Aboriginal Research Pilot Program

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September 2009 Competition

Value and Duration
Evaluation and Adjudication
Administrative Regulations
More Information


Aboriginal research, in the context of this pilot program, builds on traditions of thought and experience developed among, and in partnership with, First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples in Canada, as well as indigenous peoples in other parts of the world. Aboriginal research encompasses all academic fields as well as domains of knowledge specific to Aboriginal cultural traditions. Those who conduct Aboriginal research, while coming from diverse cultural traditions, are committed to both increased research leadership among Aboriginal scholars and respectful research partnerships involving both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal interests and perspectives.

In 2002-03, SSHRC sponsored the national Dialogue on Research and Aboriginal Peoples, which resulted in the report Opportunities in Aboriginal Research (pdf document 287KB). This report presented strong evidence of the need to shift away from research on and for Aboriginal peoples, to research by and with Aboriginal peoples.

Based on the Dialogue, SSHRC launched a pilot program in Aboriginal Research, holding successful competitions in 2004, 2005 and 2007. As a result of those competitions, the program awarded a total of 83 grants, investing over $12.7 million in Aboriginal research.

In 2008, SSHRC launched a formative evaluation of the pilot program, based on its ongoing working relationship with First Nation, Métis and Inuit knowledge keepers and on consultation with an advisory committee, selection board and evaluation panel. The evaluation combined quantitative and qualitative methodologies, including telephone interviews with past applicants, case studies of funded projects, focus groups or individual interviews with past relevance and adjudication committee members, interviews with SSHRC staff, reviews of project files, and email surveys.

The evaluation found that the program design and delivery were generally successful and recommended continuing the existing pilot program. Decision on a permanent program will depend on the development of a long-term integrated Aboriginal strategy and associated policy and program structures. For more information on the evaluation, including SSHRC management's response, please see the full evaluation report.


The Aboriginal Research pilot program has two overall objectives. The first is to facilitate research by and with Aboriginal scholars and Aboriginal communities on a range of issues and topics relevant to Canada's Aboriginal peoples, including but not limited to: urban issues, economic development, the environment, education, research ethics, intellectual and cultural property, traditional Aboriginal knowledge, Aboriginal knowledge systems, languages and cultures, and international Aboriginal communities.

The program's second broad objective is to build the capacity of the humanities and social sciences community to operate within, and benefit from, traditional Aboriginal and other knowledge approaches to issues and topics such as those outlined above.

The program is designed to complement, not replace, existing support for Aboriginal research offered through SSHRC's other programs.

The specific objectives of the Aboriginal Research pilot program are to support and promote:

  • better understanding of how research by and with Aboriginal scholars and Aboriginal communities is developed;
  • better understanding of the relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples and their respective intellectual and cultural traditions;
  • appreciation and increased awareness of traditional Aboriginal knowledge and Aboriginal knowledge systems, as well as of approaches, issues, values, experiences and contributions of Aboriginal peoples both in Canada and abroad;
  • capacity-building, research training and mentoring opportunities for Aboriginal students;
  • Aboriginal leadership and participation in research, and advancement of Aboriginal scholars' research careers;
  • knowledge mobilization and sharing among a variety of different stakeholders and communities, and development of policy in areas of concern to Aboriginal communities and other stakeholders; and
  • new and/or enhanced partnerships for the co-creation of knowledge between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal scholars both in Canada and internationally.



The Aboriginal Research pilot program seeks to build Canada's capacity, at the postsecondary level, to engage research questions and capitalize on knowledge, experience and traditions developed among and in partnership with Aboriginal peoples.

The program supports, in particular, but not exclusively:

  • international comparative studies;
  • new approaches and methods of inquiry that will build understanding of the dynamics and significance of Aboriginal knowledge; and
  • effective mobilization of knowledge within Aboriginal and other communities.

The program offers two support mechanisms: Development Grants and Research Grants.

Development Grants support the development of research partnerships in their initial, developmental stages. Projects are expected to develop knowledge with respect to Aboriginal research and related issues. The grants can be used, for example, to fund research workshops, research networks, community research consultations, and the development of research ideas and methodologies. Projects are also expected to:

  • develop new, and/or enhance existing, partnerships for the co-creation of knowledge;
  • develop new, and/or enhance, research questions and relevant knowledge systems;
  • explore conceptual and methodological perspectives and directions on a range of issues and topics relevant to Canada's Aboriginal peoples; and
  • assess the potential of existing research (including its impacts and relevance to a range of issues and topics important to Canada's Aboriginal peoples).

Research Grants support research and the development of excellence in research activities in the social sciences and humanities on Aboriginal issues. Projects are expected to:

  • support high-quality, independent programs of research;
  • provide opportunities for the training and mentoring of future researchers;
  • contribute to the development and advancement of both new and existing theoretical and methodological approaches to research;
  • foster, develop and create vigorous partnerships and collaborative, multidisciplinary research activities; and
  • assist the communication of research results both within and beyond the academic community.

Given that one of the program's specific objectives is to support and promote appreciation and increased awareness of Aboriginal knowledge systems as well as of approaches, issues, values, experiences and contributions of Aboriginal peoples both in Canada and abroad, proposed projects should engage, to the greatest extent possible, traditional knowledge keepers and traditional knowledge approaches. Applicants are also invited to describe in their proposal what role traditional knowledge will have in their project.

Also, given that another of the program's specific objectives is to generate significant research training opportunities for Aboriginal students, applications should include stipends for undergraduate, master's or doctoral students or postdoctoral researchers, as appropriate, with priority given to Aboriginal people. Note that these stipends cannot be transferred to cover other budget expenses.

Proposals for either type of grant should also emphasize the effective mobilization or transfer of insights, information and other benefits gained from research within and between Aboriginal, academic and other communities.


Value and Duration

Development Grants are worth up to $25,000 over a maximum of two years. This is a maximum amount— smaller projects are eligible to apply. Applicants may also request support for a shorter period.

Research Grants are worth up to $100,000 annually, up to a maximum of $250,000 over three years. Smaller projects are eligible to apply. Applicants may also request support for a shorter period. Exceptional proposals exceeding $250,000 over three years will also be considered for funding.

Any applicant and any co-applicant from a not-for profit Aboriginal or community organization may each request, as part of the proposed research grant budget, a salary replacement stipend to buy release time from duties to their organization.

SSHRC encourages applicants to seek funds from other sources to help defray research and research-related expenses (e.g., travel associated with research partnerships in northern areas).




For all proposals, the applicant (principal investigator) must be affiliated with a Canadian postsecondary institution, or a not-for-profit Aboriginal or community organization.

All applications to this pilot program must include university- or college-based scholars and participants from Aboriginal communities. Such communities may be defined on the basis of geography or common interests.

Each member of the research team must meet SSHRC's requirements for his or her particular role, whether as applicant (principal investigator), co-applicant (co-investigator), collaborator, student assistant, or other assistant or support staff.


Federal, provincial, territorial and municipal government departments and for-profit organizations are not eligible to administer SSHRC funds. These organizations may participate in SSHRC research projects as partners, and researchers from these organizations may participate as collaborators.

The Aboriginal Research pilot program allows for either a postsecondary institution or a not-for-profit community-based organization to administer a given project. However, an organization that wishes to administer SSHRC grant funding must apply for, and be granted, institutional eligibility with SSHRC. 

Once institutional eligibility is granted, the organization is invited to become a signatory to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards, which entails a commitment by the organization to adhere to the high legal, ethical and financial standards set out in the MOU's schedules, and ensures that the organization has the necessary structures and processes in place to achieve this objective. Please note that SSHRC will not release grant funding to an institution or an organization before it becomes a signatory of the MOU. 

For more information on institutional eligibility, please consult SSHRC's institutional eligibility guidelines and requirements. For additional questions related to institutional eligibility, or to receive an institutional eligibility application package, please contact Erin Skrapek, of SSHRC's Corporate Secretariat.

Multiple Applications

During any single competition, a researcher may apply for either a development grant or a research grant, but not both. However, a researcher may participate as a co-investigator or collaborator on an unlimited number of projects. See SSHRC's policy on multiple applications for full details.


Evaluation and Adjudication

Applications undergo a two-step evaluation process: first, screening by the relevance committee; then, evaluation by the adjudication committee.

Relevance Committee

The majority of the members of the relevance committee are Aboriginal people from First Nation, Métis and Inuit traditions, with the committee including policy experts and academics. Relying first on a review of the two-page Statement of Relevance that each applicant is required to include as part of the application, this committee determines whether each proposal is adequately aligned with the pilot program's objectives.

In particular, the committee assesses whether or not strong research partnership agreements, involving both Aboriginal and academic communities, are likely to emerge through the development grant projects or whether or not they are already in place in the research grant projects. In addition, the committee assesses whether, in planning the research, the applicant has taken care to identify and respect relevant community research protocols and Aboriginal knowledge systems. Only those applications recommended by the relevance committee will proceed to the adjudication stage.

Adjudication Committee

An interdisciplinary peer-review committee assesses the scholarly merit of all applications that the relevance committee recommends for consideration. SSHRC may solicit external assessments from experts in fields of inquiry relevant to the applications to aid the adjudication committee in making its decisions. Wherever possible, Aboriginal researchers and experts will participate as members of the adjudication committee and as external assessors.

Evaluation Criteria

Development Grants

The adjudication committee assesses applications for Development Grants in accordance with the following evaluation criteria:

  • Significance: extent to which the proposed research meets the objectives of the Aboriginal Research pilot program;
  • Research plan: strength and feasibility of the proposed research development plan;
  • Training plan: quality, feasibility and nature of the proposed training and mentoring arrangements for students;
  • Qualifications: qualifications of the team for carrying out the proposed research development;
  • Partnerships: quality of the proposed partnerships for the co-creation of knowledge; and
  • Budget: appropriateness of the budget requested.

Research Grants

The adjudication committee assesses applications for Research Grants in accordance with the following evaluation criteria:

  • Significance: extent to which the proposed research and training plans meet the objectives of the Aboriginal Research pilot program;
  • Research plan: strength and feasibility of the proposed program of research, extent to which the research plan engages the partners in the co-creation of knowledge, clarity of research questions, strength of theoretical or applied framework, specificity and viability of proposed methodologies, handling of any ethical considerations, appropriateness of the proposed expenditures and complementary funding or in-kind support, and measures for management and self-evaluation of the project (the research plan should engage, to the greatest extent possible, traditional Aboriginal knowledge approaches and other knowledge systems, collaborative relationships and permissions, partnerships in Canada and/or internationally, etc.);
  • Training plan: quality, feasibility, and nature of the proposed training and mentoring arrangement for students;
  • Qualifications: strength of the team's qualifications (academic, cultural, community-based) for carrying out the proposed research, mentoring and training by and with Aboriginal peoples;
  • Partnerships: quality of the proposed partnerships for the co-creation of knowledge; and
  • Knowledge mobilization: appropriateness and feasibility of plans to mobilize research results and contribute to the sharing and co-creation of knowledge at the community level, across the country, within governments, internationally, etc., and the extent to which the communities are engaged in framing knowledge mobilization.

In applying the evaluation criteria, the committee will take into consideration the stage the applicant and any team members are at in their careers. New scholars will be evaluated as much on their promise as researchers as on their achievements to date in research. The committee will also take into consideration any circumstances that the applicant and any team members demonstrate have impeded their achievements in research. In addition, the committee will make allowances for applicants from smaller institutions who are not in a position to supervise graduate students.


Administrative Regulations

All applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Grant Holder's Guide. In particular, the Financial Administration section gives detailed information on eligible and ineligible expenses.


More Information

For more information about this program, or for advice on how to prepare your application, please contact:

Strategic Programs and Joint Initiatives
Strategic Grants and Joint Initiatives Division
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON K1P 6G4

Tel.: 613-992-3027
Fax: 613-947-0223
Email: strategic@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca

Mathieu Ravignat
Senior Program Officer
Strategic Grants and Joint Initiatives Division
350 Albert Street
P.O. Box 1610
Ottawa, ON K1P 6G4

Tel.: 613-947-3724
Fax: 613-947-0223
Email: mathieu.ravignat@sshrc-crsh.gc.ca