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National Student Paper Competition

Launched in 2013, the National Student Paper Competition (NSPC) is an annual competition organized by the Canada School of Public Service in partnership with the Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC) and the Canadian Association of Programs in Public Administration (CAPPA).

The competition invites graduate students from universities across Canada to introduce innovative ideas and bright new thinkers to government to build public service excellence and support a high-performing public service for today and tomorrow. It welcomes submissions on any issue of relevance to the federal public service.

After successfully completing eight rounds of the NSPC, we are proud to announce that the 9th edition of the competition will be launched on December 10, 2021.

About the competition

The NSPC is open to graduate students from all faculties. In past years, the competition has drawn the interest of students from across a variety of disciplines, especially public administration, public policy, political science, and business management. Any submission focused on challenging and expanding the ways the federal government can support Canadians is welcome.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

  • Public health and associated challenges
  • Artificial intelligence for data analysis or service delivery
  • Climate change adaptation and environmental conservation
  • Energy strategies, renewable energy technology, and environmental research
  • Impact of big science infrastructure on the economy
  • Implications of new and potential federal legislation on the lives of Canadians
  • Increased diversity and inclusion in the public service
  • Indigenous relationships in the 21st century, reconciliation and new models of self-government
  • Mental health in the workforce
  • New approaches to national infrastructure, procurement, and project management
  • Organizational design, human resources, recruitment, and public service renewal
  • The current state of peer-reviewed research and use of new evidence
  • Managing big data and moving from big data to smart data
  • Regional perspectives within Canadian federalism
  • Regulation, security, privacy, and infrastructure integrity in a digital world
  • Rural versus urban policy implementation
  • Trust in government, transparency, accountability, and new media landscapes
  • Valuing and communicating scientific literacy

The top five papers from the previous years of the competition can be accessed on the IPAC website.

What are the prizes?

The Grand Prize winner(s) of the competition will receive the following:

  • An opportunity to work on two term assignments (4 months each) within the federal government
  • An invitation to attend and present at the 2022 CSPS Manion Lecture or another applicable CSPS keystone event (If applicable, the winner's round-trip travel costs will be reimbursed)

In addition, the winner and the top five finalists will:

  • receive a certificate of achievement signed by the CSPS President
  • have their submissions posted on the CAPPA website in both official languages
  • be invited to attend the 2022 IPAC National Conference

Who is eligible?

Participants must be enrolled in a masters or doctoral degree program at a publicly funded Canadian university for at least one academic term during the 2021–2022 academic year, on a full or part-time basis.

Participants in masters or PhD certificate programs are also eligible.

What are the criteria for submitting a paper?

The competition is designed to allow graduate students to share interesting and innovative ideas on topics related to governance and the Public Service of Canada, and should focus on current priorities of the Government of Canada.

This year's competition encourages participants to explore the challenges involved in different dimensions of public service towards recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic, but is not limited to this specific priority. All submissions on any other issue relevant to the Public Service of Canada are also welcome.

Students are encouraged to review documents published on Government of Canada websites, especially:

  • the Speech from the Throne, which identifies government-wide priorities or objectives
  • various departmental plans and reports
  • ministerial mandate letters
  • the Clerk's Annual Report to the Prime Minister on the Public Service of Canada

Additional relevant documents for a Canadian government perspective may be found on the websites of the Privy Council Office and the Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat.

Also, while determining a research topic, students may want to consider the following questions:

  • What are your ideas on helping to ensure that the public service is ready to meet the needs of the future?
  • What are the major social, economic, technological and/or environmental challenges facing Canada in the next decade, and which strategies should Canada pursue to address them?
  • Which emerging topics will have a significant impact on the federal public service and service excellence for Canadians?
  • What would it take to move your idea from policy approval to implementation?

Each paper should be a forward-looking think piece that explores innovative ideas and approaches to help position Canada and Canadians for the coming decade through solutions delivered by the Public Service of Canada.

Finally, the submitted papers must also meet the following technical requirements:

  • be written by a single author or jointly by two authors
  • be written either in English or in French
  • be new works or adapted from previous original course work
  • be a maximum of 1,500 words (excluding the cover page, bibliography, footnotes/endnotes, appendices or any charts and figures)
  • follow an essay format and use any standard citation style
  • be submitted in all of the following three formats:
    1. PDF (formatted with cover page including title, authors' names, email addresses, word count, university, and authors' university program)
    2. MS Word (identical content to PDF version)
    3. MS Word (cover page with name of paper and word count only, omitting author's name and university)

How to submit?

Students interested in submitting a paper should:

  1. Contact a professor in their department, school or faculty to seek support
  2. Submit the paper to this professor, who will endorse the submission and submit it by email to before the March 2, 2022 deadline. No registration is required for the endorsement of the paper.

Evaluation process

Adjudicators will review submitted papers using an evaluation matrix as determined by the CSPS.

Evaluation process
Originality of approach
  • Shows a completely novel, well thought-out and feasible approach
  • Understands the topic, proposes innovative approaches and solutions to new and existing challenges for Canada
  • Takes a unique perspective on or dimension of an issue of concern for Canadians
  • Well-conducted research supports the arguments
  • Draws from diverse sources of academic research and/or government publications
  • Includes complete citations and follows a consistent reference style
Structure and writing style
  • The paper follows a clear structure
  • Even flow of the paper with a logical sequence of ideas
  • Free from typos or grammatical mistakes
Relevance to the federal public service
  • The issue concerns a priority of the federal public service
  • Identifies the importance of the selected topic as well as the key drivers
  • Demonstrates potential practical application by the federal public service
Relevance to the broader Canadian population
  • The issue is a concern to the broader Canadian population
  • Offers clear, realistic advice that will benefit the broader Canadian population

After all the submissions are assessed and scores are tallied, the authors of the five papers with the highest scores will be considered as the finalists.

To determine the winner, the top five finalists will be asked to present their research to a panel of deputy ministers. The panel will rank the presentations to determine the winner based on the students':

  • presentation skills
  • content and clarity
  • ability to defend ideas

Contact us

Should you have any questions about the competition or the submission process, please contact the NSPC team at the CSPS at the following email:

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