Digital Research Infrastructure Contribution Program: Program guide

From: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

1. Introduction to the Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) Contribution Program

1.1. Context

Budget 2018 announced an investment of $572.5M over five years and $52M ongoing to ensure that Canada's researchers have equitable access to the necessary infrastructure and tools to support research across all disciplines. The Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) Strategy seeks to increase access to DRI resources to meet researcher needs, offer world-class tools to support collaborative and leading-edge research, and support a cohesive national vision for future investments, ensuring clarity among national, regional and local (institutional) roles and responsibilities.

In order to achieve the objectives of the DRI Strategy, a new DRI contribution program ("the program") has been established to fund one not-for-profit organization that will coordinate funding and strategic directions for national DRI activities related to Advanced Research Computing (ARC), Data Management (DM) and Research Software (RS) under a single recipient organization.

1.2. Vision, Mission and Objectives of the DRI Contribution Program

Vision: To identify and support an organization that will deliver open and equitable access to advanced computing and big data resources to academic researchers across Canada in order to further enable scientific and research excellence.

Mission: The contribution program of the DRI Strategy will support the identification and provision of the digital tools and services necessary for Canadian academic researchers to conduct world-class research across all disciplines and across Canada, regardless of where they are located. Expert-driven and technically proficient, the organization will make decisions in the national interest, to ensure the DRI needs of Canada's diverse researchers are met. Guided by the principles of value for money and maximizing the federal investment, the DRI Strategy's contribution program will support effective planning, operations, and coordination across the DRI ecosystem, in an environment of rapidly changing technology and researcher needs.

Objectives:

This Call for Proposals supports the selection of one Recipient under the new DRI Strategy contribution program and provides information on the expectations of the program and the application process.

The value of the contribution agreement with the not for profit organization will be no more than $360 million over five years (2019-20 to 2023-24).

The contribution program and the new not-for-profit organization are expected to build on the work of the Leadership Council for Digital Research Infrastructure and work collaboratively with existing DRI organizations on future strategic directions, drawing on best practices and lessons learned.

1.3. Timeline

Deadline for Proposals

11:59 p.m. EST, on Monday, May 6, 2019

Assessment

May 2019

Decision and announcement of the selected entity

May-June 2019

2. DRI Contribution Program Requirements

2.1. Who is Eligible to Apply

The Recipient eligible to apply must be a not-for-profit organization, incorporated under the Canada Not-for-profit Corporations Act. The organization must be incorporated prior to the signing of the contribution agreement (but does not need to be incorporated to submit an application). The not-for-profit organization will be referred to as the 'Recipient'. There will be only one eligible Recipient under the program.

It is expected that the Recipient will redistribute portions of the funding it receives to fulfill the eligible activities that will be outlined in the contribution agreement (see section 2.3.1 below). Organizations or individuals that carry out activities for which they receive DRI funding will be known as the "Ultimate Recipients" (e.g., research and academic institutions or non-profit organizations) and will be selected through open and transparent processes conducted by the Recipient and guided by the principles of scientific merit, value for money, and serving the national interest. The Recipient may also contract resources or services to conduct its business and achieve its objectives, as well as enter into partnerships with industry, as appropriate.

2.2. Membership Structure

Researchers will be at the front and centre of the new DRI Strategy. In order to support service delivery, and effective operations, and to best capture and respond to the needs of the research community, the Recipient is intended to be a membership-based organization. The funded entity must establish a membership structure to formalize the community who will govern the Recipient's activities, and at a minimum, represent the ARC, DM and RS communities and ensure researcher needs are met. The membership structure must clarify the terms under which members join, are retained and benefit from the activities organized and services provided by the Recipient. The Recipient must also deliver services in the same manners to researchers from member and non-member organizations alike.

Membership Bylaws and annual membership lists will be shared with ISED. It is understood that the membership may evolve over time. ISED will need to be informed of, and approve, any changes that the Recipient makes to their membership and bylaws.

2.3. What is the Program Intended to Do

2.3.1 Eligible Activities

The DRI Strategy is structured on four pillars: the digital network for research, data management, research software and advanced research computing. The Recipient will be responsible for providing national coordination and delivery of services in three of the four pillars: data management, research software and advanced research computing, and will be required to work collaboratively with the responsible organization for the digital network (i.e., CANARIE) and other stakeholders in the DRI ecosystem to ensure coordinated and strategically aligned planning, operations and seamless service to academic researchers accessing DRI.

The Recipient will be funded for the following categories of Eligible Activities, which are those activities that will contribute to attaining the vision, mission and objectives of the contribution. (Sub-bullets are not intended to be all encompassing of the work to be conducted under each activity.)

The Recipient may:

2.3.2 Ultimate Recipients

The Recipient will be expected to redistribute portions of the funding it receives to fulfill the eligible activities outlined above to other organizations or individuals, known as "Ultimate Recipients", to carry out these activities. Ultimate Recipients are the following:

  1. A university or post-secondary college or educational institution or a hospital that is situated in Canada and that carries on, or is capable of carrying on, meaningful research.
  2. A non-profit organization that is situated in Canada and that carries on, or is capable of carrying on, meaningful research.
  3. An institution or non-profit organization that is situated in Canada and whose activities support Canada's DRI ecosystem.

The Recipient will be expected to enter into legally binding agreements with Ultimate Recipient and monitor their compliance.

2.3.3 Eligible Projects

Eligible Projects of Ultimate Recipients are the following:

"Digital Research Infrastructure" means equipment, scientific collections of data, computer hardware and/or software, including to support research software and data management, information databases, communications linkages and other intangible property used or to be used primarily for carrying on research, including housing and installations essential for the use and servicing of those things.

2.3.4 Eligible costs

The Eligible Expenditures are:

  1. Those expenditures directly related to Eligible Activities.
  2. Expenditures directly related to the Recipient's general administration, business development and project management. Examples of such expenditures include:
    1. the administration of the Recipient, including salaries and benefits of management and staff, the lease of premises as well as its operations and maintenance, consultant fees, travel, and other expenses that are administrative in nature;
    2. the remuneration of officers of the Board of Directors;
    3. the management of Board, advisory and merit-review committees, if applicable (e.g., travel, hospitality, rental, honorariums), including such committees as the Board may establish to undertake merit review of applications for funding and assist in determining priorities and guidelines;
    4. the holding of workshops and symposiums (e.g., travel, hospitality, rental); and
    5. communications and public outreach.
  3. Payments made to Ultimate Recipients for Eligible Projects
  4. The Minister may consider supporting select Eligible Expenditures the Recipient made prior to the signing of the contribution agreement but not earlier than the date on which the Recipient's proposal to the selection process had been submitted, nor earlier than the date of approval of these Terms and Conditions. Retroactively, Eligible Expenditures shall not exceed 25% of total Eligible Expenditures.
  5. Funding for general administration (b) shall not exceed 15% percent of the total contribution to the Recipient.

The Recipient may retain future revenues, future royalties, interest, and user fees arising from Eligible Activities and Eligible Projects and redirect such amounts towards Eligible Activities or Eligible Projects in accordance with these Terms and Conditions and the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act. To the extent that the Recipient does not redirect such revenues towards Eligible Activities or Eligible Projects in a given fiscal year, then the annual payment provided by the Minister for the following fiscal year will be reduced by those revenues.

2.3.5 Ineligible costs

The following Recipient administration expenses are ineligible:

Ineligible expenditures for Ultimate Recipients include retroactive costs (i.e., those incurred before approval of an Eligible Project) and costs related to the routine administration and operation of the Ultimate Recipient, excluding those administration costs directly related to achieving the objectives of the Eligible Project.

2.3.6 Matching

The Recipient will fund a minimum of 50% and up to 100% of capital and operating costs for national ARC sites, based on cost-matching funds available from provincial/territorial and institutional funders, with the goal of attaining contributions from other partners (cash and/or in kind) of approximately 40% funding across the entirety of its ARC acquisitions expenditures.

Funding provided by the Recipient for the salary costs of regional ARC support staff will not exceed 25% of the total expected salary costs for regional support staff.

The Recipient will seek cost matching or contributions (cash and/or in kind) across other activities, as appropriate.

As a guiding principle within these funding parameters, the Recipient will seek to cover no more than 60% of the overall DRI ecosystem costs, with funding for 40% of activities in the ecosystem provided by other partners to align with their roles and responsibilities. To meet these matching conditions, the Recipient will collaborate with stakeholders to develop a proposal, to be submitted to Innovation, Science, and Economic Development Canada for approval, which defines DRI roles and responsibilities across the national, regional and local layers of the DRI ecosystem.

2.3.7 Funds available

The value of the contribution agreement with the not for profit organization will be no more than $360 million over five years (2019-20 to 2023-24).

Funding delivered through this contribution program will be provided in the form of non-repayable contributions.

The Minister of Science will approve the allocation of funding across the eligible activities (ARC, RS, DM, HQP, cybersecurity, and management and administration) based on the Recipient's proposal and subsequent annual corporate plans. These allocations must reflect and build on the work of the Leadership Council for Digital Research Infrastructure.

2.3.8 Method of Payment

Payments will be made in the form of annual advance payments where the advance payment is necessary for the achievement of the objectives of the Program in that fiscal year. When advance payments are necessary, they will not exceed the Recipient's estimated cash flow requirement for Eligible Expenditures for that fiscal year, based on cash flow forecasts to be provided to the Minister by the Recipient as part of annual reporting requirements as described in Section 4 and in compliance with the Directive on Transfer Payments.

To reduce the risk of overpayments, annual advance payments will be reduced by an amount equal to the Recipient's excess revenue over expenses for the previous fiscal year, as determined through Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's ongoing monitoring of the Recipient's use of the contribution and compliance with the terms of the contribution agreement. A portion of an annual advance payment equal to the portion of the contribution spent on ineligible expenditures in the previous fiscal year may be retained as a holdback, as determined by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada's review of the Recipient's Annual Report for the previous fiscal year.

Part of the contribution may be paid only upon receipt of a final contribution report from the Recipient.

After the Contribution Agreement is signed, the Recipient must submit a Corporate Plan before receiving payment for that fiscal year. For each fiscal year of the contribution agreement, the Recipient will provide evidence satisfactory to the Minister of all funding it has expended in support of Eligible Activities, including disbursement of funding to Ultimate Recipients for Eligible Projects or activities.

2.3.9 Stacking Limit

The stacking limit for total Canadian Government assistance is 100 percent of the corporation's total project costs.

3. Review and Decision

3.1. Assessment criteria

Proposals will be assessed in accordance with the following criteria:

Implementation

Collaboration and engagement

Governance and management

3.2. Assessment process

The Recipient will be chosen through a transparent, merit-based process whereby the above set of objective criteria will be used to establish that the Recipient can meet the objectives and expected outcomes of the contribution program. ISED and an advisory group will be mobilized to support the assessment process for selecting the Recipient organization. The advisory group will consist of voluntary subject matter experts from the DRI community in Canada, who will be consulted to provide relevant expertise to assessing the merit, potential and feasibility of the application based on their relevant knowledge and expertise. All Eligible Applicants will be invited to an in-person meeting at the Ottawa headquarters of ISED in mid-May to present their proposal and discuss its details with the advisory group.

3.3. Decision

The recommendations of the advisory group will be reviewed by ISED as part of its overall assessment. A decision will be announced by the Minister of Science in June 2019.

Certain elements of the content of the selected Applicant's proposal may be adjusted during the negotiation process of the contribution agreement.

4. Oversight and Monitoring

4.1. Quarterly, Semi-Annual and Annual Data Reports

As part of the signed contribution agreement, the Recipient will be asked to provide quarterly data reports (e.g., performance reports covering key performance indicators) within the first two years, and thereafter semi-annual data reports.

Recognizing that the Recipient's first two years of operations will be focussed on strategic development and planning, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will prepare, no later than mid-way through the 5-year contribution agreement, an independent review of operational plans and activities of the Recipient moving forward. This information will enable the department and the Minister to assess the progress of the project, including but not limited to the achievement of project objectives, performance milestones, expenditures, and meeting cost sharing targets. The Recipient will be required to support ISED, providing documentation and information as needed, in the preparation of this review.

Following the mid-term review, the Recipient will submit data reports on a semi-annual basis and in conjunction with the submission of its Annual Reports.

4.2. Corporate Plan

The Recipient shall provide its corporate plan annually to the Minister, in both official languages of Canada, at least (2) months before the start of each fiscal year of the Recipient. The corporate plan shall include:

  1. Short and medium outputs and outcomes as set out in the Recipient's Performance, Evaluation, Risk and Audit Framework.
  2. Reference to the Recipient's corporate plan of the current fiscal year (if applicable), including its successes and remaining challenges.
  3. Planned expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year.
  4. Planned activities for the upcoming fiscal year, along with a proposed schedule for their implementation.
  5. Anticipated revenues from other sources (if applicable).
  6. Risk assessment and mitigation strategies.
  7. Ongoing performance monitoring strategies.
  8. Annual cash flow requirements in respect of Eligible Expenditures for the upcoming fiscal year, including funding to be disbursed to Ultimate Recipients for Eligible Projects.

The Minister of Science will approve funding for the upcoming fiscal year based on the corporate plan, and reserves the right to adjust yearly funding within the parameters of the contribution program.

4.3. Annual Report

The Recipient shall provide an annual report to the Minister, in both official languages of Canada, no later than six (6) months after each fiscal year of the not-for-profit organization. The annual report shall include:

  1. audited financial statements for the previous fiscal year, prepared in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles and approved by its Board.
  2. A statement of the total funding received by the Recipient from all sources in the previous fiscal year, including all Canadian government assistance, to support Eligible Activities.
  3. A statement of the amount of the contribution directed towards Eligible Expenditures in the previous fiscal year, detailed by category of Eligible Activities.
  4. Amount of funding leveraged from other sources (if applicable) in the previous fiscal year to support Eligible Activities and Eligible Projects.
  5. A statement of objectives for the previous fiscal year, as set out in the relevant corporate plan, and a statement on the extent to which the Recipient met those objectives and any course corrections or deviations from the original objectives that occurred.
  6. A statement of objectives for the current fiscal year and for the foreseeable future.
  7. An updated statement of investment policies, standards and procedures.
  8. Criteria that were applied to select the Eligible Projects of Ultimate Recipients.
  9. Summary of results of any program evaluations or performance audits.
  10. A statement of remuneration setting out the total amount of remuneration paid to each employee, officer and director of the Recipient who remuneration in that year exceeds $100,000.

Ongoing administration will be provided by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, which will include contribution agreement monitoring and liaison with the Recipient and its members. As part of its administration, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada will be in regular and frequent contact with the Recipient and the Board of Directors, which may include attendance at Board meetings, thus facilitating the sharing of information between both parties to the agreement. The administration will permit the collection of information to guide federal policy and program directions, and the facilitation of linkages between the Recipient and other federal organizations.

4.4. Joint DRI Ecosystem Plan

The Recipient shall annually submit to the Minister, at the same time as the Corporate Plan as set out in section 4.2 and in both official languages, a separate document co-developed with CANARIE that sets out how the two organizations will coordinate through the next fiscal year to optimize programs and services to meet the needs of the research community and support the objectives of the Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy. The document must be approved and signed by both the Recipient and CANARIE Board Chairs before submission to the Minister.

4.5. Joint DRI Ecosystem Report

The Recipient shall submit annually to the Minister, at the same time as the Annual Report as set out in section 4.3 and in both official languages, a separate document co-developed with CANARIE that describes and demonstrates how the two organizations cooperated and took joint action in the previous fiscal year to identify and meet the needs of the research community and to achieve shared objectives as set out in the Joint DRI Ecosystem Plan as set out in section 4.4. The document should also, to the greatest extent possible, assess the current state of the national DRI ecosystem and identify areas for improvement. The document must be approved and signed by both the Recipient and CANARIE before submission to the Minister.

4.6. Expected Results and Key Performance Indicators

The Recipient will collect results-based metrics that will allow it to measure its programs and the projected benefits to the Canadian research community. The Recipient will collect from Ultimate Recipients (defined in Section 2.1) qualitative and quantitative performance information that will allow it to measure its impact and benefits to Canadian research and society. The expected results and key performance indicators that must be reported on by the Recipient include, but are not limited to, those depicted in the chart below.

Output(s)/Outcome(s) Performance Indicator(s)
Short-Term (0-2 years) 2019-20 to 2020-21
National non-profit DRI governing corporation

Roles and responsibilities have been defined for the governance of the DRI ecosystem

A vision, mission and governance and program frameworks have been defined for ARC, DM and RS

Medium-Term (2-4 years) 2020-2021 to 2023-2024
Increased technological capacity in the DRI ecosystem

Increased ARC capacity

Maintain number of ARC machines in the top 250 globally

Increased number of data sets available to Canadian researchers through nationally-accessible platforms

Number of research software tools and platforms developed and reused

Canada's researchers have improved skills More training provided to more researchers
DRI resources are safeguarded Increased percentage of institutions accessing ARC that have cybersecurity standards in place that align with national standards.
Increased awareness of the national non-profit DRI governing corporation and national ARC, RS and DM platforms and tools

Increased awareness of the vision, mission, and operations of the new non-profit corporation among partners, stakeholders, and Canadians.

Number and type of participants aware of service and support offerings (disaggregated by gender, Indigenous status, ethnicity and disability as well as discipline/type of researcher).

DRI funding is leveraged by other investments to provide greater value for money

Investment leveraged:

  • Amount of funding provided by provincial, institutional or other partners, by pillar
Long-Term (4+ years) 2024-2025 and onwards
Equitable and inclusive access to DRI for women, Indigenous people, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, casual and medium-term users, early career researchers, and non-traditional disciplines including researchers in the social sciences, humanities and the arts

Increased usage percent of projected demand of:

  • ARC
  • National HQP

Disaggregated by gender, Indigenous status, persons with disabilities, visible minorities, type of user (heavy, niche, casual, medium-term, early career, and research discipline

Growing national coordination among the ecosystem

Increased number of institutional RDM policies implemented that align with national standards.

Number of newly structured and formalized networks or working groups (e.g., communities of practice) in each pillar and strategic area (as defined by new organization)

DRI ecosystem is responsive to stakeholders

Percentage of stakeholders satisfied with strategic planning and operations of the new recipient

Percentage of qualified board members of new recipient who are female

DRI ecosystem is responsive to user needs Percentage of DRI users satisfied with front-line services provided
Canada has a world-leading research capacity

Rank among OECD nations on the citation score of science research publications

Increased number of international collaborations involving Canadian researchers using Canadian DRI as main resource

Increased knowledge creation and research impact

Number of publications enabled by Canadian ARC

Number of ARC users reporting patents

Improved scalability of DRI capacity Means for improved scalability of DRI capacity are implemented (i.e., front end application, back end system, or resource utilization). For example, ARC acquisition projects that make use of cloud procurement.

5. Policies and Considerations

5.1. Official Languages

The Recipient shall provide its communications and services to the public in both official languages of Canada in accordance with the spirit and intent of the Official Languages Act.

Specifically, the Recipient shall:

  1. Make any announcements or documents for Ultimate Recipients available in the official language of their choice.
  2. Actively offer its services to Ultimate Recipients in the official language of their choice.
  3. Ensure that any communication aimed at the general public or stakeholders is provided in both official languages.
  4. Where a significant demand exists for services from an Ultimate Recipient to the public in either official language, ensure that the agreements awarding funding to Ultimate Recipients include a clause requiring the Ultimate Recipients' communications to the public to meet the linguistic demand.

5.2. Gender and Diversity

The Recipient is expected to develop and implement a diversity, equity and inclusion framework and develop appropriate indicators. It will need to collect disaggregated gender and diversity data to assess progress in meeting the objectives of the framework. It will also be required to maintain 50% male/female representation on its Board of Directors.

5.3. Intellectual Property

Title to intellectual property created by the Recipient in implementing the program may rest with the Recipient.

The Recipient shall not keep or claim any ownership of, or exploitation rights to, any intellectual property arising from projects funded by the Recipient via Ultimate Recipients. The Recipient expects Ultimate Recipients to determine these rights in accordance with relevant intellectual property policy and provincial and federal legislation, if applicable.

Contact information

Digital Research Infrastructure
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street, 9th floor, East Tower
Ottawa, ON K1A 0H5
Canada
Email: ic.digitalresearchinfrastructure-infrastructurederecherchenumerique.ic@canada.ca

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