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Management Response and Action Plan to the Final Evaluation Report of the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (2021)

The Awards to Scholarly Publications Program (ASPP) is a competitive funding opportunity designed to assist with the publication of scholarly monographs, books and other long-form publications in the social sciences and humanities (SSH). It aims to support research dissemination and encourage excellence in SSH scholarship. The ASPP is funded by SSHRC and administered by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences. The program currently offers 180 publication grants and five translation grants annually for a total contribution of $1.5 million dollars.

The evaluation of the ASPP was conducted jointly alongside the evaluation of the Aid to Scholarly Journals (ASJ) funding opportunity. Both funding opportunities provide financial support to enable the dissemination of Canadian SSH research results.

The evaluation was initiated in response to a request from SSHRC senior management to evaluate the ASJ and ASPP.Footnote 1 The overall purpose of the evaluation was to inform decisions by senior and program management regarding the future of the ASJ and the ASPP in a changing environment. The last evaluation of the ASPP was performed by Goss Gilroy Inc. in 2004. In response to those findings, management clarified the program’s intention as an author’s program and, in 2006, instituted a separate funding stream for translation from one official language to the other. For the current evaluation, separate evaluation reports on the ASJ and the ASPP were submitted. This management report addresses the final evaluation report for the ASPP.

The evaluation focused on questions of relevance and performance, including how the design of the program contributes to its performance. Cost efficiency was also covered. The evaluation drew data from the period 2008-17 for performance-related questions and 2008-19 for questions of relevance. Cost efficiency data covered the most recent four fiscal years (2014-19).

Program management commends the evaluation team on the conduct of the evaluation. Program management is pleased that the results show the ASPP’s continued positive effect on SSH research dissemination. In particular, the ASPP contributes to areas of priority for SSHRC, such as research publications on topics of national interest, and is of specific importance to certain disciplines in the humanities. SSHRC has also been working with the Federation and the scholarly publisher and researcher communities in advancing the program’s impact in the priority areas of official language representation and openly accessible publication. In 2019 SSHRC asked the Federation to submit a strategy to address these outstanding issues. This strategy, shaped in consultation with stakeholders and in light of the preliminary evaluation findings, has the potential to substantially contribute to program management’s response to the evaluation. A draft of the strategy was submitted by the Federation in January 2021. Program management will continue working with the Federation on its refinement and implementation.

Program management recognizes that Canadian scholarly SSH publication operates within a broader research ecosystem and that the norms governing the assessment of research and researchers within this ecosystem largely determine the practices of scholarly publishing. As described by the evaluation, the ASPP on its own does not have the capacity to effect holistic change in scholarly publishing practices. SSHRC may need to explore other avenues, in conjunction with contributions by the ASPP, in order to advance its priorities in this area. The evaluation will provide useful baseline data from which to develop and measure progress on key commitments and priorities.

Program management will continue to monitor global and national trends and initiatives relevant to the ASPP. Program management has consulted with the Federation on the Action Plan set out below and will continue to work collaboratively with the Federation and the Canadian scholarly SSH book publishing and researcher communities in its implementation.

Recommendation Response Action Responsibility Target Date

1. Continue to offer support for long-form publishing of Canadian SSH research.

Agree

1. Continue to offer ASPP funding for long-form publishing of Canadian SSH research.

Not applicable

Not applicable

2. Develop more fully articulated and concrete objectives for the ASPP.

The following should be considered:

  • The ASPP is currently a funding opportunity within SSHRC’s Insight Program.
  • A debate about whether the ASPP is an author program or a publisher program has existed for at least 30 years. The ASPP can be understood as an initiative that serves authors and also publishers working for a common purpose. It would be helpful to recognize this explicitly in the ASPP’s description and logic model.
  • The ASPP’s objectives do not currently incorporate EDI. At minimum, taking steps within the ASPP’s capacity to collect monitoring data related to EDI should be considered.

Agree

2a. Conduct a review of the Insight Program’s Program Information Profile and the ASPP’s primary and potential outcomes and capacity, as described in the evaluation report, to identify potential areas of alignment.

Research Programs / Corporate Strategy and Performance

April 2021

2b. Update the ASPP’s objectives in light of identified points of alignment with the Insight Program and the evaluation’s findings concerning the ASPP’s outcomes and capacity.

Research Programs, in consultation with the Federation

June 2021

2c. As per Action 3 below, work with the Federation to refine and launch implementation of items related to EDI and Indigenous research in the Federation’s strategy.   

Research Programs / Corporate Strategy and Performance, in consultation with the Federation

December 2021

3. Identify options to update the ASPP’s funding mechanism.

In particular:

  • The individual (per book) adjudication model should be reconsidered. 
  • Greater flexibility is needed for SSHRC to target its investment to areas where ASPP funding has highest relevance and potential impact.
  • Consideration should be made to SSHRC’s commitments to official language minority communities.

While exploring options to update the ASPP, attention is needed to opportunities for collaboration in the sector. In particular:

  • The ASPP currently leverages the expertise and capacity of scholarly publishers whose activities align with SSHRC’s mandate to support and promote SSH research.
  • Improving synergy with other federal funders is recommended.

Agree

3. Work with the Federation to refine the strategy submitted in January 2021 and develop an implementation plan. The strategy will include the following actionable items that specifically respond to the evaluation recommendations: 

  • Exploration of a new funding distribution mechanism;
  • Greater targeting of investment to SSHRC priority areas, including EDI, Indigenous research, and open access;
  • Development of strategies to diversify program participation and impact, including among official language communities;
  • Development of data collection methods for EDI and open access.

The refined strategy and its implementation plan will be crafted in light of updated program objectives, as identified in Action 2b, and in consultation with key stakeholders, with attention to opportunities to leverage existing synergies.

Research Programs, in consultation with the Federation

December 2022

4. Update the ASPP’s program logic model or theory of change model.

Agree

4. Create an updated logic model that more accurately depicts:

  • The ASPP’s objectives, as identified in Action 2b;
  • The ASPP’s funding model, as determined in Action 3
  • The ASPP’s anticipated outcomes and performance indicators, as reported by the evaluation.

Research Programs / Corporate Strategy and Performance in consultation with the Federation, and with Evaluation providing technical assistance

December 2022

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