Northern Scientific Training Program: Guidelines 2015-2016

Date: September 2015

Table of contents


The primary purpose of the Northern Scientific Training Program (NSTP) is to encourage and support Canadian university students with an interest in northern studies and conducting thesis research in Northern regions, by assisting them to gain northern professional experience and training, through the issuance of supplementary funds.

The universities receiving Northern Scientific Training Program support are encouraged to develop a special focus for training in northern studies, to orient students towards northern studies and northern careers, and to foster an exchange of information among scholars of various disciplines with an interest in the Canadian North.

These Guidelines have been prepared to explain:

  1. the objectives and operation of the Program; and,
  2. the specific criteria that will be employed in awarding Program funds.

A copy of this manual can be found on the NSTP Internet site @

Rhonda Turner (613) 222-7421
Nathalie Robillard-Bergeron (613) 222-9537



The mailing and courier address is:

NSTP Secretariat
Polar Knowledge Canada
2464 Sheffield Rd.
Ottawa, ON K1A 0G1

1. Historical Overview

During the fifties the federal government recognized the need to "foster, through scientific investigation and technology, knowledge of the Canadian North and the means of dealing with conditions related to its further development". Few universities were active in northern work, and Canadian students had little opportunity to conduct northern work, other than as summer field assistants on government projects. With limited research funds, universities could not afford to carry out studies in the North, which were more expensive than comparable research in southern Canada. As such, it was increasingly difficult to find sufficient numbers of experienced northern scientists and other specialists with northern expertise for positions in the government, the universities and the private sector.

Recognizing that Canadian universities were not producing northern specialists in sufficient numbers to meet national needs, and that interest in scientific research in the North was decreasing because of inadequate financial support, the Northern Scientific Training Program was initiated to help redress the situation.

After five decades, the Program's purpose and objectives have remained the same. The Program has, however, expanded and adapted its efforts to meet contemporary needs.Footnote 1

2. Program Administration

The NSTP is managed by Polar Knowledge Canada (POLAR).  An intergovernmental committee consisting of northern experts is appointed for a three-year period.  This Committee is responsible for reviewing, on an annual basis, university funding applications and reports in order to ensure the effective use of funds provided by the Program to universities.  It is commonly known as the NSTP Management Committee and is supported by the NSTP Secretariat at POLAR.

This Committee also sets Program policy.  Participating universities are invited to help set direction for the Program at a meeting held at the Annual General Meeting of the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies (ACUNS), during university visits by members of the NSTP Secretariat, and in feedback emails to the Secretariat.

3. Program Objective

The Program supports Canadian universities in providing scientific training that gives advanced undergraduate and graduate students professional experience in the Canadian North and encourages them to develop a commitment to northern work.

The objective of the Program is to increase the number of students who have specialized in some aspect of northern studies and who have northern research experience.  This objective is attained by encouraging the formation of multi-disciplinary focal points for northern studies within Canadian universities (i.e. Northern Studies Committees) and by providing supplementary financial assistance to universities for students to offset the high cost of northern research (i.e. transportation costs, living costs, shipping costs and interpreter fees).

4. Program Criteria

a) Research

The NSTP Management Committee encourages universities to undertake northern research in a wide range of disciplines and to undertake multi-disciplinary projects where appropriate. Bearing in mind that the purpose of the Program is to develop northern scientists with an awareness of northern issues, supervisors and students should ensure that their research is relevant to current northern concerns.

For the purpose of these Guidelines, the term "research" includes all forms of scholarly and professional inquiry and related training activities (subject to the limitations outlined herein). The term "North" is normally understood for purposes of the Program to include that part of Canada which lies north of the southern limit of the discontinuous permafrost zone; all of Labrador (see map at:; and the other seven Arctic countries (Finland, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States (Alaska)).

The NSTP Management Committee encourages student use of existing northern field stations. To this end, you may wish to visit the NSTP website for links to a list of Northern Field Stations and other interesting sites. There is now a section on the forms to indicate what field station is being used.  If field stations not listed there are to be used, their location and sponsorship should be indicated in this section.

b) Funding/Student Eligibility

Program funds are offered in support of specific projects as outlined in the application forms. They are intended to assist in defraying the additional costs attributable to northern research projects (i.e. transportation costs, living expenses, freight costs and interpreter fees), and are therefore supplementary in nature. NSTP funds are not intended as a source of primary support for students, or as on-going support in the form of general scholarships. This is why candidates are asked to clearly indicate other sources of funding on the application for funds.

The student must be enrolled full-time in a degree program at a Canadian university and must be a Canadian citizen or a permanent resident. Funds are available in support of undergraduate and graduate students conducting thesis research in Northern regions.  At the graduate level, NSTP funds can be used to support students up to 4th year Ph.D. and 2nd year Masters.

Post-doctoral studies and field assistants are not supported. Applications can be renewed.

In general, NSTP funds cannot be used for the following:

  • to provide employment for students;
  • for the overall administrative, research or teaching program of a Northern Studies Institute, Program or Centre, nor as a subsidy for university faculty members;
  • for administrative or indirect costs associated with administering the funds;
  • for research carried on outside the NSTP's geographical boundary (see map at;
  • for research which does not necessitate a sojourn in the Canadian North (e.g. archival research, data collection, laboratory analysis, production of publication, conference presentation, etc.);
  • to support students going on field coursesFootnote 2, or for the purpose of a practicum;
  • for the purchase of equipment; and finally
  • for payment of salaries other than interpreter fees in the field.

As well, a candidate cannot be allocated NSTP funds through two universities at the same time.

Finally, students cannot be allocated NSTP funds if they are going to be employed or remunerated for their research while in the field.

Undergraduate Students: Québec Universities

It has been noted by Committee members that universities in Québec have a number of applications by students at the 2nd year undergraduate level, and concerns were raised on how to treat these requests. After consultations, it has been determined that Québec university Committees may accept 2nd year undergraduate students as many of the programs related to the physical disciplines, for example, are 3 year programs. Students applying at the 2nd year undergraduate level are only accepted if the student will be engaged in thesis research and following their supervisor's recommendation and confidence that these projects fall within a long term education objective.

CollegesFootnote 3

If the student is applying from a Community College, he/she must  include adhere to the following criteria and provide information below:

a)  The student must have completed two full years of an academic college program(NSTP is designed for senior university students i.e. finished 3 academic years -Student Application Form); and,
b)  The student must demonstrate an intention to go on to a university education (in the university competition undergraduate awards are viewed as a means of easing the transition into graduate studies - separate sheet accompanying application form).

It is the university's responsibility to ensure that students meet these criteria of eligibility.

c) Application Assessment

Each university's Northern Studies Committee is responsible for developing their own method of application assessment.  The criteria listed below are those employed by the NSTP Selection Committee once all universities have submitted their requests for funds.  These are provided here as a guide for all involved in preparing an Application for Funds.

The NSTP Selection Committee's assessment is based on:

  • the extent to which the reports and the applications comply with the Program's Guidelines;
  • the completeness and the clarity of the information provided;
  • the evaluation of past performance and future research;
  • the linkage between current northern issues and the experience and scientific knowledge/training gained by the students;
  • the development of northern studies and northern specialists at the university;
  • the number of students supported by training funds in the previous year and proposed for the upcoming year; and
  • the cost efficiency of individual projects as well as the submission as a whole.

The NSTP Management Committee requests that comments from the supervisor emphasize the student's past experience and the project's relevance to current northern concerns. As such, the supervisor should:

  • provide, if possible, a synopsis of the student's previous training experience;
  • indicate how the fieldwork relates to the student's future studies, as well as how it relates to present and future northern research issues; and,
  • reflect how the student has benefited from the research conducted.

5. Application Procedures

At the beginning of the academic year, the NSTP call for application material is distributed to participating universities' Northern Studies Committees. This is a Committee which has been officially recognized by the President of the university.

Applications for NSTP funds must be made by the Chairperson of a Northern Studies Committee at a Canadian university. Applications from individuals are not accepted.

Students interested in the Program should contact the university's Northern Studies Committee. In the case where the student's university does not have a recognized Northern Studies Committee, the candidate may apply through a participating university.

If a student is enrolled at one university but is conducting research through another, the student should apply for funding through the university in which he or she is enrolled.

Universities which have not participated in the Program in the past, but wish to do so, may make an application to the NSTP Secretariat.

6. Application Process

In September of each year, the following NSTP material is sent to the universities' Northern Studies Committee. The intended audience is in italics.

  • call letter (Northern Studies Committee)
  • University Information Sheet (Northern Studies Committee)
  • Northern Studies Committee Information Sheet (Northern Studies Committee)
  • Research Reports: General Overview (Northern Studies Committee)
  • Application for Funds: General Overview (Northern Studies Committee)
  • Chairperson's Manual (Northern Studies Committee)
  • NSTP Guidelines (Northern Studies Committee and for reference by students and supervisors)
  • Student's Manual (Students)

Along with the NSTP ManualsFootnote 4, other Reference Manuals which are now available online include: Doing Research in the Northwest Territories: A Guide for Researchers - Aurora Research Institute, Scientific Research Licensing Guidelines and Appendices- Nunavut Research Institute, Guidebook on Scientific Research in the Yukon, and Ethical Principles for the Conduct of Research in the North - Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies, The State of Northern Knowledge of Canada Report – Canadian Polar Commission.

Students are required to complete the necessary report and/or application using the appropriate web-based form ensuring that they follow the instructions outlined in the Student's Manual. Once the forms have been completed, they are to be submitted (on-line and hard copy which has been duly signed) to the universities' Northern Studies Committee. Students should be aware that an incomplete application may result in a rejection of funding.

The Committee is required to ensure that the following six forms are duly completed:

  1. University Information Sheet
  2. Northern Studies Committee Information Sheet
  3. Research Reports: General Overview
  4. Research Report Spreadsheet
  5. Application for Funds: General Overview
  6. Application for Funds Spreadsheet

The Committee will keep all original copies of the forms. The Chair will sign the spreadsheet verifying that all Research Reports and Applications for Funds have been submitted to them.

The submission is signed off by the University President (or designate) and then forwarded to the NSTP Secretariat.  It is the responsibility of each university's Northern Studies Committee to ensure that all required report and application information is provided in the appropriate form by December 1st.  Any application post-marked past this date will be rejected. The NSTP Secretariat also reserves the right to reject any application it may find to be incomplete.

The NSTP Secretariat at POLAR reviews all report/application packages. Copies of the complete package for each university are distributed to the NSTP Management Committee members in January for their review.  In February, the NSTP Management Committee meets and the members make decisions regarding the amount of funding awarded to each university.  Funding is not decided on an individual student basis, although individual Research Reports and Application for Funds forms are reviewed and commented upon by Committee members.  The NSTP Management Committee members look at the overall quality of the university submissions, the proposed projects and the number of students and then allocate funds accordingly.  Ineligible project applications are also identified at that time.

Within a week after the NSTP Management Committee meeting, the NSTP Secretariat advises the Universities' Northern Studies Committee, by email, of the amount of money being awarded to their university and of any projects not deemed eligible for funding.  Several weeks later, a detailed letter providing an evaluation of the research reports and the proposed projects, as well as general feedback with regard to the university's overall submission, is sent to each Northern Studies Committee.

In the spring, cheques are issued to the universities' Northern Studies Committees. Once the funds are released from POLAR, the NSTP Secretariat or Management Committee have no further role in the distribution of the money.  It is entirely the responsibility of the Northern Studies Committee to decide how much money is allocated to participating students, keeping in mind that the average allocation is between $2500 and $3000.

The NSTP Management Committee recognizes the necessity of winter research, and as such encourages and supports winter projects.  For those projects, the Committee requests that the final report and supervisor's comments be provided by April 30th to the NSTP Secretariat.  However, at the time of the December 1st submission, universities are requested to provide as much detail as possible with regard to winter projects.  A preliminary report outlining the name of the student, an estimate of costs and days in the field, as well as any other pertinent information must be completed online and submitted to the University’s Northern Studies Committee.

7. Administration of Research Supported by the Program

Universities submitting applications are responsible for the expenditure of Program funds.  Therefore, applicants must authorize all expenditures made against their funds.  Administrative and accounting procedures must conform to the standards and practices set by each university receiving Program funds.

The Northern Scientific Training Program does not require the submission of a formal audited statement covering funding made to each university, but does require annual statements of expenditures as outlined on the forms submitted with the application for funds, in December of each year.

NSTP funds are granted for the specific purposes and priorities outlined in the application forms.  If, during the year, the university wishes to change its original plan, as outlined in its submission (e.g. different candidate, modifications to the original project, relocation, redistribution of funds), the Northern Studies Committee must consult the NSTP Secretariat  in advance to  ensure replacement or changes guarantees project eligibility.

8. Publications

The NSTP Management Committee requests that scientific papers, seminar or conference presentations, theses, etc., based on NSTP supported projects, be referenced on the report form.  Any publications or conference presentations resulting from work supported by the NSTP should acknowledge the Program's assistance.

9. Conduct of Research Supported by the Program

It is expected that the Ethical Principles For The Conduct of Research in the North, developed by the Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies, will be adhered to by all individuals funded under the Program.  Individuals must indicate in writing their intent to comply with this requirement.  Students must also consult the Aurora Research Institutes Doing Research in the Western Northwest Territories: A Guide for Researchers, the Guidebook of Scientific Research in the Yukon and Nunavut Research Institute’s Scientific Research Licensing Guidelines and Appendices to ensure their research will be carried out under the appropriate licence/permit.

The NSTP Management Committee requests that universities ensure students comply with the following:

  1. Consultation with the communities and individuals most likely to be affected by the research/fieldwork. These groups should be made aware of the study and objectives and approve of the project in advance;
  2. Consultation with local, regional and territorial authorities about the study;
  3. Obtaining all necessary permits and licenses; and
  4. Once the field research is complete the researcher must provide a relevant report or presentation to the issuer of a permit and/or a license as well as to the community where the research has been conducted.

This last requirement is in place not only to satisfy territorial, provincial and/or other regulations, but also to facilitate the exchange of information among northern researchers and to ensure effective communication with northern communities.

Researchers should seek community approval well in advance of their scheduled research.  Applicants must show respect for the guidelines being set up under the present and future land claim settlements in the North.  Various committees have been formed that ensure research will be culturally relevant to community needs.  To these ends, the consultation and review process may seem long and cumbersome, but it is a necessary and required procedure in the licensing process.  Applicants should begin the community consultation process at least four months in advance.  Acquiring community consent is the responsibility of the researcher.  It is the right of the community to deny consent.  Researchers must be prepared to accept those decisions.

As indicated in the Students Manual:  Failure to complete Section D of an Application for Funds form will result in a rejection of that application.

10. Research Projects in Northern Regions of Other Circumpolar Countries

The NSTP considers applications from students interested in undertaking research in the other circumpolar countries, as identified by the Arctic Council: (Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia and Alaska (U.S.A.). These projects should meet all the criteria that presently apply to projects in the Canadian North.  In addition, the projects must clearly demonstrate that they meet the following criteria (to be completed on the online application form):

  • relevancy of foreign study to Northern Studies in Canada: a direct linkage needs to be seen on how the research will benefit Northern Studies in Canada;
  • relevancy of the foreign study to previous and planned work by the student on the Canadian North;
  • organizational and financial support provided in the host country; and,
  • reference to any authorizations and licences required to conduct research in the host country.

As indicated in the Students Manual: Failure to provide information in all four areas will result in a rejection of the application.

This justification must be provided each time that a student plans to conduct international research.  Therefore, even if the research is a continuation of previous years’ research, the justification must be provided again.

Preference will be given to projects that represent an extension of previous work or planned work by the applicant in the Canadian North.  University Northern Studies Committees submitting such proposals should bear in mind that there are no additional funds for foreign projects and that successful applications will be funded from each university's general allocation.

In addition to the criteria listed above, the following geographic location directives should be applied:

  • The research should be carried out in one of the seven Arctic countries as identified in the Arctic Council.
  • The southern limit of discontinuous permafrost serves as the general boundary
  • Research projects carried out in all of Alaska, except for the "panhandle" are eligible
  • Consideration will be given for research carried out in all areas of Greenland (Denmark).
  • For Iceland, eligibility will be determined on a case by case examination.
  • For determination of eligibility of research carried out in Russia, the southern limit of discontinuous permafrost, north of the 58E latitude, will be the effective parameter. In addition, the entire territory of the Kamchatka Oblast, the Magadan Oblast and Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) will be considered eligible. Areas outside of the discontinuous permafrost zone but adjacent to the Arctic Ocean will be considered on a case by case basis.
  • Applications for support for research in Norway, Sweden and Finland will be considered on a case by case basis ensuring that there is strong relevance to northern studies in Canada.

11. Polar Research Stations in Canada

In order to access all the pertinent information on the individual research stations, we suggest that you access:

An interactive map with listings of all Northern Research Facilities can also be found at:

12. Community Interactions/Engagement/Resources

In general, please keep in mind that sharing information and building relationships of trust and friendships in the community are what’s important – being open and outgoing, and looking for ways to be useful in the community and ways to build links with people. This can happen in many ways, depending on the circumstances: participating in community social events; volunteering; going out on the land with local hunters; visiting elders, making presentations to community groups and school classes; being available to answer questions about research; hiring local outfitters and guides.

What is appropriate depends on the project and the relationship that has been developed at the community level. It is strongly recommend that students and/or their professors seek local partners to determine what is appropriate.

Below you will find important resources regarding conducting research in the Territories.

Northwest Territories

Overview of information for researchers working in the Northwest Territories

Guide to Doing Research in the NWT

Community perspectives on research

Research support agencies

List of research permitting bodies

E-brochure for the NWT

Northwest Territories Science Agenda (priorities in the NWT)


Yukon Government has produced a Guidebook on Scientific Research in the Yukon that has information on the application process and license requirements. Contact:

Jeff Hunston, Manager, Heritage Resources Unit
Cultural Services Branch, Department of Tourism & Culture
Phone: (867) 667-5363


Scientists and Explorers Licence

The Yukon Government’s Science Advisor has extended an invitation to meet with researchers to assist researchers with making connections within Government and/or help identify opportunities to apply and/or communicate the knowledge developed through their work. Yukon Government is currently developing a research agenda that will provide some guidance for students looking for research topics (available next fiscal year). Contact:

Dr. Aynslie Ogden, Senior Science Advisor

Executive Council Office, Government of Yukon

Phone: 867-667-5431


The Yukon Research Centre (YRC) hosts a number of programs and services with the common goal to develop collaborative research, innovation and outreach that meets the needs of northerners. YRC also provides a number of services supporting research and innovation. These services include: research funding, laboratory space, support space, a residence for researchers, and logistics support. The Research Centre also has protocol guidelines for doing research with Yukon First Nations. For more information contact:

Clint Sawicki

Director, Office of Research Services
Yukon Research Centre
Phone: 867-668-8772


The link to all information when conducting research in Nunavut can be found through the Nunavut Research Institute.


Brochure by ITK on research relationships with Inuit communities

Association of Canadian universities for Northern studies

There are a number of research facilities in the Yukon that are available for use by visiting researchers. For more information on each of these facilities as well as contact information, consult the Canadian Network of Northern Research Operators’ map of northern research facilities

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