Priority Areas: Frequently Asked Questions

Most SSHRC funding is awarded through open competitions accessible to all disciplines, areas, themes and approaches. In certain cases, priority areas have been identified for additional support, a more tailored adjudication, or both. SSHRC may also focus additional outreach and knowledge mobilization activities around priority areas.

  1. What is the purpose of SSHRC’s priority research areas?
  2. What are some of the outcomes SSHRC expects to see from research supported through priority area funding?
  3. In which funding opportunities can applicants select a priority area?
  4. How does SSHRC determine its priority areas?
  5. What are SSHRC’s current priority areas?
  6. How do applicants indicate that their proposal relates to a priority area, and how are proposals that self-identify as aligning with current priority areas adjudicated?
  7. Are additional funds available for applications in priority areas?
  8. Under what circumstances is it advantageous for applicants to select a priority area when applying for SSHRC funding?
  9. In what ways does SSHRC support its priority areas?
  10. Will SSHRC accept applications that do not fit within its priority areas?

1. What is the purpose of SSHRC’s priority research areas?

Priority areas are identified for a number of purposes, depending on the area or theme in question:

  • to foster and promote innovative, leading-edge and emerging areas of inquiry;
  • to strengthen Canadian research capacity in areas of national and/or international interest, creating new knowledge to help tackle critical social, economic and cultural issues; and
  • to mobilize knowledge related to these areas.

2. What are some of the outcomes SSHRC expects to see from research supported through priority area funding?

Specific expected outcomes differ by priority area, so please see individual priority area descriptions for details. Expected high-level outcomes for all priority areas include, but are not limited to:

  • facilitating the building of cross-sector collaborations and partnerships, and increasing opportunities available to the social sciences and humanities community;
  • reinforcing Canada’s strengths and competitive advantage;
  • increasing the impact of complementary research efforts in these areas; and
  • promoting opportunities to increase social sciences and humanities research capacity and to mobilize knowledge in these areas.

3. In which funding opportunities can applicants select a priority area?

Priority areas can be selected in applications for Insight Grants, Insight Development Grants, Partnership Grants, Partnership Development Grants and Connection Grants.

4. How does SSHRC determine its priority areas?

Since its creation in 1977, SSHRC has periodically identified and developed priority areas, based on input from the research community and from partners across the private and not-for-profit sectors. In some cases, the Government of Canada has signalled support for priorities by allocating additional, dedicated funding in the federal budget. Please see individual priority area descriptions for details.

In accordance with SSHRC’s strategic plan, Framing Our Direction, 2010-12, the Council, through the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, is currently engaged in consultation to renew its priority areas. This forward-looking project aims to identify key future challenges for Canada in an evolving global context using formal foresight methodology. The activities to identify new future challenge areas are scheduled to be completed in spring 2013.

Where dedicated funds have been received through federal budgets, SSHRC will maintain its commitment to these themes, with periodic updates to descriptions and definitions as required.

5. What are SSHRC’s current priority areas?

SSHRC currently has the following five priority areas:

6. How do applicants indicate that their proposal relates to a priority area, and how are proposals that self-identify as aligning with current priority areas adjudicated?

Grant applicants whose research or research-related activities align with current priority areas may identify their proposals as such in their application form. Applicants must provide a Statement of Alignment that clearly describes how their research or research-related activity aligns with the priority area as presented in the related priority area description. A review process verifies alignment with the selected priority area(s). If it is determined that a proposal does not fall within the parameters of the selected priority area, the proposal will nevertheless be considered within the overall competition.

As part of the merit review process, some competitions include adjudication committees in priority areas, if justified by the number of applications received.

7. Are additional funds available for applications in priority areas?

Yes, in the sense that SSHRC commits to a baseline level of funding to support excellence in these areas. Exact amounts dedicated to a particular priority area vary, however, and depend on such factors as: the particular funding priorities of SSHRC and/or the budget and policy priorities of the federal government; the advice of SSHRC’s governing council; and available funds. Federal budgets have allocated ongoing dedicated funding for priority areas as follows:

  • $11 million per year for “Management, Business and Finance” (Innovation, Leadership and Prosperity) in Budget 2007;
  • $12 million per year for Environment, as well as Northern Communities in Budget 2008; and
  • $7 million per year for Digital Economy in Budget 2011.

At the level of individual competitions, and based on recommendations through the independent review of proposals, SSHRC may choose, depending on the nature, number and quality of proposals submitted, and the available budget, to dedicate additional funds to support meritorious proposals falling within priority areas.

8. Under what circumstances is it advantageous for applicants to select a priority area when applying for SSHRC funding?

SSHRC will continue to fund the highest-quality applications to each of its funding opportunities, across all eligible disciplines and areas of research, including for research and related activities falling within its priority areas.

If there is strong concordance between the goals and expected outcomes of the applicant’s proposal and the priority area description, selecting a priority area can be advantageous.

9. In what ways does SSHRC support its priority areas?

In addition to providing a baseline level of financial support in priority areas, SSHRC may take other proactive measures to support priority areas, such as stimulating interest in its requests for proposals; inviting applicants to self-identify; and, at times, creating dedicated committees to review applications in these areas when warranted. Policy and communications activities are also sometimes undertaken by SSHRC to advance work in priority areas.

10. Will SSHRC accept applications that do not fit within its priority areas?

Yes. The majority of SSHRC funding is awarded through open competitions accessible to all eligible disciplines, areas, themes and approaches (see Subject Matter Eligibility).