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Research at the Ministry of Health

The COVID-19 Challenge Questions Initiative

The COVID-19 Challenge Questions Initiative has been established by the Ontario Ministry of Health to help ensure that researchers accessing the Ontario Health Data Platform (OHDP) address high priority COVID-19 research questions. This initiative is open to researchers across Ontario, including those not using the OHDP.

The objective of the COVID-19 Challenge Questions Initiative is to accelerate the generation and translation of research and data analytic insights into action. It is meant to quickly generate responses with researchers working collaboratively with knowledge users to respond to Ontario’s most pressing needs. Projects will ideally provide fulsome responses to posted Challenge Questions in short timelines.

Challenge Questions are complex questions that are aligned with government priorities and the COVID-19 Health Research Priorities Framework. The COVID-19 Challenge Question Initiative serves as a call to action for collaboration across machine learning and the wider health research community. It will be based on an integrated knowledge translation (iKT)1 approach and challenges researchers to answer complex questions with actionable solutions.

Research Areas and Challenge Questions have been developed through discussions with key Ministry COVID-19 advisory committees and with practitioners, researchers, data experts, policy knowledge users, and patients/family advisors.

Please note that the COVID-19 Challenge Questions Initiative is not a research grant funding opportunity. It is an opportunity for integrated knowledge translation. Expressions of Interest to the Challenge Questions should have enough funding to undertake the work.

Challenge Questions Research Areas:

The Challenge Questions are grouped into seven broad research areas:

  1. Vaccination Strategy
  2. Therapeutic Treatment Options and Outcomes
  3. Pandemic Waves
  4. Testing and Surveillance Strategies
  5. Population Level Prevention and Containment
  6. Health System Resourcing
  7. Health Equity and Vulnerable Populations

Please read this full list of Challenge Questions.

Submitting Expression of Interest and Answering the COVID-19 Challenge Questions

The Challenge Question Initiative is a non-competitive program. Expressions of Interest will be accepted on a rolling basis.


  • Researchers in Ontario-based universities and other academic institutions
  • Researchers in Ontario-based non-profit organizations

Incentives to Participate:

  • Researcher receives prioritized access to the OHDP
  • New data sets needed to address the CQs are prioritized for addition to the OHDP
  • Provincial recognition and exposure to decision makers.


Stage 1: Submit Expression of Interest

Researchers are required to submit an expression of interest (EOI) for each Challenge Question they plan to answer. A PDF version of the full application is available on the website. Please note that the PDF version is provided for your planning purposes only and cannot be used to submit an application to the OHDP; all applications must be submitted by completing Expression of Interest Form located on the Ontario Health Data Platform website.

Stage 2: Connect with Knowledge Users

Researchers will be connected with relevant knowledge users (KUs) and COVID-19 advisory committees to enable integrated knowledge translation (iKT). This will be done through structured mechanisms to clarify questions, test assumptions, and share ongoing analysis. Researchers will be provided with the opportunity to participate in a Challenge Question Team with other researchers in the research area.

Stage 3: Submit Answers and Actionable Insights

Researchers will be asked to submit their proposed Challenge Question answer via a Challenge Questions Summary of Findings Form. A reference PDF version of this form can be found on the Ontario Health Data Platform (OHDP) COVID-19 website for planning purposes (each CQI researcher will directly receive a unique link to a fillable Summary of Findings form).

The Ministry will assess the Summary of Findings based on the following criteria:

  • Ability to convey findings to policy makers (e.g. plain language)
  • Increased understanding of issue and/or tangible solution or tool (i.e. how well the response adds to understanding of the issue and/or provides a tangible solution for further scope and scale)
  • Feasibility or actionability of guidance/solution provided.

Feedback on proposals will be provided to researchers including potential next steps and further opportunities to share results (e.g. at ministry advisory committees or other venues and OHDP website).

Strong results may be profiled on the ministry and/or Ontario Health Data Platform websites and highlighted in the ministry COVID-19 Evidence Update. There could also potentially be COVID-19 Challenge Question Initiative Recognition Awards.

More Information

  • General OHDP inquiries can be directed to info@ohdp.ca
  • Inquiries related to submitting an OHDP application should contact applicationsupport@ohdp.ca
  • Inquiries related to the Challenge Question Program should be directed to the Research Analysis and Evaluation Branch at the Ministry of Health through researchunit@ontario.ca

1 iKT is an approach to doing research that applies the principles of knowledge translation to the entire research process. The central premise of iKT is that involving knowledge users as equal partners alongside researchers will lead to research that is more relevant to, and more likely to be useful to, the knowledge users.  Each stage in the research process is an opportunity for significant collaboration with knowledge users, including the development or refinement of the research questions, selection of the methodology, data collection and tools development, selection of outcome measures, interpretation of the findings, crafting of the message and dissemination of the results.

Source: https://cihr-irsc.gc.ca/e/45321.html

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