Knowledge Synthesis Grants

Emerging Asocial Society

December 2021 Competition

Value $30,000
Duration 1 year
Application deadlineFootnote * December 17, 2021 (8 p.m. eastern)
Results announced March 2022
Apply Web CV, application and instructions

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Before the emergence of COVID-19, a number of observers were raising the alarm over a different public health crisis, one characterized by reports of higher levels of social isolation and loneliness, as well as increased rates of mental illnesses and antisocial behaviours. Dubbed the “loneliness epidemic,” the crisis has been attributed to a number of recent features of modern life, such as urbanization and the rise of one-person households. Social media, video games and virtual communities have also come under scrutiny, as questions are asked on why the loneliness epidemic is occurring at a time when people are more connected than ever before by technologies.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this societal crisis and much of the discourse surrounding the pandemic has centred on the importance of social connections. For some, the introduction of physical distancing measures has underscored the importance of shared rituals that reinforce intergenerational and community bonds and generate a sense of belonging. For others, the pandemic has shaken their belief that individuals could depend on increased social cohesion in times of crisis. Although its impacts have been felt differently across populations, the pandemic has increased awareness that loneliness, isolation and a sense of detachment from society are widespread challenges with profound health and socio-economic implications for individuals at all stages of life, as well as for society at large.

The social sciences, arts and humanities are ideally situated to address concerns about loneliness, isolation and extreme individualism. These subjective concepts can be experienced and expressed in a variety of ways at the societal and individual levels, and social constructs such as family and community often have specific cultural significance that evolves over time. To develop new tools and approaches that can foster and support relationships in the rapidly changing socio-economic landscape, a nuanced understanding is needed of the ways in which people have established and maintained connections in the past and the ways in which individuals now turn to technologies to express themselves, cultivate identities and seek out a sense of belonging.

The Emerging Asocial Society is one of 16 future challenge areas identified through SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. These complex issues, identified in 2018 following an extensive foresight exercise, reflect key challenges that Canada is likely to face in an evolving global context over the coming decades. All of the challenges cross multiple sectors and research disciplines, and require broad collaboration to address.

SSHRC and Employment and Social Development Canada are launching a Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge regarding the growing sense of disconnection, isolation and loneliness in Canadian society. The resulting syntheses will identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors can play in promoting more connected and resilient communities, and inform the development of effective tools, robust policies and sustainable practices required to support the transition to a more equitable, healthy and prosperous future.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants

Knowledge Synthesis Grants support researchers in producing knowledge synthesis reports and evidence briefs that:

  • support the use of evidence in decision-making and the application of best practices; and
  • assist in developing future research agendas.

Applicants must address the following three objectives in their proposals:

  1. State of knowledge, strengths and gaps
    • critically assess the state of knowledge of the future challenge theme under consideration from a variety of sources, as appropriate;
    • identify knowledge strengths and gaps within the theme; and
    • identify the most promising policies and practices related to the theme.
  2. Research data
    • assess the quality, accuracy and rigour (i.e., methodological approaches) of current work in the field; and
    • identify strengths and gaps in the quantitative and qualitative data available.
  3. Knowledge mobilization
    • engage cross-sectoral stakeholders (academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors) and/or First Nations, Métis and Inuit rights-holders throughout the project to mobilize knowledge related to promising policies and practices; and
    • use effective knowledge mobilization methods to facilitate the sharing of research findings with cross-sectoral stakeholders and Indigenous rights-holders.

Researchers can include international comparisons and case studies in their proposal, but must demonstrate how the research has the potential to inform policy issues in Canada.

This Knowledge Synthesis Grant funding opportunity is guided by the following perspectives:

  1. Drawing on domestic, international and/or cross-sectoral evidence, what can Canadian researchers tell us about these issues?
  2. How might the findings guide public policy, practice and research agendas for Canada and the world in the immediate and long term?

Expected outcomes

Knowledge syntheses are comprehensive analyses of literature and other forms of knowledge on a particular question or issue. All types of knowledge synthesis approaches, tools and protocols, such as scoping reviews, systematic reviews and narrative syntheses, are encouraged under this funding opportunity. Synthesized results can include qualitative, quantitative or multi-method research.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are not intended to support original research. Rather, they are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps. This call is particularly focused on the state of research produced over the past 10 years.

In support of the objectives above, Knowledge Synthesis Grants will help identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors, including Indigenous rights holders, can play in developing and implementing robust policies, best practices and tools.

Successful applicants will be expected to do the following:

  • complete a synthesis report (maximum 40 pages) and two-page evidence brief within six months of receiving the grant;
  • participate in a kick-off webinar (tentatively scheduled for May 2022);
  • participate in an in-person or virtual knowledge mobilization forum six months after the grant has been awarded to share research findings with community practitioners and knowledge users in various sectors, about which the following information is available at this time:
    • the format of the forum has yet to be determined;
    • the forum is tentatively scheduled for November 2022; and
    • successful applicants will receive further details on the forum; and
  • include travel costs for a one-day, in-person forum in Ottawa as part of the budget submitted with their applications—up to two members from each research team can attend the in-person forum—and if the forum takes place virtually, the funds set aside for travel can be reallocated toward additional knowledge mobilization activities.

Successful applicants will receive guidelines for completing their synthesis report and two-page evidence brief. Researchers are expected to make their synthesis reports publicly available—such as through their webpage or through an institutional repository—and to include the link in their evidence brief. SSHRC will make all evidence briefs publicly available on its website. See examples of final reports and evidence briefs produced in a recent Knowledge Synthesis Grant funding opportunity for additional guidance.


The themes below illustrate the many interconnected issues that encompass the global challenge of the Emerging Asocial Society. The themes are intended to provide guidance to applicants, but proposals on other issues relevant to the challenge of the Emerging Asocial Society are also welcome.

Researchers are encouraged to consider the issues below through an intersectional lens, resulting in a better understanding of how these themes can affect different communities and populations in rural, remote and urban settings.

  • Historical context: Concepts such as community and family have evolved over centuries, and the past continues to influence the understanding of identity and social connections. How does the past continue to inform social behaviours, government policies and laws? What lessons can be learned from previous eras of social upheaval?
  • Physical surroundings: The world around us both reflects and influences how we interact with others. How does the physical landscape shape communities and social interactions in urban, rural and remote environments? What steps are being taken in Canada and the world to create safe, accessible spaces that bring people together through education and work, or through recreational and social activities such as sports and artistic performances? What might the blurring of boundaries between physical and virtual spaces mean in terms of loneliness and isolation?
  • Technologies: Technologies such as social media, virtual reality, gaming, artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are increasingly mediating human interactions. How are technologies bringing people closer together and/or pushing them further apart? What role are digital communities playing in the lives of individuals? How might the use of new technologies promote healthy connections between individuals and create a more equitable society? How might they exacerbate existing inequalities?
  • Prosocial and antisocial behaviours: An increasing emphasis on individualism, a growing lack of trust in others, a decreased sense of connection and belonging—all are factors contributing to the decline of prosocial behaviours, such as volunteering, and the rise of radical antisocial behaviours. How are these behaviours being expressed, and what are the wider implications for Canadian society? Who is particularly vulnerable to antisocial influences, and what can be done to reach out to those engaged in such behaviours? What can be done to promote prosocial engagement and behaviours?
  • Expressions of belonging: Concepts such as loneliness and isolation are subjective and can take on different expressions in both public and private spheres, across all ages and communities. What rituals and practices are used to create and reinforce social connections and cultural identities? How are public gatherings changing as a result of technologies? How can visual and performing arts, film and literature contribute to the understanding of loneliness, isolation and belonging?

Value and duration

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are valued at $30,000 for one year.

Knowledge mobilization activities (that is, conference presentations and outreach activities) can take place throughout the year. All synthesis reports must be completed by November 1, 2022, prior to the one-day forum. Up to 30 grants may be awarded.

By applying for this funding opportunity, successful applicants consent to SSHRC sharing the resulting synthesis reports and evidence briefs with other interested organizations and individuals. This does not in any way limit how researchers may otherwise publish or use the results of their research


Subject matter

Most SSHRC funding is awarded through open competitions. Proposals may involve any disciplines, thematic areas, approaches or subject areas eligible for SSHRC funding. See the guidelines on subject matter eligibility for more information.

Projects whose primary objective is curriculum development are not eligible for funding under this funding opportunity.


Applications can be submitted by an individual researcher or a team of researchers (consisting of one applicant and one or more co-applicants and/or collaborators).

Applicants must be affiliated with a Canadian institution that holds institutional eligibility before funding can be released. Researchers who maintain an affiliation with a Canadian institution that holds institutional eligibility, but whose primary affiliation is with a non-Canadian postsecondary institution, are not eligible for applicant status.

Applicants (or project directors, where applicable) who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but have failed to submit an end of grant report/achievement report by the deadline specified in their Notice of Award are not eligible to apply for another SSHRC grant until they have submitted the report.

Postdoctoral researchers are eligible to be applicants if they have formally established an affiliation with an eligible institution at the time of application, and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period.


Grant funds can only be administered by an eligible Canadian institution. Institutions proposing to administer a grant awarded under this funding opportunity must hold or obtain institutional eligibility. See SSHRC’s list of eligible institutions.

Indigenous not-for-profit organizations being assessed for or holding institutional eligibility to administer multiple grants over a five-year period are eligible to administer Knowledge Synthesis Grants. They must obtain institutional eligibility before funding is released.

Institutions must contact to begin the institutional eligibility application process, or if they have questions about institutional eligibility.


Individuals (including postdoctoral researchers) are eligible to be co-applicants if they are formally affiliated with any of the following:

  • Canadian eligible postsecondary institutions; not-for-profit organizations; philanthropic foundations; think tanks; or municipal, territorial or provincial governments; or
  • International postsecondary institutions.


Any individual who makes a significant contribution to the project is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.

Individuals from the private sector or federal government can participate only as collaborators.

Multiple applications and holding multiple awards

See SSHRC’s regulations regarding multiple applications and holding multiple awards for more information.


Grant holders will be expected to report on the use of grant funds, on funded activities undertaken during the grant period, and on outcomes. Successful applicants will be informed of reporting requirements upon receiving their Notice of Award.

Application process

Applicants must complete the application form in accordance with accompanying instructions. Applications must be submitted electronically by an authorized research grants officer, or equivalent, from the applicant’s institution, or by a representative of the not-for-profit organization that has financial signing authority and is not participating in the project.

Applicants needing help while preparing their application should communicate with SSHRC well in advance of the application deadline.

Evaluation and adjudication

Applications are adjudicated, and available funds awarded, through a competitive merit review process. SSHRC bases funding decisions on the recommendations of the adjudication committee and on the funds available. Committee discussions are guided by the principle of minimum essential funding.

The goal of SSHRC is to support syntheses covering a range of themes relating to the global challenge of the Emerging Asocial Society. Grants might not necessarily be allocated evenly across themes; where there are value-added differences in approach and coverage, more than one grant could be allocated to a single theme. In addition to using the evaluation criteria below, and in keeping with established Knowledge Synthesis Grant practices, SSHRC will consider the overall coverage of themes among recommended applications in its funding decisions, to ensure that the synthesis reports address a broad distribution of topics.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are not intended to support original research. Rather, they are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps.

SSHRC’s Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research are relevant for researchers (applicants and project directors) and students preparing SSHRC applications related to Indigenous research. SSHRC provides these guidelines to merit reviewers to help build understanding of Indigenous research and research-related activities, and to assist committee members in interpreting SSHRC’s specific evaluation criteria in the context of Indigenous research. SSHRC relies on a community of merit reviewers with experience and expertise in Indigenous research to judge the extent to which the guidelines may be applied to a particular research proposal. The guidelines may also be of use to external assessors, postsecondary institutions and partner organizations that support Indigenous research.

Evaluation criteria and scoring

The following criteria and scoring scheme are used to evaluate the applications:

  1. Challenge—The aim and importance of the endeavour (40%):
    • expected contribution to the funding opportunity’s stated objectives;
    • significance of the applicant’s chosen topic or area(s) for synthesis, based on the issues identified in this call for proposals;
    • potential influence and impact in informing policy and practice in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors; and
    • identification of research gaps that might be addressed by a forward-looking research agenda in the chosen area(s).
  2. Feasibility—The plan to achieve excellence (30%):
    • ability to meet the objectives of the funding opportunity;
    • appropriateness of the methodology or approach and of the work plan, including timelines for the design and conduct of the activity;
    • quality and appropriateness of knowledge mobilization plans, including effective dissemination, exchange and engagement with stakeholders within and/or beyond the research community, where applicable; and
    • appropriateness of the requested budget.
  3. Capability—The expertise to succeed (30%):
    • qualifications of the applicant/team to carry out the proposed project (such as expertise in the research area, synthesis methods, information retrieval and Indigenous research); and
    • evidence of other knowledge mobilization activities (such as films, performances, commissioned reports, knowledge syntheses, experience collaborating/interacting with stakeholders, and contributions to public debate and the media) and of impacts on policy and practice.

Scoring table

Adjudication committee members assign a score for each of the three criteria above, based on the following scoring table. The appropriate weighting is then applied to arrive at a final score. Applications must receive a score of 3.0 or higher for each of the three criteria to be recommended for funding.

Score Descriptor
5-6 Very good to excellent
4-4.9 Good to very good
3-3.9 Satisfactory to good
Below 3 Unsatisfactory

Communication of results

SSHRC makes competition results available to applicants (via the SSHRC Extranet for Applicants) and institutions/organizations (via the Grants and Scholarships Administration Portal).

Regulations, policies and related information

SSHRC reserves the right to determine the eligibility of applications, based on the information included. SSHRC also reserves the right to interpret the regulations and policies governing its funding opportunities.

All applicants and grant holders must comply with the Regulations Governing Grant Applications and with the regulations set out in the Tri-Agency Guide on Financial Administration.

Grant holders must also comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. See the Open Access overview for more information. The SSHRC Research Data Archiving Policy has been retired. In March 2021, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and SSHRC launched the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy. As of April 1, 2021, this new policy replaces SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving policy, for all active grants.

Specific rules for the use of grant funds

  • No team members (applicant, co-applicant or collaborator) can be remunerated with grant funds. This includes postdoctoral researchers serving in any of these capacities.
  • Consultation fees are eligible for expert and/or professional and technical services that contribute directly to the proposed research as long as the service is not being provided by a team member or other persons whose status would make them eligible to apply for a SSHRC grant.

Guidelines and related support material

All applicants for SSHRC funding should consult the following guidelines while preparing their applications:

Contact information

For more information, contact:


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