Frequently Asked Questions about the Self-identification Questionnaire

About the questionnaire:

  • The questionnaire is a first step—a starting point; it does not currently include all identities. Additional diversity dimensions could be added in the future.
  • The questions, response options, and related definitions are primarily based on material and terminology that is being used elsewhere in the federal government.
  • Should the terminology used elsewhere in the federal government change, or if future consultations indicate a need for revisions, then the Agencies may also change the terminology or wording in the questionnaire.

Contents

  1. Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification questionnaire?
  2. Who is required to complete the questionnaire?
  3. Can I identify in more than one group?
  4. Why were these questions (or this terminology) chosen? Can you clarify what is being asked?
  5. Is this a Tri-Agency initiative?
  6. I am not comfortable responding to these questions. What should I do?
  7. How will my information be stored? Who will see my information? Will peer reviewers be able to access this information?
  8. How do I fill in the questionnaire? How will I know that the questionnaire has been completed?
  9. Can I make changes to my questionnaire after it has been completed and submitted?
  10. Will my responses be tied to funding decisions in any way?
  11. Don't you already have my year of birth?
  12. I have already provided my self-identification data to my institution and/or other federal research funding agencies. Why am I being asked to self-identify again?
  13. Who can I contact for more information or to provide feedback?

1. Why am I being asked to complete the self-identification questionnaire?

The collection of self-identification data is a central piece of the Agencies‘ commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). This data provides information on the diversity of the population applying for and receiving agency funds. This information increases the granting Agencies’ capacity to monitor their progress on increasing EDI in their programs, to recognize and remove barriers, and to design new measures to achieve greater EDI in the research enterprise.

The presidents of the granting agencies have posted an open letter to the research community that communicates the rationale for this initiative.

2. Who is required to complete the questionnaire?

All applicants and co-applicants (and collaborators at SSHRC) for funding competitions (grants, scholarships, and fellowships) are required to respond to self-identification questions regarding age, gender, Indigenous identity, and identity as a member of a visible minority group, and/or as a person with a disability. However, all questions have an option of “I prefer not to answer.”

3. Can I identify in more than one group?

Yes, individuals can and should self-identify in all groups that apply to them.

4. Why were these questions (or this terminology) chosen? Can you clarify what is being asked?

The questions are primarily based on the current standard used by Statistics Canada in census questionnaires, and wording from the Employment Equity Act.

The questionnaire covers five dimensions: age, gender, Indigenous identity, visible minority identity, and disability.

  • The age question asks the user to enter their date of birth. (See also FAQ #11.)

    ACTUAL QUESTION TEXT: What is your date of birth?

    • [DD/MM/YY]
    • I prefer not to answer
  • The gender question prompts the user to indicate the identity (or term) that best describes them at the present time. The question does not ask about sex assigned at birth or sexual orientation.

    “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, expressions and identities of girls, women, boys, men and gender diverse people. It influences how people perceive themselves and each other, how they act and interact and the distribution of power and resources in society. Gender is usually conceptualized as a binary (girl/women and boy/man) yet there is considerable diversity in how individuals and groups understand, experience and express it. The response option provided in the self-identification form of “gender fluid, non-binary and/or Two-Spirit” recognizes this diversity. “Gender fluid” refers to a person whose gender identity or expression changes or shifts along the gender spectrum. “Non-binary” refers to a person whose gender identity does not align with a binary understanding of gender such as man or woman. “Two-spirit” is a term used by some Indigenous people to indicate a person whose gender identity, spiritual identity or sexual orientation comprises of both male and female spirits.Footnote1

    The Agencies understand that the gender identity categories offered as potential responses represent a wide range of experiences.

    The agencies are monitoring the development of new standards for the collection of gender information by such agencies as Statistics Canada, and will update their practices with new standards as appropriate. We are also exploring expanding the collection of personal information to include other identities such as LGBTQ2+ identities.

    ACTUAL QUESTION TEXT: Select the option that you identify with.

    • Woman
    • Man
    • Gender-fluid, non-binary, and/or Two-Spirit
    • I prefer not to answer
  • The Indigenous identity question asks the user if they identify as an Indigenous person. This question is about personal identity, not legal status or registration.

    ACTUAL QUESTION TEXT: Do you identify as Indigenous; that is First Nations (North American Indian), Métis, or Inuit?

    • Yes
    • No
    • I prefer not to answer
    • If "Yes", select the options that you identify with.
      • First Nations
      • Inuit
      • Métis
      • I prefer not to answer
  • The disability question prompts the user to indicate if they identify as a person with a disability. The question refers to how the user personally identifies, not whether the user has ever qualified for a disability benefit under the Canada Pension Plan or other program.

    ACTUAL QUESTION TEXT: Do you identify as a person with a disability?

    Note: A person with a disability is a person who has a long-term or recurring physical, mental, sensory, psychiatric or learning impairment and:

    • Who considers themselves to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment, or
    • Who believes that an employer or potential employer is likely to consider them to be disadvantaged in employment by reason of that impairment; and
    • Includes persons whose functional limitations owing to their impairment may have been accommodated in their current job or workplace.
      • Yes
      • No
      • I prefer not to answer
  • The visible minority identity question asks the user to indicate if they identify as a member of a visible minority. The options listed are those used by Statistics Canada.

    ACTUAL QUESTION TEXT: Do you identify as a member of a visible minority in Canada?

    Note: Visible minority refers to whether a person belongs to a visible minority group as defined by the Employment Equity Act and, if so, the visible minority group to which the person belongs. The Employment Equity Act defines visible minorities as “persons, other than Aboriginal peoples, who are non-Caucasian in race or non-white in colour.”

    • Yes
    • No
    • I prefer not to answer
    • If "Yes", select the options that you identify with.
      • Arab
      • Black
      • Chinese
      • Filipino
      • Japanese
      • Korean
      • Latin American
      • South Asian (e.g., East Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan, etc.)
      • Southeast Asian (including Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Thai; etc.)
      • West Asian (e.g., Iranian, Afghan, etc.)
      • Another visible minority group – specify:

5. Is this a Tri-Agency initiative?

Yes. The survey was developed collaboratively by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The Canada Foundation for Innovation and Genome Canada were also involved. CIHR’s questions currently differ from the NSERC/SSHRC questions in the level of detail regarding visible minority identity. This difference will be resolved upon the next review of the questions.

6. I am not comfortable responding to these questions. What should I do?

If you do not want to self-identify, you have the option to choose "I prefer not to answer" for each question. You must select this option and save your responses in order for your questionnaire to be marked as complete. Doing so fulfils the mandatory completion of the questionnaire.

7. How will my information be stored? Who will see my information? Will peer reviewers be able to access this information?

The self-identification information will be stored electronically in your My Account (or User Profile) and access is limited to Agency staff on a need to know basis. Your My Account (or User Profile) self-identification information is not part of your application, and is neither accessible to, nor shared with external reviewers and/or selection committee members in an identifiable form.

The information is collected, used, disclosed, retained and disposed of in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Access to Information Act. The information will be managed in accordance with Treasury Board Secretariat policies, directives and guidelines on information management and protection of personal information, and with the Agency’s retention and disposition schedules.

Appropriate privacy notices will be provided and consent obtained when the voluntary self-identification information is collected.

If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the appropriate NSERC or SSHRC staff.

For privacy-related issues, or where someone wishes to remain anonymous, contact Access to Information Act and Privacy Act (ATIP) staff at: ATIP-AIPRP@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA / ATIP-AIPRP@SSHRC-CRSH.GC.CA

For information on how self-identification information is / will be used by NSERC or SSHRC programs, contact staff directly at:

For NSERC: nseequity-equitesng@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA

For SSHRC: equity-equite@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

(See also FAQ #10.)

8. How do I fill in the questionnaire? How will I know that the questionnaire has been completed?

You will find the questions under your User Profile/My Account. Once you have completed the questions, click on “save”. If you have not completed the questions an error message will be displayed on the screen at the top of the page.

If you are submitting your application via email or other off-line method you will be sent a URL from the Program Officer responsible for the funding opportunity. At this time you will be presented with a form that you will need to complete and submit.

9. Can I make changes to my questionnaire after it has been completed and submitted?

Yes. Self-identification information can be changed at any time. However, your information will be collected by Agency systems only when you submit an application. If you make a change to your self-identification information following the submission of your application, this change will be updated in our records the next time you submit an application.

10. Will my responses be tied to funding decisions in any way?

No. Choosing to self-identify or not will have no consequences for an application. In funding opportunities where the agency may offer special consideration for members of a designated equity group, applicants will be asked to provide their consent separately to use their self-identification information for that purpose.

11. Don't you already have my year of birth?

Yes. If you have previously applied to an NSERC or SSHRC program, then the Agency has already collected "year of birth" as a data field for some programs. This was done to distinguish users with the same or similar names, as well as to identify duplicate personal identification numbers (PINs). This question will be removed from other application forms as they are updated and will only be asked as part of the self-identification questionnaire in the future.

12. I have already provided my self-identification data to my institution and/or other federal research funding agencies. Why am I being asked to self-identify again?

In accordance with the Privacy Act and best practices, the data is collected directly from the person to whom it relates, with the specific purposes for the collection explained to them and consent obtained. Self-identification data cannot be shared among organizations due to privacy and confidentiality requirements. Also, there may be differences in the way questions are asked, and responses could change over time.

13. Who can I contact for more information or to provide feedback?

The agencies welcome feedback from the research community on all aspects of this initiative. Contact:

For NSERC: nseequity-equitesng@NSERC-CRSNG.GC.CA

For SSHRC: equity-equite@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

Related resources

Self-identification questions and privacy notice:

Science.gc.ca: Self-Identification Data Collection in Support of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion

Message from the presidents if CIHR, NSERC and SSHRC: An open letter to the research community

NSERC webpages on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

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