Momentum: SSHRC’s Strategic Plan 2020 to 2025
The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry
© Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada,
represented by the Minister of Industry, 2021
Cat. No. CR22-42/2021E-PDF
On this page
- President’s message
- Introduction: Staying on course in uncertain times
- Building on our achievements
- Our plan
- At a glance: SSHRC’s strategic objectives for 2020-2025
As the decade unfolds, the pace of global change continues to accelerate. Thriving in this changing world requires innovative thinking, and new ways to use knowledge and ideas. In this regard, the social sciences and humanities have never been more important, responding to emerging challenges and taking full advantage of new opportunities. In the end, our disciplines will provide the tools, knowledge, and insights into the human condition required to ensure the well-being of Canadians and of societies around the world.
The social sciences and humanities have an even larger contribution to make as we confront the realities of racism and discrimination and deal with major social upheavals caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Social sciences and humanities research is at the core of studying and documenting new phenomena, bringing forward historical and ethical perspectives, and contributing to finding new, innovative solutions—not only during the crisis itself, but also as Canada strives to find its place in the emerging postpandemic world order.
In 2020, SSHRC published the initial two-year version of this plan, outlining a series of activities to sustain our momentum while responding to a rapidly changing environment. Momentum 2020-2022 was organized around five broader objectives: advancing research excellence, building talent, strengthening the research ecosystem, contributing innovative solutions, and building a nimble, forward-looking organization. The past year has reinforced the importance of those five objectives, and I am pleased to present this updated version of our strategic plan, extending our vision to 2025.
As a steward of public funds and the public trust, SSHRC is responsible for using resources wisely and effectively, and is accountable to the people of Canada. We are grateful for the government’s unprecedented investment through recent federal budgets: for entrusting SSHRC with $215 million over five years for core programs and emergency measures, and $55 million per year onward, and for expanding our leadership role in delivering interdisciplinary research programs on behalf of all three federal research granting agencies.
Our plan for the next four years is to harness our strengths for the benefit of all Canadians: world-class research, a talented and diverse research community, effective collaboration with Canada’s other research funders, strong partnerships across a range of sectors, and a never-wavering commitment to innovation. At the heart of our ability to achieve these objectives rests one critical resource: our dedicated staff. I am so very proud of their ingenuity, grit and flexibility in these challenging and complex times. On behalf of the senior leadership at SSHRC, I look forward to working with all of our colleagues to continue realizing our ambitions as agents of knowledge creation, knowledge sharing, and talent development in the public interest.
Introduction: Staying on course in uncertain times
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) supports world-class research in the social sciences and humanities to advance knowledge and understanding in order to meet Canada’s current and future challenges and promote new opportunities for Canadians. A strong research ecosystem is vital to improving our communities, our economy, our cultural fabric, our understanding of ourselves, and the overall quality of life in this country.
SSHRC supports research excellence and innovative ideas emanating from a research community of 25,000 full-time university professors, over 65,000 graduate students and postdoctoral researchers, and thousands of college faculty—representing roughly 54% of Canada’s postsecondary researchers. Through grants, fellowships and scholarships, SSHRC helps Canada’s researchers do what they do best: train the next generation of talented, creative thinkers and doers; build knowledge and understanding about people, cultures and societies; and work with partners across all sectors to drive innovations that address the challenges of today and tomorrow.
SSHRC also oversees the delivery of a number of large programs that support interdisciplinary research and strengthen the overall research environment. Via the Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat (TIPS), SSHRC administers these programs on behalf of the three federal research granting agencies: SSHRC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). We work closely with the other granting agencies and members of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) to advance collaboration across Canada’s research funding system.
We are currently navigating uncertain times due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and unprecedented mobilization around issues of racism and social justice. In the midst of these challenges, SSHRC’s mandate and objectives are more vital than ever. This strategic plan enables us to move steadily forward with ongoing initiatives and priorities, as we build on the momentum gained in recent years. It also allows us to respond with agility and flexibility to help Canada flourish now and in the future.
Building on our achievements
Research in the social sciences and humanities contributes to the economic, cultural, social, technological, environmental and intellectual well-being of Canadians. In recent years SSHRC increased support for social sciences and humanities research, while assuming a larger role in advancing excellence across Canada’s research community as a whole. Throughout the period, we have remained steadfast in our commitment to foster, support and promote top-tier Canadian research and talent.
Here are some of the highlights of our achievements:
Increased support for world-class research in the social sciences and humanities
Our investments in the production and use of knowledge have continued to grow. From 2014 to 2019, SSHRC awarded more than $2.4 billion in funding to social sciences and humanities research and researchers in Canada. Total funding increased by 43% over the period, and the share of total researchers receiving support increased from 17% to 27%. SSHRC programs promote the training of highly skilled people; develop talent; support world-class research that improves our collective understanding of individuals and societies; provide opportunities to connect researchers and research with a variety of audiences; and uniquely assist in the formulation of lasting solutions that produce productive and prosperous communities.
A leadership role in interdisciplinary research and tri-agency programs
The Government of Canada has placed significant confidence in SSHRC to deliver key strategic programming in support of research in Canada, including through the Canada Research Chairs Program, the Research Support Fund and other programs. SSHRC’s funding of interdisciplinary research has steadily grown since 2014, and we have taken on a greater role in delivering tri-agency programs. In 2018, we launched the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF), which will invest $275 million over five years to support international, interdisciplinary and transformative research.
Promoting equity, diversity and inclusion
SSHRC has continued to work with CIHR and NSERC to advance research excellence by promoting broad and equitable participation in Canadian research. While more work remains to be done, we have made significant progress in addressing inequities in programs such as the Canada Research Chairs, and in monitoring the participation of designated groups in SSHRC programs and adjudication committees. Applying gender and diversity analysis is helping us to assess how diverse groups of people may experience policies, programs and initiatives, and to facilitate equitable access to funding and a more inclusive research community.
Support for Indigenous research and research training
Through extensive engagement with Indigenous partners, and on behalf of the granting councils, SSHRC co-developed a strategy for an interdisciplinary research and research training model that contributes to reconciliation. The strategy sets out four directions to strengthen the capacity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities to lead their own research and partner with the broader research community: building relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples; supporting research priorities of Indigenous Peoples; creating greater funding accessibility; and championing Indigenous leadership.
New partnerships and collaborations
In developing a range of new partnerships and opportunities across stakeholder groups, SSHRC has clearly demonstrated the value of social sciences and humanities research contributions, particularly in informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Increasing the number and range of SSHRC collaborations and partnerships creates unique opportunities for Canadians to learn and work with their peers, and to conduct and communicate their research.
- Participation of non-academic partners: SSHRC has broadened the participation of non-academic partners in its funded projects, with over 720 industry, government and not-for-profit partners involved in funded proposals for 2018, up 47% from 2017. In addition, we developed partnerships with many federal government departments and agencies, on issues such as refugee integration, housing, environmental assessment, defence and security issues, and combatting online disinformation.
- International collaborations: SSHRC has worked diligently in recent years to enhance its reputation as a global leader in research funding. The participation of Canadian social sciences and humanities researchers in globally recognized international collaborations has grown. Around 70% of SSHRC-funded researchers are involved in collaborations with their international peers during their award period. In addition, 12% of SSHRC’s grantees were cited for international distinctions or awards in 2018, compared with 7% in 2016. SSHRC has also developed a number of collaborations with international funding partners, such as the Canada-United Kingdom Artificial Intelligence Initiative. This partnership aims to build competitive and resilient economies, and to maximize the social and health benefits of artificial intelligence.
- Collaborating on future challenge areas: SSHRC has also worked to stimulate research and knowledge mobilization on critical and emerging issues, notably through our Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. In 2018, following rigorous horizon scanning, we identified 16 future challenges that will have a major impact on Canada in the next decade. The challenge areas will benefit from knowledge and talent contributed by the social sciences and humanities. In 2019, we launched the first of three annual Knowledge Synthesis Grants on future challenges identified by key stakeholders and partners as being the most critical to Canada’s future: Living Within the Earth’s Carrying Capacity, Working in the Digital Economy, and The Emerging Asocial Society.
Over the next four years, we will build on these successes by focusing on five main objectives that represent the enduring ambitions of our work at SSHRC. For each objective, we have established a set of strategies that will help us sustain the momentum of our ongoing programs and projects, respond rapidly to evolving crises, and maximize the overall impact of the research we support.
Our plan builds on SSHRC’s strong record of achievements, to continue funding world-class research, training and innovation in Canada in a time of global turmoil and change. It also supports our efforts to create a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research enterprise in Canada, and to build a modern workplace for SSHRC. The plan is the result of community and staff consultation and engagement, and will enable us to maximize the value and benefits we provide to Canadians.
SSHRC will continue to refine this action plan on an annual basis as the context for our work evolves.
1. Enhance Canada’s global leadership in social sciences and humanities research
Canada has a strong international reputation for producing high-calibre discovery research. As a recent expert panel studyFootnote 1 on research and development in Canada demonstrates, this is no less true in the disciplines supported within our mandate.
Pushing the boundaries of research excellence has inspired a renewed sense of Canadian leadership. Achieving a more equitable, diverse and inclusive research enterprise is essential to continue to generate the excellent, innovative and impactful research necessary to advance knowledge and respond to national and global challenges.
Importantly, SSHRC also contributes to research excellence through our ongoing efforts to reduce the systemic barriers and biases experienced by women, Indigenous Peoples, people with disabilities, and members of visible minority groups.
Research excellence also means ensuring that Canada appropriately supports Helping to grow the capacity of First Nations, Inuit and Métis research and research training, including by recognizing and respecting Indigenous knowledge systems.
Driving and delivering an increasing number of interdisciplinary and international research initiatives, along with our core programs in the social sciences and humanities, will also keep SSHRC—and Canada—at the forefront of research excellence. We will continue to base the awarding of all research grants, scholarships and fellowships on rigorous assessment criteria and merit review processes that align with international best practices.
We will achieve this objective by:
- Advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion: SSHRC will continue to support equitable access to funding opportunities for all researchers; incorporate equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in program design and research practices; and collect and analyze EDI-related data for consideration in decision-making. We will continue to promote and implement the equity targets within the Canada Research Chairs Program, as well as related EDI institutional measures. We will incorporate gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) in developing, evaluating or modifying our policies and programs. Training for review committee members and SSHRC staff will continue to ensure EDI considerations are integrated into merit review processes.
- Strengthening Indigenous research capacity: We will lead the implementation of initiatives and activities under the four strategic directions of the tri-agency Indigenous strategy: building relationships with First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples; supporting research priorities of Indigenous Peoples; making granting agency funding programs more accessible; and championing Indigenous leadership, self-determination and capacity building in research. A new Indigenous leadership circle will provide advice to the agencies on the implementation of the strategy. We will review administrative barriers to accessing research funding, offer specific funding opportunities, and create a tri-agency Indigenous reference group to enhance peer review approaches for Indigenous research.
- Enabling interdisciplinary and international research collaborations: We will develop and pilot a tri-agency peer review mechanism that will make it easier for investigators to secure funding for novel research that crosses disciplinary boundaries. As we increase our participation in international research responses to COVID-19, we will develop a new international strategy for SSHRC that will guide future international partnerships. SSHRC will continue delivering the NFRF program to support groundbreaking interdisciplinary research, including through new joint initiatives for international collaboration and by awarding the first large-scale institutional grants under the program’s Transformation stream.
- Published the Tri-Agency Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Action Plan
- Led a coordinated approach for implementation of the interagency Indigenous research strategy, Setting New Directions to Support Indigenous Research
- Developed an action plan to address anti-Black racism
- Negotiated, with CIHR and NSERC, development of a new interagency peer review process for interdisciplinary applications, to be implemented across the agencies beginning in spring 2021
- Launched the New Frontiers in Research Fund’s initial Global Platform funding opportunity, supporting Canadian participation in collaborative projects under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 program
2. Grow Canada’s research talent
Producing impactful research requires developing, increasing and maintaining a talent pool of highly skilled researchers and innovative thinkers. Canada is striving to be a world leader in the development of talent throughout the entire research career life cycle.
SSHRC supports and trains researchers at all stages of their careers. We are committed to broadening and deepening Canada’s talent pool, with a strong focus on increasing access for our diverse population. Our ongoing work to advance EDI in the research ecosystem, and to remove barriers for Indigenous students, highlighted in the first objective, will help increase and diversify Canada’s skills base. Inspiring students and training early career researchers will equip Canada’s next generation of scientists and scholars for success, both within and beyond academia.
We will meet this objective by:
- Preparing students for future success in research: We will complete the harmonization of the tri-agency Canada Graduate Scholarships (CGS) program, including integration of new scholarships resulting from Budget 2019 measures. We will also implement additional federal government funding, announced in April 2020, to support students and postdoctoral researchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Research training in the social sciences and humanities will continue to be supported through delivery of regular programs such as the SSHRC doctoral and postdoctoral fellowship grants, as well as the Vanier and Banting tri-agency programs.
- Increasing early career researcher opportunities and training: We will continue to work with the other federal research granting agencies to develop and implement measures to support early career researchers. Key initiatives will increase access to research funding opportunities designed to support establishment of researchers’ academic research careers; further support early career researchers in developing the required skills, experience and opportunities to establish their research careers; and introduce reporting standards for accurately monitoring and tracking emerging researchers’ successes in academia, to inform future program decisions.
- Developing skills in communication and knowledge mobilization: Through initiatives like our annual Storytellers competition, and our collaboration with Global Affairs Canada on the International Policy Ideas Challenge, we will help students build critical skills in research communication and outreach.
- Continued work on harmonization of the CGS program and allocation formulas
- Implemented emergency measures to lessen the impact of the pandemic on students, researchers and research personnel, via grant extensions and supplements to students and postdoctoral researchers
- Continued implementation of the Storytellers initiative and the International Policy Ideas Challenge, transitioning to a virtual model
3. Strengthen the research enterprise in Canada
SSHRC has strong collaborative relationships with research institutions and other organizations with a stake in the future of Canada’s higher education and innovation systems: postsecondary leaders, research administrators, policy-makers, industry allies, and not-for-profit and community organizations. These relationships help us deliver effective policies and programs.
Cultivating new partnerships with Indigenous organizations, government, not-for-profit organizations, and industry will help create a more vibrant, inclusive research community. Diversity contributes to a strong and resilient community that will enable a coordinated response to the COVID-19 crisis and during the post-pandemic recovery period. Efforts to promote a diversified community also include addressing differences in research approaches and perspectives based on language, and supporting research in areas such as social and political responses to inequality.
SSHRC is at the forefront of redefining practices in scientific and scholarly research, including promoting open science and responsible stewardship of research data. A robust culture of open access to research publications and responsible stewardship of research data will strengthen the research enterprise, enhance research excellence, and benefit Canadian researchers working in international partnerships, as funders around the globe implement more stringent data management requirements.
We will meet this objective by:
- Building an inclusive research community: We will strengthen our leadership role in creating an equitable, diverse and inclusive research enterprise, through new partnerships with Indigenous organizations and community groups, and further incorporation of EDI principles into our interactions and programs (for example, the Canada Research Chairs programs). We will align our programs and policies with the Accessible Canada Act to identify, remove, and prevent barriers to accessibility. We will also review and renew our actions that help to ensure a strong Canadian research enterprise in both official languages.
- Strengthening research ecosystems at postsecondary institutions: We will highlight impacts associated with support for the indirect costs of research, through new reporting approaches for the Incremental Project Grants and the Research Support Fund. This funding helps postsecondary institutions maintain the equipment, facilities and administrative support needed to foster a strong, world-class research environment, as well as invest in priority projects to improve the research environment. These two programs will support our postsecondary institutions as they adapt and adjust to new models of research, the development of which is being accelerated by COVID-19. We will also support the community by administering the tri-agency Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund. The Fund provides an additional $450 million in federal government funding to ensure that academic research staff can keep their jobs, safeguard their research, and continue their important work after the crisis ends.
- Promoting open science and stewardship of research data: We will monitor and review the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications, which promotes access to peer reviewed journal publications arising from agency-supported research. We will also support the development of a robust environment for data stewardship in Canada by launching and implementing the Tri-agency Research Data Management Policy. SSHRC will continue to support the platforms that enable access to research publications and data, and will engage with the New Digital Research Infrastructure Organization as it establishes its programming and supports for the research community.
- Delivered the $450-million Canada Research Continuity Emergency Fund to sustain the Canadian research enterprise in the face of COVID-19
- Published the first interdisciplinary Canadian Research and Development Classification, developed in collaboration with Statistics Canada and the other federal granting agencies
- Led the development and launch of the new Tri-agency Research Data Management Policy
- Supported the development of the Pan-Canadian Knowledge Access Initiative, which increases the dissemination and discoverability of Canadian research by providing a dissemination platform for many of Canada’s top social sciences and humanities journals
4. Contribute innovative solutions to global challenges and opportunities
Social sciences and humanities research can contribute greatly to our national debates, provide unique insights, and address complex global challenges—ranging from climate change to migration; to anti-Black and other forms of racism, discrimination and inequality; to the wise use of emerging technologies. For example, by applying a social science and humanities lens to the federal pandemic response policies for COVID-19, we build understanding of their potential impacts on our behaviours, and can help strengthen cities, workplaces and educational systems.
SSHRC partners and shares research results with communities, businesses and governments who use the new knowledge to innovate and improve people’s lives. In addition, our Connection program specifically supports activities, tools and networks that facilitate the flow, exchange and use of research knowledge.
We will meet this objective by:
- Designing and implementing focused research support: Through our Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, we will continue to mobilize research to improve the well-being of Canadians. We will partner with public, private, not-for-profit and academic sectors to address future challenge areas. We will also continue to fund and lead research partnerships to better understand the socio-economic dimensions of COVID-19 and to address issues of racism and diversity. This will include a new three-year initiative to fund research on systemic barriers facing diverse groups, to inform actions to address social disparities related to race, gender and other forms of diversity.
- Sharing research and demonstrating its value: We will increase and further target our communications activities under a new corporate communications strategy, with a focus on demonstrating the value and insights of research. We will continue to support the research community in effective communication of the benefits of research to Canadians, for example through our Storytellers competition. We will highlight the expertise of social science researchers on the human and social dimensions of the COVID-19 crisis, as well as on longer-term recovery and resilience.
- Supported rapid-response research on the COVID-19 pandemic via a Partnership Engage Grants special call and a collaborative initiative with NSERC and CIHR on vaccine hesitancy
- Highlighted social sciences and humanities perspectives on the pandemic via new website content, a database of SSHRC-funded research, and media partnerships with The Conversation, Quebec Science, the Royal Society of Canada and The Globe and Mail
- Worked with federal departments and other partners to support Knowledge Synthesis Grant competitions and national virtual forums on the digital economy; public transit and mobility; environmental and impact assessments; and the future challenge of living within Earth’s carrying capacity
- Served as part of the steering group for the UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery, and launched the Recovery, renewal and resilience in a post-pandemic world initiative in collaboration with funding agencies from 12 countries in Europe, the Americas and Africa
- Worked with the Federal Anti-Racism Secretariat to organize a series of roundtables to highlight the contributions of social science and humanities researchers on issues of racism
5. Build a nimble, forward-looking SSHRC organization
At SSHRC, we recognize that our people are our most valuable asset. Our leadership role in Canada’s research ecosystem and the service we provide to our community are inextricably linked to the extraordinary efforts of our skilled and dedicated staff. As our organization continues to grow in size and scope, we are committed to developing and supporting our internal talent, while upholding values of respect, trust, diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
At the same time, SSHRC must move quickly to meet the organizational challenges of this new decade. While we continue adapting to new ways of working that have been accelerated by the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must also ensure sustainability is embedded within the culture of our organization. Building the workplace of the future requires knowledge, dialogue, a shared sense of purpose, a culture of collaboration, and equipping staff with the right skills and most effective tools. By empowering our people to do their best work, SSHRC can continue to create innovative solutions to problems facing Canada and Canadians today and in the future.
We will meet this objective by:
- Investing in our workforce and workplace: As we continue to adapt to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will advance new strategies and plans for workplace and workforce renewal. This will include integrating leading technologies and information practices, along with targeted training. We will work with staff to ensure they are equipped with the skills and tools necessary to work safely, efficiently and collaboratively “from anywhere, at any time.” We will prepare for the move to new SSHRC offices, ensuring that principles of collaboration, sustainability and accessibility are integrated into our workplace planning. In tandem, we will renew and integrate human resources policies to provide our workforce with updated people management strategies and action plans firmly embedded in EDI principles. This includes promoting EDI in internal staffing processes, at all levels.
- Modernizing our operations: We recognize that continuing our work on the vital interface between staff and our research community is critical. We will further the discovery phase for modernizing the grants management system across the three federal research granting agencies. The tri-agency grants management solution will provide a single platform to better support applicants, administrators and reviewers. A more harmonized and integrated approach will provide staff and the research community with a more efficient and user-friendly, accessible and inclusive experience. We will also prepare for the migration to a new financial management system and complete our transformation into a digital and data-driven organization.
- Moved SSHRC’s funding competitions to remote/virtual merit review in light of pandemic-imposed constraints on travel and mobility
- Supported all employees in the transition to remote/virtual work as they adapted to a digital workplace, and accelerated SSHRC’s transition to operating in a predominantly digital environment
- Equipped employees with tools and resources to help maintain their health and well-being during the pandemic as they adapted to the changing work environment
- Engaged with the research community to refine needs and challenges as part of the discovery phase of the new tri-agency grants management solution
We wish to acknowledge the contributions of our governing council members, SSHRC staff, and members of our diverse community of researchers and partners in the development of Momentum 2020-2025. We value your input and passion for creating a better world though social sciences and humanities research.
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