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COVID-19: Impact on SSHRC programs, experts database and perspectives from our community.


Raison d’être, mandate and role: who we are and what we do

SSHRC funds research and research training that builds knowledge about people, past and present, with a view toward creating a better future. From questions on how technology is integrated into our lives and how we can adapt to a changing environment to concerns about family, jobs and security, 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.

SSHRC is an agency that reports to Parliament through the minister of Innovation, Science and Industry. 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 aimed at achieving 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, the Canada 150 Research Chairs Program, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and the Research Support Fund. In addition, as of 2018–19, the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat is also delivering the New Frontiers in Research Fund to fund international, interdisciplinary, fast-breaking and high-risk / high-reward research.

SSHRC works in close collaboration 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 also 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.

For more general information about the agency, see the “Corporate information” section of the 2020–21 Departmental Plan. For more information on the agency’s organizational mandate letter commitments, see the Minister’s mandate letter.

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 close to 5,000 volunteer peer reviewers, the agency processes more than 14,000 applications for funding from researchers, students and postdoctoral fellows each year. Key stakeholders for the successful delivery of SSHRC’s programs are Canadian universities and colleges, which are facing increased enrolment rates, aging faculties, limited growth of operating budgets and the need to equip students with the skills required by employers.

To continue delivering its programs in the most efficient and effective manner, SSHRC has to take into account a number of external influences, including the implementation of key actions emerging from the priorities of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee. As a small agency, SSHRC has to carefully manage the reallocation and changes in resources to effectively meet operational needs and stakeholder expectations while responding to government priorities. Governance and sound decision-making underpin SSHRC’s ability to manage change.

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