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Section 3 – Supplementary Information

3.1 Operations and Organizational Structure

Only a small fraction (approximately 5%) of NSERC’s budget is spent on administration, which includes an extensive system of volunteer peer review and site visit committees whose travel expenses are a major part of the cost of quality control of funded research. NSERC management monitors the effective use of these resources and conducts several audits each year to review various aspects of the operations. NSERC audit reports can be found at http://www.nserc.gc.ca/about/aud_eval_e.asp. These audits help contribute to process improvement and reassure Canadians of the most efficient use of their funds.

NSERC operates within a framework of:

  1. programs developed in consultation with the Canadian research and business communities, in the context of the present and future challenges facing the Canadian university and college research system, and in light of Canada's needs and government priorities; and
  2. a rigorous process of peer review for awarding funds within the programs.

The peer review system ensures that funds go only to the best professors and students, and the best research programs and projects. NSERC's involvement guarantees objective and fair review of applications for support.

Applications for research funding are judged first and foremost on the merits of the proposed research and on the excellence of the research team; other criteria vary among NSERC's programs and include the training of students, the level of commitment from industrial partners, the plans for interacting with the partners, and (especially for large projects) the design of the project and the proposed management structure.

Applications for direct student support, through NSERC's Scholarships and Fellowships programs, are judged on the student's academic qualifications, as well as his or her potential for research achievement and an assessment of his or her leadership and communication abilities. NSERC recognizes that success in graduate studies, and in a subsequent research career, is dependent on more than academic excellence. An enquiring mind, adaptability and the ability to work well in a team are also essential. In addition to direct support, many other students receive NSERC support indirectly, through research grants awarded to their faculty supervisors.

NSERC is governed by a Council whose members are drawn from industry and universities, as well as from the private non-profit sector, and appointed by the Governor-in-Council. Members serve part-time and receive no remuneration for their participation.  The President serves full-time and functions as the Chief Executive Officer of the Council. In 2007, Council agreed to proceed with making changes to NSERC’s by-laws and assigned the role of the Chair of Council to the elected Vice-President. Council is advised on policy and programming matters by several committees. Figure 71 presents NSERC’s committee structure.


Figure 71
NSERC’s Committee Structure

NSERC’s Committee Structure

NSERC is committed to building a network of small regional offices and playing a stronger role in supporting research, training and innovation in all regions of the country. NSERC officially opened its Atlantic Regional Office in Moncton, New Brunswick in October 2004. The second Regional Office was oopened in 2005 in Winnipeg, Manitoba and a third in Vancouver in 2006. NSERC will create further offices in Qubec and in Ontario in the next two years.

3.2 Financial Tables

An agency overview of financial information for the year 2006-07 is provided below. In addition, Tables 12345 and 6 present the financial information required from NSERC for the Departmental Performance Report. The agency’s audited financial statements can be found in Appendix A.

Table 1 offers a comparison of the main estimates, planned spending, total authorities, and actual spending for the most recently completed fiscal year, as well as historical figures for Actual Spending. Planned spending is established in the Report on Plans and Priorities which was completed in March 2006. NSERC’s actual spending was $6.6 million below planned levels. The variance is mainly due to a lapse in the Canada Research Chairs Program of $5.8 million.


Table 1
Comparison of Planned to Actual Spending (incl. FTE)



Program Activity ($ millions )
2004–05
Actual 
2005-06
Actual 
2006-07
Main
Estimates
Planned
Spending
Total
Authorities
Actual
1.1 - Promote Science and Engineering
2.8
3.8
1.5
4.1
1.5
4.0
1.2 - Support Students and Fellows
120.1
127.7
135.2
137.8
135.3
128.0
1.3 - Attract and Retain Faculty
114.6
128.7
163.8
167.7
163.5
145.2
2.1 - Fund Basic Research
391.8
417.7
411.9
406.3
427.8
440.8
2.2 - Fund Research in Strategic Areas
60.5
56.0
47.9
54.4
50.2
53.1
3.1 - Fund University-Industry-Government Partnerships 
102.0
110.5
107.5
115.2
107.8
112.3
3.2 - Support Commercialization
11.2
15.0
17.5
16.5
17.6
12.0
Total
803.0
859.4
885.3
902.0
903.7
895.4
 
Total
803.0
859.4
885.3
902.0
903.7
895.4
Less: Non‑Respendable revenue
(0.9)
(1.1)
n/a
(0.8)
n/a
(1.6)
Plus: Cost of services received without charge
4.8
5.0
n/a
4.9
n/a
5.4
Total Departmental Spending
806.9
863.3
885.3
906.1
903.7
899.2
 
Full Time Equivalents
307
300
n/a
313
n/a
308

Note: Total Authorities are Main Estimates plus Supplementary Estimates plus other authorities

Table 2 provides information on how resources are used for the most recently completed fiscal year.  The difference between the planned spending and the main estimates is mainly explained by the increase received from the 2006 federal budget ($17 million).


Table 2
Resources by Program Activity



2006-07 
Program Activity
($ millions)
Budgetary
Total  
Operating 1
Grants and  Contributions
1.1 - Promote Science and Engineering
Main Estimates
0.2
1.3
1.5
Planned Spending
0.2
3.9
4.1
Total Authorities
0.2
1.3
1.5
Actual Spending
0.2
3.8
4.0
1.2 - Support Students and Fellows
Main Estimates
6.8
128.4
135.2
Planned Spending
6.9
130.9
137.8
Total Authorities
6.9
128.4
135.3
Actual Spending
6.1
121.9
128.0
1.3 - Attract and Retain Faculty
Main Estimates
2.9
160.9
163.8
Planned Spending
2.9
164.8
167.7
Total Authorities
2.9
160.6
163.5
Actual Spending
2.5
142.7
145.2
2.1 - Fund Basic Research
Main Estimates
15.9
396.0
411.9
Planned Spending
16.1
390.2
406.3
Total Authorities
17.5
410.3
427.8
Actual Spending
18.4
422.4
440.8
2.2 - Fund Research in Strategic Areas
Main Estimates
3.6
44.3
47.9
Planned Spending
3.7
50.7
54.4
Total Authorities
3.9
46.3
50.2
Actual Spending
3.7
49.4
53.1
3.1 - Fund University-Industry-Government Partnerships 
Main Estimates
10.0
97.5
107.5
Planned Spending
10.1
105.1
115.2
Total Authorities
10.3
97.5
107.8
Actual Spending
8.0
104.3
112.3
3.2 - Support Commercialization
Main Estimates
0.7
16.8
17.5
Planned Spending
0.7
15.8
16.5
Total Authorities
0.8
16.8
17.6
Actual Spending
1.3
10.7
12.0

1 Operating includes contributions to Employee Benefit Plans

Table 3 compares total actual spending versus the total authorized spending. Total authorities refers to spending levels approved by the Treasury Board of Canada. As shown above, NSERC did not spend all available funding in 2006-07, incurring a surplus of $8.3 million. Lapsed funding was mainly the result of Canada Research Chairs program.


Table 3
Voted and Statutory Items



 
($ millions)
 
2006-07
Main
Estimates
Planned
Spending
Total
Authorities
Actual 
70 Operating expenditures
36.0
36.5
38.8
36.5
75 Grants and Contributions
845.2
861.4
861.2
855.2
(S) Contributions to employee benefit plans
4.1
4.1
3.7
3.7
  Total
885.3
902.0
903.7
895.4

Table 4 is designed to show the net cost of a department. It begins with the actual spending and adds services received without charge, and then subtracts non-respendable revenue to arrive at the net cost of the department.


Table 4
Services Received Without Charge



($ millions)  2006-07
Accommodation provided by Public Works and Government Services Canada (PWGSC)
3.6
Contributions covering employers’ share of employees’ insurance premiums and expenditures paid by TBS (excluding revolving funds)
1.7
Salary and associated expenditures of legal services provided by Justice Canada
-
Other services provided without charge
0.1
Total 2006–2007 Services received without charge
5.4

Table 5 highlights non-respendable revenues. Refunds of previous years' expenditures are passed on to the Receiver General for Canada and cannot be spent on programs or operations.  NSERC did not receive any respendable revenue in 2006-07.


Table 5
Sources of Non-Respendable Revenue



($ millions )
 
2004-05
Actual 
 
2005-06
Actual 
2006-07
Main
Estimates
Planned
Spending
Total
Authorities
Actual
Fund Basic Research  
Refunds of previous years's expenditures
0.9
1.1
n/a
0.8
n/a
1.6
Total Non-Respendable Revenue 
0.9
1.1
n/a
0.8
n/a
1.6

Table 6 summarizes total NSERC actual spending on grants versus planned spending, the authorized levels and the main estimates. The difference between the 2006-07 actuals and the authorized levels is due to the lapse in the Canada Research Chairs Program. The difference between the planned spending and the main estimates is in large part explained by the amount received from the 2006 federal budget ($17 million).


Table 6
Details on Transfer Payment Programs (TPPs)



($ millions )
2004–05
Actual 
2005-06
Actual 
2006-07
Main
Estimates
Planned
Spending
Total
Authorities
Actual
Grants
1.1 - Promote Science and Engineering
2.7
3.6
1.3
3.9
1.3
3.8
1.2 - Support Students and Fellows
113.9
121.7
128.4
130.9
128.4
121.9
1.3 - Attract and Retain Faculty
112.3
126.3
160.9
164.8
160.6
142.7
2.1 - Fund Basic Research
375.5
400.4
 
396.0
390.2
410.3
422.4
2.2 - Fund Research in Strategic Areas
57.0
52.3
44.3
50.7
46.3
49.4
3.1 - Fund University-Industry-Government Partnerships 
94.8
103.2
97.5
105.1
97.5
104.3
3.2 - Support Commercialization
10.0
13.7
16.8
15.8
16.8
10.7
Total grants
 766.2
821.2
845.2
861.4
861.2
855.2
Contributions
Other Transfer Payments
Total Grants, Contributions
And Other Transfer Payments
766.2
821.2
845.2
861.4
861.2
855.2

3.3 Response to Parliamentary Committees, Audits and Evaluations for 2006-07

In 2006-07 NSERC did not have to respond to questions or recommendations made by Parliamentary Committees. NSERC did not have to respond to any questions from the Auditor General.

In 2006-07 the following audits and evaluations were completed:

  • College and Community Innovation Pilot Program Mid-term Review
  • Joint Evaluation of Research Tools and Instruments Grants (RTI) and Major Facilities Access Grants (MFA)
  • Summative Evaluation of the Industrial Research Chairs Program

The NSERC audit and evaluation reports posted on the web can be found at: (http://www.nserc.gc.ca/about/aud_eval_e.asp).

3.4 Service Improvement Initiative

NSERC has implemented a formal and structured service improvement plan that covers the key services it provides to its clients. The plan addresses NSERC's four main lines of business: Operations and Transactions, Program Delivery, Responding to Enquiries and On-line Services. It sets priorities for service improvement and will allow for monitoring progress towards client satisfaction targets. It also calls for periodic client-satisfaction surveys with the objective of improving service delivery and for the updating of the current client-centred internal service standards applied by NSERC's directorates. It is important to note that most of NSERC's key services are delivered to its clientele through the eBusiness Initiative, the NSERC web site and the Helpdesk service.

In compliance with the government-wide Service Improvement Initiative (SII) and on the basis of its service improvement plan, NSERC developed and published its Performance and Service Standards, which include a section on the Service Improvement Initiative at NSERC and implemented client satisfaction surveys to establish satisfaction baselines, apply improvement targets and monitor progress towards those targets. The Council will continue to conduct external surveys to gauge the satisfaction level of its clientele with the quality of the key services (please visit the following site for more detailed information: http://www.nserc.gc.ca/about/p_s_standards_e.asp.)

Main achievements in improving service from a citizen-centered perspective – The key client services prioritized for improvement relate to the on-line application submission system, the financial data submission and reconciliation system (FDSR), the NSERC Web site, the Helpdesk service and the annual information visits to Canadian postsecondary institutions. NSERC has continued to refine the delivery and quality of its key services with a citizen-centered perspective in mind, such as:

  • Continued improvement of the on-line application submission system to encourage users to conduct NSERC-related business electronically. In 2006-07, more than 80% of applications for funding were received electronically and this percentage is likely to increase in the future. There are plans to consider and possibly introduce the use of a commercial off-the shelf (COTS) grants management system to replace the current eSubmission system. A COTS solution will be easier to maintain and update, will provide significant cost-savings and will help lighten the workload of internal and external users.
  • Implementation of an additional 9 client-centered Extranets in 2006-07, for a total of 36 implemented to date. The objective of these Extranets is to share business information, data and/or operations with external clients and to help improve on-line interactions between NSERC, peer review committees and postsecondary institution representatives. Extranets will lighten the administrative load, speed up exchange of documents and offer more convenient, efficient and innovative ways of working with NSERC staff and research community partners.
  • Sustained improvement of the Tri-Council (NSERC-SSHRC-CIHR) Financial Data Submission and Reconciliation on-line system (FDSR). An updated, more user-friendly version was implemented earlier this year. This electronic service is currently hosted by NSERC and it allows postsecondary institutions to transfer financial award data in a single file to the granting councils once all web-based statement of expenditures forms are validated by individual grantees. It provides an on-line alternative to the annual paper submission process.
  • Configuring, testing and validating the functionality – for future implementation – of the PWGSC Secure Channel ePass Service. This service will give clients a single user ID and password to authenticate and to self-identify, and to gain access to all of NSERC external electronic services. Currently, users are required to utilize multiple IDs and passwords to access an increasing number of on-line services offered by NSERC.  The secure channel mechanism, when implemented, will eliminate client frustration with the current process.