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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.The objective of the initiative is to accelerate the generation and translation of research and data analytic insights into action responsive to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Challenge Question Initiative is open to researchers across Ontario, including those not using the OHDP.

Challenge questions are complex questions that are aligned with government priorities and the COVID-19 Health Research Priorities Framework. The 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) approach, 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.

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 a 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. To submit an EOI, please complete Expression of Interest Form located on the Ontario Health Data Platform microsite.

Stage 2: Connect with Knowledge Users

Researchers will be linked with relevant knowledge users (KUs) and COVID-19 response tables through structured mechanisms to clarify questions, test assumptions, and share ongoing analysis. Researchers will be provided with the opportunity to participate in a CQ Team with other researchers in the research area.

Stage 3: Submit Answers and Actionable Insights

Researcher will be asked to submit their proposed Challenge Question answer via a Summary of Challenge Question 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)
  • Reliability and validity of results
  • 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 tables or other venues and sharing of results on ministry website and OHDP microsite).

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 will also be COVID-19 Challenge Question Initiative Recognition Awards.

Stage 4: Build on Actionable Insights

Proposals that solve ministry challenges may be considered for seed funding to continue the development of iKT solutions, tools, or further evidence.

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

For More Information

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TTY 1–800–387–5559.
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