The road to CIHR's Strategic Plan 2021-2031: how we got here

In February 2021, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) published the new CIHR Strategic Plan 2021-2031: A Vision for a Healthier Future. This Strategic Plan will guide our operations and investments from 2021 to 2031. With this plan, we also seek to lay the foundation for a shared vision for how Canada’s health research ecosystem could look in the next 30 years.

The development of the new Strategic Plan built on lessons learned since our last strategic planning exercise in 2014. Principally, this meant better aligning ourselves with others in the health research ecosystem. To that end, we began with a robust environmental scan of provincial and territorial health priorities. We then actively engaged with a number of stakeholders as we developed the plan, including citizens, patients, charities, provincial funders, Indigenous communities, government departments, researchers, health professionals, trainees, and research administrators.


CIHR’s new Strategic Plan benefited from extensive engagement with the health research community. In fact, this was the largest engagement process CIHR has ever undertaken. Highlights include:

Getting to the finish line

  1. As you can see from the list above, CIHR engaged with a number of stakeholders. The organization then turned its attention to analyzing all that we had heard. We accomplished this with the help of staff well versed in qualitative research, complemented by the Expert Analysis Validation Panel. We completed this work at the end of August 2019.
  2. To ensure that we interpreted the feedback and ideas that we received correctly, we produced a report on the results of Phase I of our strategic planning engagement. We shared this report at the September 10 and 11, 2019, Consensus Workshop. The objective of the Workshop was to support a national dialogue with health research stakeholders to develop a shared sense of challenges and collectively identify potential ideas for CIHR’s upcoming strategic plan.
  3. Throughout the fall and into the winter, we developed and validated a set of potential priorities. We then convened a Health Research Summit on December 13, 2019, where we shared our high-level potential priorities with health research stakeholders for discussion and validation. We then developed and validated a draft Strategic Plan with our Scientific Council and Governing Council. We also held a second engagement event with CIHR staff to delve into the details of how we would operationalize the plan as an agency.
  4. Following a disruption caused by COVID-19, we resumed work on the Strategic Plan in fall 2020. Our Governing Council formally approved the plan in November, and we published it in February 2021.

Timeline for Strategic Planning

Long description

Timeline for Strategic Planning


May-June: National engagement and CIHR all-staff event

May-August: Engagement with Indigenous groups

July-August: Analysis of the engagement and all-staff event

September: Consensus-Building Workshops

October-November: Workshops analysis

December: National Health Research Summit


January: CIHR all-staff event; analysis of the Summit and all-staff event

February: Draft plan

March-May: Process on hold due to the pandemic

June-September: Revisions to address the pandemic and systemic racism

October: Draft plan; engagement on implementation with select stakeholder groups

November: Final plan


February: Public launch

Expert Advice

We are but one player in the health research ecosystem and we knew we could not develop our new Strategic Plan in isolation. That is why, in addition to our various engagement activities, we have created two advisory committees to help guide our work:

Expert Analysis Validation Panel

In addition to the committees above, we created an Expert Analysis Validation Panel. It consisted of four researchers specialized in qualitative analysis, coming from different research pillars, career stages, genders, regions, and institution types and sizes. The Panel’s purpose was to validate and advise on methodology, analysis techniques, data interpretation, and data visualization. Panel members did not perform any data analysis, but had access to all data and analysis-related documents for consultation as required. During the period of data analysis and report writing, the Panel held weekly teleconference meetings with CIHR’s Project Lead, accompanied by other analysis participants as required. A report of the Panel’s activities and comments and CIHR’s response to them was featured in the analysis report. Finally, Panel members were invited to participate in the September Consensus Workshop and December Health Research Summit.

Panel Members

Dr. Martha MacLeod (University of Northern British Columbia)
Dr. Carole Estabrooks (University of Alberta)
Dr. Philippe Robaey (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario)
Dr. Suzanne Dupuis-Blanchard (University of Moncton)


If you have any questions about the development of CIHR’s new Strategic Plan, we invite you to write to us at

Further Reading

Previous strategic plans

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