Subject Matter Eligibility

General Guidelines for the Eligibility of Subject Matter at SSHRC
Guidelines for the Eligibility of Applications Related to Health
Guidelines for the Eligibility of Applications in Psychology


The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) support and promote high-quality research in a wide variety of disciplines and areas. This includes research that bridges more than one discipline or that requires the skills of several disciplines.

SSHRC collaborates closely with the other granting agencies to encourage and promote support to the full range of social science and humanities research and research training, including collaboration across disciplines and subject areas. The following guidelines have been prepared to assist applicants in directing their proposals to the most appropriate funding agency. These guidelines apply to research, research training, and related activities such as conferences or scholarly journals. In any given application, applicants should apply to the agency that is responsible for the dominant research discipline or area. A researcher, research team or student may not submit the same application to more than one of the three federal research granting agencies.

Applications submitted to SSHRC that would be more appropriately evaluated by NSERC or CIHR will not be accepted. In such cases, applicants may be required to submit a new application to the appropriate agency.

Applicants working in research areas where boundaries overlap are advised to state clearly in all applications for funding why they believe their proposals are primarily appropriate for support by the agency to which they are submitting their application.

Such applicants should contact the research services office at their institution for guidance. In addition, they should seek the advice of the appropriate program officer in charge of the program to which they are considering applying.

Complete guidelines on selecting the appropriate federal granting agency are available at


General Guidelines for the Eligibility of Subject Matter at SSHRC

Applications to SSHRC as the primary source of research or research training support must meet the following two criteria:

  • The proposed research or related activities must be primarily in the social sciences and humanities (i.e., aligned with SSHRC's legislated mandate).
  • The intended outcome of the research must primarily be to add to our understanding and knowledge of individuals, groups and societies—what we think, how we live, and how we interact with each other and the world around us.

Applicants to any of SSHRC’s grant or scholarship funding opportunities who wish to collaborate with researchers working in fields other than the social sciences and humanities should see Multi-Agency Research Funding Collaboration.


Guidelines for the Eligibility of Applications Related to Health

New guidelines regarding subject matter eligibility for health-related research came into effect in 2009. The following are considerations when preparing or assessing the eligibility of the subject matter of applications related to health:

  • Investigators whose proposed research is health-related should consult CIHR’s mandate first to explore eligibility. CIHR has policies and procedures in place to adjudicate the full range of social science and humanities research proposals related to health research. Research eligible under the mandate of CIHR will not be considered by SSHRC.
  • The use of social science or humanities theories, methodologies and hypotheses is, in and of itself, not sufficient to make a proposal eligible at SSHRC.

Ineligible for SSHRC Support

Social science or humanities research that is primarily intended to improve and/or increase knowledge of health (including mental health), health care and health-care systems in Canada or internationally is not eligible for support from SSHRC. Examples of ineligible research include:

  • socio-economic and cultural determinants of health, including theoretical and empirical research on the social construction of health, sickness and health behaviour;
  • health promotion (e.g., healthy eating, disease prevention, health and sexual education);
  • education and psychology research related to health service delivery (e.g., clinical/practical competencies, supervision, curriculum development);
  • health behaviour (e.g., fitness, psychomotor learning, psychophysiology and kinesiology; addictions, sexual activities, etc. as they affect health status);
  • clinical research (e.g., treatment, prevention or diagnosis of a condition, disorder or disease; testing or evaluating the impact of interventions, medication or medical aids);
  • therapy (e.g., counselling, interventions, psychotherapy, rehabilitation, speech and occupational therapy, validation/testing of diagnostic tools), including the use of performing/visual arts as an element of therapy;
  • knowledge translation research related to health (e.g., research that informs health policy, treatment and/or services);
  • health policy, management and law (e.g., care practices and service provision, training of health professionals, access to and quality of care, cost management in health care, liability of practitioners, health insurance, health record systems, evaluation of health programs and/or services);
  • public health (e.g., workplace, food and water safety and security as they affect health status); and
  • humanities perspectives on health, including health ethics.

Eligible for SSHRC Support

Proposals may be eligible if there is no intent to directly or indirectly impact health, or if health is a subsidiary element in a study intended to increase our understanding of individuals, groups and/or societies. Eligible research may include, for example:

  • comparative studies in which health is not the primary object of study;
  • use of physiological methods and/or approaches to improve learning, teaching and curriculum development, or to investigate social/cultural processes and behaviors;
  • historical and/or archaeological research where there is no intent to influence health (e.g., biographies of health practitioners or health scientists; health and hygiene in ancient civilizations);
  • economic or management analysis unrelated to improved health or health care (e.g., the impact of the health-care industry on national or local economies; the impact of epidemics on the profitability of insurance companies);
  • cinematic or other artistic portrayals of illness in which health promotion is not a central aim; or
  • religious and/or cultural research related to dietary or other practices (e.g., fasting, vegetarianism), in which health is not the central focus of research.

Decision-Making and Consultation Process to Determine the Eligibility of Applications Related to Health

Decision-making with regard to eligibility is entrusted to SSHRC staff and management, rather than to the peer/merit review committees, which focus on assessing the excellence of proposals. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact SSHRC staff in advance of submitting their application if there are questions regarding subject matter eligibility. Staff will endeavour to provide advice to applicants. However, a final decision on eligibility can only be made following submission of a full proposal.

SSHRC staff also consult, as required, with outside experts and/or with officials at CIHR for assistance in arriving at a recommendation. Applicants whose proposals are deemed ineligible are informed via a formal letter.

Please note that SSHRC does not permit appeals on grounds of subject matter eligibility.


Guidelines for the Eligibility of Applications in Psychology

Notwithstanding the above-mentioned guidelines for research related to health, applicants should consider the following guidelines in their decision to apply to a federal granting agency if their research is in the field of psychology:

  • SSHRC considers eligible applications within the broad areas of social, developmental, personality and educational psychology. SSHRC also considers eligible proposals related to theory and methods in these areas. SSHRC does not support clinically oriented research with an intent to improve health, or research involving clinical trials.

  • NSERC considers eligible applications that relate to fundamental psychological processes, their underlying neural mechanisms, their development within individuals, and their evolutionary and ecological context. Fundamental processes are understood to include:

    • sensation and perception;
    • sensorimotor integration;
    • motivation, emotion and reward;
    • learning and memory;
    • cognition and language;
    • sleep, arousal and the chrono-biological modulation of behaviour; and
    • statistical methods for analysis of psychological data.
  • NSERC does not support clinically-oriented research.
  • CIHR supports all research in psychology that has direct relevance to, or ultimate impact on, human health.