcher within ten years of their doctoral degree at the time of submission of the proposal, and

(B) At least one self-identified member (for an organizing committee of two) or at least two self-identified members (for an organizing committee of three or more) from communities under-represented in STEM disciplines. This includes, but need not be limited to, women, Indigenous Peoples, persons with disabilities, members of visible minorities/racialized groups, and members of LGBTQ2+ communities.


  1. An organizer can be counted toward both (A) and (B) if they satisfy both descriptions.
  2. An organizing committee need not disclose any information that could be used to identify a specific member or an under-represented community. The organizing committee may instead report the aggregate percentage in the committee from under-represented groups without identifying any specific groups.
  3. An organizing committee who does not report its demographic composition or whose composition does not meet the recommendations stated above is still eligible to submit an application. However, we request such a proposal to explicitly address how the proposed program will include and support under-represented groups to meet BIRSs standards of EDI. We hope that applicants will take this as an invitation to look closely at their own research field and assess how it might be made more inclusive.

2. Adding participants

In Step 1, you're asked to Add Participants. This involves adding the names and email addresses of potential participants and sending them each an email invitation. This email invitation is not a formal invitation; it is only meant to gauge interest in your workshop.

Set the deadline to reply to any date you like; your potential participants will be asked to respond to your invitation by the date you set. You may want to set an early date to give yourself time to invite more participants, depending on the responses from the initial rounds.

When invited participants respond to your invitation, they will also be asked to fill out a diversity and inclusivity survey. The answers they provide will be used (in a non-identifying way) to populate your Demographic Charts page (see the tab on the top right of your proposal). These charts are intended to help you ensure a balanced participant pool.

Later on, if your proposal is accepted and you do plan a workshop, you will be able to select participants to whom you want to send formal invitations. At this stage, you will need to choose which participants you would like to invite to attend on site or online. You will also be able to invite new participants, subject to capacity.

In other words, you aren't bound by the participants you've added to your proposal.

3. Participant limits

When adding participants and sending invitations in Step 1 of your proposal, you can send up to 342 invitations. These are not formal invitations to your proposed workshop. Thus, you do not need to consider the in-person limits during this step of your proposal.

If your proposal is successful, you will need to consider in-person limits in order to send formal invitations.

Beginning in September 2021 and continuing indefinitely, BIRS will host hybrid workshops. Hybrid workshops will accommodate up to 300 virtual participants and a maximum number of in-person participants. The maximum number of in-person participants relates to ideal conditions, when facilities are running at their full capacities. As we emerge from the pandemic, these numbers are subject to change. Participation numbers are finalized in consultation with the organizing committee and the BIRS team a few months before the workshop date.

In-person capacities are subject to change. However, organizers can refer to this table for typical in-person limits for each type of BIRS event.

Number of in-person participants (including organizers) typically allowed for each type of BIRS event. For all workshops, BIRS can accommodate up to 300 virtual participants. 
LOCATION 5-Day Workshops Half-Workshops 2-Day Workshops Focused Research Groups Research in Teams Summer School Training Camps Hybrid Thematic Programs
Banff Up to 42  Up to 21 Up to 25 Up to 8 2 to 4 Flexible; up to 40 Up to 42
CMO (Oaxaca) Up to 42            
IASM (Hangzhou)  Up to 42            
UBCO (Kelowna)  Up to 40 or 42            

4. Dates

With regard to your proposed dates, please give us options—particularly “low-season” alternatives! To make sure that the dates you indicate as being acceptable really are acceptable to you, you may use this calendar for a list of holidays.

5. Proposal content

1. The workshop should be sufficiently innovative and timely that holding it has the potential to make a difference to the subject. Of special interest are proposals that take advantage of newly emerging links between areas, explore synergies between evolving fields or offer meeting opportunities for groups of participants who do not normally meet together.

2. Proposals must include contingency plans for situations similar to the COVID-19 pandemic. Priority will be given to proposals that demonstrate adaptability to virtual or online models under such circumstances.

3. At least some of the organizers should have recognized international stature as leaders in their fields.

4. The proposed participant list should be realistic and coherent with the goals of the event. It is more convincing to the selection panel if you can indicate that a number of your participants have confirmed their interest in the workshop.

5. The proposed list and final list of participants must ensure adequate representation of scientists from all career stages, and they must meet BIRS’s commitment to ensuring diversity in the broadest sense, across race, gender, ethnicity, visible and invisible disabilities, institution and geographic location. Please refer to the Canadian Tri-Agency Statement on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) and outline an action plan, showing how the proposed participant list will fulfill this mandate. An EDI statement with specific participation targets and a strategy for meeting these targets will be helpful in this regard.

6. The proposal should avoid being too diffuse and should not attempt to cover too many areas at once. If applicable, indicate why it is distinct from other events in related subject areas being held elsewhere.

7. The proposal should indicate detailed planning for program delivery and embed a variety of events in addition to the traditional meeting format. We intend to host events that facilitate new collaborations, demonstrate inclusive programming and support for under-represented groups, aim to train young talent, and have a mentorship component with the capability of long-range impact tracking.

6. Proposal format

The sections A Short Overview and A Statement of Objectives of the online form should total between 2 to 4 pages for workshops and FRGs. For other smaller or shorter programs, we require less, preferably between 1 and 2 pages.

The text that you submit should be plain text, with UTF-8 encoding (for the Unicode character set). Proposals will be compiled into a book using LaTeX2e, for the proposal review process.

You may use LaTeX2e syntax for mathematical expressions or formatting. Formatting may include itemized lists, sections (\section*{section name}), subsections (\subsection*{subsection name}), citations, and bibliographies (add “\begin {thebibliography}{99} ...” to the end of Objectives). If you use custom macros, please send them to, so that we can add them to our document’s preamble.

7. Confirmation

After you submit your proposal, you will receive an automatically generated message containing the text of your proposal. The BIRS Program Coordinator will send you an e-mail within one week to confirm that the proposal has been received and is complete. If you do not receive confirmation or if the copy you receive back from us seems to be corrupted, please contact us. If you have other questions about submissions of proposals, please contact us through the BIRS Program Coordinator.

8. EDI rubric

This is the rubric used to evaluate a proposal’s equity, diversity, and inclusivity (EDI).

EDI rubric 
PROPOSAL TITLE Average score (5) Exceptional (4) Good (3) Neutral (2) Requires action (1) Not passing the bar
Organizing committee The organizing committee has been carefully chosen to represent diversity within multiple categories, such as: career stage, backgrounds/minoritized groups, geography, subject area. The organizers represent diversity within thee distinct categories among: career stage, background/minoritized groups, geography, subject area. The organizers represent diversity within two groups: career stage, background/minoritized groups, geography, subject area. The members of the organizing committee have some variation within only one category: career stage, backgrounds/minoritized groups, geography, subject area. The organizers do not represent a diverse group in any sense.
Participants The participant list has been crafted with explicit attention to diversity and inclusion along multiple axes. Participants include different backgrounds and under-represented groups, career stages and geographical areas. The participant list explicitly addresses diversity along three different axes but not all, among: backgrounds and under-represented groups, career stages and geographical areas. The participant list explicitly addresses diversity along two different axes but not all, among: backgrounds and under-represented groups, career stages and geographical areas. The participant list only includes people with some variation within one of the following groups: backgrounds and under-represented groups, career stages and geographical areas. The participant list is monolithic
Program The program is highly innovative and inclusive with a wide variety of strategies to welcome and engage people from many different groups and career stages. Explicit measurements of impact have been integrated into the proposal. The program makes a conscious attempt to be inclusive with several different types of programming. There is intent to track impact. The program has some interesting aspects but requires more detailed planning and description. Unclear if impact can or will be tracked. The program is traditional and needs major improvement. The participants can watch a series of lectures online instead.

9. Scientific merit rubric

This is the rubric used to evaluate a proposal’s scientific merit.

Scientific merit rubric 
PROPOSAL TITLE Average score (5) Exceptional (4) Good (3) Neutral (2) Requires action (1) Not passing the bar

(Is this proposal unique?)
The workshop shows a world-leading approach, a “first of its kind” endeavour. It is a forerunner in an emerging area of study that holds transformative potential. The workshop is highly innovative in a developing field of study, significantly adding to current subject knowledge or application, and promoting new research directions. The workshop outlines an interesting approach, idea or methodology that builds on a well-established area of study, with potential to advance subject knowledge. Workshop topic is well established, but there is some indication of a fresh perspective or approach. Insufficient evidence provided as to how it will add to the established body of knowledge. Subject is already well established, and there is little to no evidence that the proposal adds significantly to the existing knowledge. Similar workshops have been held previously/recently.
Scientific impact

(Does this radically challenge our current understanding?)
Impacts a large and diverse scientific community with significant scientific breakthroughs or real-world impact.

The impact is clearly defined and will be measured.

There is a high likelihood that this significant impact will be realized.
The outcomes of this workshop are likely to impact more than one field, with possible real-world impact.
Short-term benefits are notable, clearly described, and can be measured.

There is a reasonable likelihood that the impact will be realized.
Impact to a small area of research is described, but broader impact is unclear.

Short-term benefits to the research area are described and can be measured, but they are not exceptional.

Some of the objectives of the workshop could be achieved with the proposed activities.
The impact of the workshop is restricted to primarily one field or application. It might have minor real-world impact, but the case for this has not been clearly established.

Unclear how the impact can be measured.
Only a minority of the stated objectives of the workshop can be expected to be achieved.
No breakthrough. The outcome represents a “natural progression” in the field. Negligible impact on field, application, or wider community.

There is lack of clarity or specificity about the benefits of the workshop activities.

(Is it important now?)
Area has seen recent breakthroughs; the time is ripe for new discoveries. A hot topic area that is the focus of much current study. Area has been under study for a long time, but new perspectives are emerging. Workshop will be of interest to the broad area. Fairly obscure topic within the subject area, attracting little interest beyond specialists. No new developments to make the workshop relevant. Extremely specialized niche of research, even within its broader subject area.
Potential for cross-disciplinary synergy

(Does it break down sub-specialty silos?)
The interdisciplinary approach is reflected in the workshop team. The proposal is designed from an interdisciplinary perspective, with the aim to develop the interfacing frontiers.

The various disciplinary approaches and perspectives are fully integrated; the project is not an amalgamation of disciplinary-specific approaches.
The interdisciplinary approach is somewhat reflected in the team. The proposal incorporates different disciplinary approaches, bringing a novel perspective.

Proposes the application or adaptation of tools/methods/techniques from one discipline to solve a problem in another discipline.
The interdisciplinary nature of the project is achieved through an amalgamation of projects/activities that are disciplinary.

The proposal appears to have an interdisciplinary component “added on” to a more conventional project or program of research.
The team does not reflect the expertise required to execute an interdisciplinary approach.

The proposed tools/methods/techniques are already in use in or can be easily applied to the second disciplinary area, requiring little adaptation or development.
Subject area is hyper-focused, with little relevance to those outside of this specialization.

The application did not adequately establish the interdisciplinary nature of the project.
Training and mentorship

(Does it build future experts?)
Clearly defined and integrated T&M goals and activities targeting a diverse population. Will have with long reaching impacts beyond the workshop. Clearly defined T&M goals and activities, although further improvements could reasonably be made. Some incorporation of T&M, but they are limited in detail, scope and/or long-term impact. Invite list or program holds the potential for T&M opportunities, but this has not been explicitly integrated into the proposal or invite list. Program or invitation list has been made with no consideration for T&M opportunities.
Participant/organizers lists

(Are the right people attending the workshop?)
Experts from diverse research areas have expressed interest in attending and contributing.

Very strong organizational record. Organizers have used detailed, well-defined criteria for selecting workshop participants.
Most of the subject experts are likely to participate.

Strong organizational record. Some effort has been made to explain the mechanism for participant selection.
Some of the main experts in the workshop topic are present, but not necessarily any from the broader field or other areas that might be relevant for the workshop.

Criteria for selection unclear.
Several experts in the field are conspicuous by their absence. As a result, the workshop might be missing significant perspectives on the topic. Few experts in the field are participating. Unclear if the organizers can achieve the workshop objectives with the proposed participants.