Supplementary information

Corporate information

Raison d’être

SSHRC funds research and research training that builds knowledge about people, past and present, with a view toward creating a better future. From questions of family and culture to concerns about jobs and employment, research about people—how we live, what we think, how we act—informs new knowledge and insights on the issues that matter most to Canadians.

SSHRC plays a unique role within Canada’s science, technology and innovation system by awarding grants and scholarships to researchers, students and fellows who work as individuals, in small groups and in formal partnerships to develop talent, generate insights and build connections that address the needs of all sectors of society.

Mandate and role

SSHRC is an agency that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Science. It was created through an Act of Parliament in 1977, and is mandated to:

  • promote and assist research and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities; and
  • advise the Minister in respect of such matters relating to such research as the Minister may refer to the Council for its consideration.

To fulfil its mandate, SSHRC pursues activities in two core responsibilities supported by the following departmental results:

  1. Funding Social Sciences and Humanities Research and Training
    • Canada’s social sciences and humanities research is internationally competitive
    • Canada has a pool of highly skilled people in the social sciences and humanities
    • Canada’s social sciences and humanities research knowledge is used
  2. Institutional Support for the Indirect Costs of Research
    • Canada’s university and college research environments are strong

SSHRC offers funding opportunities that provide support to Canadian researchers and students through grants, scholarships and fellowships, respecting the terms of the federal Policy on Transfer Payments. SSHRC is also responsible for tri-agency programs administered through the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat, which provide grants to institutions in support of institutional capacity for research excellence. This includes the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Canada Excellence Research Chairs Program—including the two chairs in clean and sustainable technologies responding to the mandate letter commitment of the Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities—the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and the Research Support Fund.

In addition, SSHRC works with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) to support Networks of Centres of Excellence initiatives. It collaborates with NSERC and CIHR to deliver the Canada Graduate Scholarships, the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships programs. SSHRC and CIHR also participate in the College and Community Innovation Program, which is managed by NSERC.

The president of SSHRC is supported by a governing council appointed by order in council to reflect the perspectives of the academic, public and private sectors. SSHRC’s governing council promotes and assists research and scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. It meets regularly to set strategic policy and program priorities, allocate budgets, and advise the Minister and Parliament on matters related to research in these areas.


Operating context and key risks for 2018–19

Operating context

SSHRC research grants and fellowships are awarded through an independent merit review process designed to ensure the highest standards of excellence and impartiality. Relying on over 5,000 volunteer peer reviewers, it processes more than 13,000 applications for funding each year from researchers, students and postdoctoral fellows. To address challenges associated with outdated technologies and inefficiencies caused by using a number of different technology systems to deliver their funding, SSHRC and NSERC are jointly developing a new grants management system that will offer greater functionality and ease of use for the research community.

In addition to continuing to deliver its programs in the most efficient and effective manner possible, over 2018–19 SSHRC will also manage its priorities in response to a number of external influences, including the implementation of key actions emerging from the government response to Canada’s Fundamental Science Review and the direction provided in Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan. SSHRC will host and support the work of the newly created Canada Research Coordinating Committee, mandated to achieve greater harmonization, integration and co-ordination of research-related programs and policies, and to address issues of common concern to the three federal research funding agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation. SSHRC also has a key role to play in implementing the Truth and Reconciliation Commission call to action no. 65, which calls on “the federal government, through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, post-secondary institutions and educators, and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation and its partner institutions, to establish a national research program with multi-year funding to advance understanding of reconciliation.”

Due to turnover and vacancies, SSHRC’s governing council will be in transition during 2018–19 as it will be welcoming an entirely new set of members. The ability of SSHRC’s corporate governance structures to effectively oversee the agency’s activities is critical, particularly at a time of elaboration of new government-wide science priorities and the renewal of the agency’s information infrastructure.

Key risks
Risks Risk response strategy Link to the department’s Core Responsibilities Link to mandate letter commitments or to government wide and departmental priorities

Ability to Manage Resources: SSHRC may not be able to effectively allocate its limited resources to handle internal and external pressures, such as the development of the new grants management system, the response to Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, and SSHRC’s Indigenous Research Strategy.

SSHRC will develop a multi-year resource management plan to improve overall organizational effectiveness.

SSHRC will strengthen the fundamental tools of governance, as well as its systems and processes, including the link between resource management and corporate planning.

Funding Social Sciences and Humanities Research and Training

SSHRC’s ability to effectively deliver on its mandate

Ability to Manage Change: SSHRC may not be able to effectively adapt and implement the changes needed to address new technologies, evolving tri-agency governance structures, new collaborations and partnerships, new program directions, new government priorities, and new membership on the governing council.

SSHRC will strengthen the horizontal monitoring of changes and include change management considerations in major projects, governance mechanisms, learning plans and employee orientation material.

Funding Social Sciences and Humanities Research and Training

Quickly evolving technological, governmental and departmental context

Ability to Manage External Stakeholders’ Expectations: SSHRC may not be able to manage the expectations of various stakeholder groups.

SSHRC will develop consultation and engagement strategies for key initiatives and major projects, and ensure clear and consistent communications with external stakeholders.

SSHRC will also use governance mechanisms to ensure stakeholders’ perspectives are taken into consideration as well as to ensure alignment between the three research funding agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Funding Social Sciences and Humanities Research and Training

Strategic plan objectives

SSHRC administers a significant budget—roughly $415 million for SSHRC programs and $370 million for the Research Support Fund. Despite the size of this budget, the overall level of risk to the organization is low in terms of continuity of government operations, maintenance of services to and protection of the interests of the Canadian public, and the safety and security of the Canadian public.

As part of its annual planning cycle, SSHRC reviewed and updated its corporate risk information and identified the key risks that have the potential to affect the delivery of its programs and the achievement of its results. They stem from the internal and external influences and factors described in the operating context section. These risks will be closely monitored over the coming year as they could affect SSHRC’s ability to deliver planned results and to make timely and informed decisions on priorities, initiatives, and resource allocation. Should the risks materialize, they could also affect SSHRC’s reputation and have an impact on employees. A risk review exercise will be conducted quarterly with management to reassess risk information and monitor the effectiveness of the response strategies, and a risk status update will be provided twice a year to SSHRC’s governing council.

This approach is part of SSHRC’s annual planning cycle, which integrates priority-setting, resource allocation and risk management. This approach aligns with the Treasury Board’s Framework for the Management of Risk.