DRC Doctoral Research Awards 2020

May 14, 2020




Agriculture and Environment, Inclusive Economies, Technology and Innovation


June 17, 2020 by 16:00 (EDT)




10 weeks to 12 months




Approximately 20 awards of a maximum of CA$20,000 each




Student award


This call is open to Canadians, permanent residents of Canada, and citizens of developing countries pursuing doctoral studies at a Canadian university. Awards under this call will cover the costs of field research conducted for a doctoral dissertation in one or more countries in the Global South.

Who can apply

Candidates must meet the following requirements to be eligible:

You must be a citizen or permanent resident of Canada, or a citizen of a developing country, excluding countries in southern and eastern Europe, South Caucasus, and Central Asia (but including Afghanistan). 

You must be enrolled at a Canadian university at the doctoral level (you must have completed several courses of the doctoral program, but not necessarily all courses, when you submit your application).

Your research proposal must be approved by your thesis supervisor. Please provide proof.

Your proposed field research must be conducted for a doctoral dissertation and must take place in one or more developing countries (see list of exceptions below).

Your field research must be relevant to one of six development outcome areas to which IDRC aims to contribute through its work. These are:

  • Health equity
  • Inclusive governance
  • Sustainable and inclusive growth
  • Climate resilience and sustainable food systems
  • Inclusive education
  • Strong science and innovation systems

We also encourage proposals that explore the impacts of and resilience to shocks such as the current COVID-19 pandemic, from the perspective of any of the areas above. Applications proposing field research outside of these areas will not be considered.

You must provide evidence of affiliation with an institution or organization in the developing region(s) in which the research will take place.

You must have completed coursework and passed comprehensive exams before taking up the award.

You may not be in receipt of two or more active IDRC awards at the same time; these include the IDRC Research Awards. No time overlaps will be permitted. If you are in receipt of IDRC funds from another source (e.g. a Queen Elizabeth Advanced Scholars award or through a professor’s IDRC research grant) for activities that will be active when and if you take up an IDRC Doctoral Research Award, you will be asked to demonstrate how funds from each are not being used towards the same objective.

Additional eligibility requirements 

If you are selected for an award, you have up to 12 months to start your field research from the date of the final selection.

You must plan to spend a minimum of 10 consecutive weeks in the field when your research involves one or more countries in one region. The regions are: Middle East, North Africa, West Africa, East Africa, southern Africa, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Far East Asia, Caribbean, Central America, South America, Oceania.

When your research involves more than one region, you must plan to spend a minimum of five consecutive weeks in the field in each region.

This award will cover research costs for a maximum of 12 months in the field. If your field research exceeds 12 months, you must cover additional costs from another source of funding.

It will be your responsibility to ensure that you follow all Government of Canada travel advisories while applying, when planning your field research trip, and while in the field. IDRC will reject any application that proposes travel to a country or region for which there is an advisory to “Avoid all travel” at the time of application. If you are selected and an advisory to “Avoid all travel” is introduced for the country or region of research, you will be required to follow the advisory even after a contract is signed. 

Note that there is currently an “Avoid all travel” outside of Canada advisory because of COVID-19, and this advisory must be followed for the duration it is in place. However, thinking forward to when it is lifted, we are asking applicants that at the moment of submitting an application, they should refer to and follow “Avoid all travel” advisories set by country for non-COVID-19 related reasons, e.g. security risks.

Research country exceptions

In principle, IDRC supports research in all developing countries. However, at this time, we do not offer awards for research that involves the following countries and regions:

Afghanistan, Burundi, Central African Republic, Chad, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Mali, North Korea (Democratic People’s Republic of), Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Venezuela, Yemen, southern and eastern Europe, Central Asia, and South Caucasus. 

Countries subject to approval

You may apply for research in the following countries and territories or for any other country for which the Government of Canada travel advisory is to “Avoid non-essential travel”. However, if you are recommended for an award, your application will be subject to a further stage of approval within IDRC and there is no guarantee your award will be approved:

Congo (Democratic Republic of), Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, Maldives, Micronesia, Monserrat, Myanmar, Nicaragua, Sudan, Suriname, Tunisia, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Zimbabwe, some small island states, including Comoros, São Tomé and Principe, Saint Helena, Timor-Leste, and the Pacific Islands (Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna). 

NOTE: Given the COVID-19 pandemic, please be realistic and prepare to be flexible in the proposed departure and return dates, as well as in the design of your field research.


IDRC has helped graduate students undertake thesis research in the field of international development since 1982. IDRC Doctoral Research Awards are intended to build capacity and develop research skills in Canada and the Global South to improve the lives of people in the developing world.

Special note about the Bentley Research Fellowship

Applicants for the IDRC Doctoral Research Awards 2020 call who indicate climate resilience and sustainable food systems as their area of work will automatically be considered for the Bentley Research Fellowship. There is no need to indicate interest; the top candidates in this area will automatically be considered for the fellowship, which has the same parameters as the IDRA.

Evaluation criteria

Applications that are complete, that meet the eligibility criteria, and whose research subjects are deemed to fit with the development outcome areas listed above, will be forwarded to an IDRC selection committee. External evaluators may occasionally be involved. 

Using the criteria listed below, the IDRC selection committee will rate each application and will identify successful awardees, ensuring that the selection of awards represents all IDRC areas. Some awards may be made conditionally, i.e. the candidate will be sent comments which must be addressed before the award can be confirmed.

No comments will be provided to unsuccessful candidates, even those who intend to reapply a second time.

The following criteria will be used to evaluate applications:

  • Fit with IDRC mission and development outcome areas;
  • Overall appropriateness, completeness, quality, and clarity of the research proposal;
  • Overall methodology and considerations of cultural, logistical, and scientific constraints;
  • Overall feasibility, duration, and timing of the research;
  • Originality and creativity of the research;
  • Potential contribution to existing knowledge on the issue;
  • Gender dimensions of the research;
  • Ethical considerations of the research;
  • Benefit to the communities where the research is taking place;
  • Suitability of the affiliated institution;
  • Potential for research results to be disseminated and used;
  • Budget; and
  • Applicant’s capacity to conduct the proposed research, including academic training, local language capacity, professional skills, research experience, and knowledge of country/region of research.

Ethical considerations

If you are offered an award, you will be required to submit the appropriate approval from your university’s ethics committee, as well as approval from a local research ethics board (as required and when possible).

Announcement of results

We thank all applicants for their interest. Candidates recommended for an award will be advised by email in October or November 2020. 

Candidates not recommended for an award will also be informed by email; however, this email will be sent via the online application system. Note that your server may not recognize the address and may send it to your junk or spam folder. Please see Technical FAQ 4 in the Technical FAQ for details on how to avoid this problem.

More details

Please read the following documents before applying:

If you still have a question after reading all of the above, you may contact us at awards@idrc.ca.

NB: Inquiries will be answered up until two working days before the call deadline, i.e. until 4:00 pm EDT on June 15, 2020. Technical inquiries about difficulties encountered in the online application system should also be directed to awards@idrc.ca. Please note in your subject line that you are applying for the IDRC Doctoral Research Awards.

We recommend using Firefox or Chrome as your browser for the online application. You may encounter technical difficulties with Internet Explorer.

Read more about the 2019 awardees and their research topics.

Interested in applying?

If you are eligible for this opportunity we welcome you to submit an application.Apply online