Knowledge Synthesis Grants

How can emerging technologies be leveraged to benefit Canadians?

November 2015 Competition

Value $25,000
Duration 1 year
Application deadline January 12, 2016 (Closed)
Results announced March 2016
Apply See details below

Value and Duration
Application Process
Regulations, Policies and Related Information
Contact Information


The complexities of the digital age, and the rapid expansion of disruptive technologies, including 3D printing, robotics, automation and artificial intelligence, are generating a need to better understand the economic, social, environmental, philosophical and legal implications of their development, adoption and use. Social sciences and humanities are uniquely positioned to build knowledge on the past, present and future human dimensions that influence the creation of technologies, their impacts and their possibilities. This includes understanding the opportunities and risks associated with the investment in—and adoption of—emergent and disruptive technologies, as well as the need for effective participation, training and tools that would optimize their use and enable equitable access.

Technology is crucial, but innovation itself is a human endeavour. As such, social sciences and humanities research is key to content development, business planning and marketing, training and governance. Dynamic new technologies are also enabling, accelerating and influencing deep conceptual changes in the research environment, the economy, industry and society.

Emerging technologies is one of six future challenge areas identified through SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. These complex issues were identified following an extensive foresight exercise, and reflect key challenges that Canada is likely to face in an evolving global context over the coming decades, and to which the social sciences and humanities research community can contribute its knowledge, talent and expertise.

SSHRC is, therefore, launching a Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity for the future challenge area “How can emerging technologies be leveraged to benefit Canadians?”

While acknowledging the value of international and comparative scholarship in the social sciences and humanities on emerging and disruptive technologies, this funding opportunity is particularly focused on uncovering the particularities of the Canadian “technoscape.”

In support of the objectives noted below, these grants will foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge regarding the human dimensions involved in emerging technologies. The resulting syntheses will also help identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors may play in seizing future opportunities and mitigating risks related to these technologies. This knowledge will pave the way for developing robust policies, strategies, practices and tools for a sustainable, equitable and prosperous future for Canada and the world.


The objectives of this funding opportunity are threefold:

  • State of Knowledge and Research Gaps:
    • critically assess the state of knowledge of the Future Challenge Area theme under consideration;
    • identify knowledge gaps within the theme; and
    • identify the most promising policies and practices related to the theme.
  • Research Data:
    • assess the quality, accuracy and rigour of current work in the field; and
    • identify gaps in the quantitative and qualitative data available.
  • Knowledge Mobilization:
    • mobilize knowledge related to promising policies and practices within the academic, private and public policy sectors; and
    • facilitate dialogue between academic researchers, cross-sectoral stakeholders and policy-makers in government.

Expected Outcomes

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 knowledge emerging over the past 10 years.

The purpose of this funding opportunity is to support researchers, teams of researchers and knowledge users to produce knowledge syntheses and scoping reviews that will contribute to the use of synthesized evidence in decision-making and practice.

Successful applicants or their delegates will be expected to attend two knowledge mobilization workshops in Ottawa, to discuss the knowledge syntheses. Travel costs for these meetings should be included in the budget submitted as part of the application. Details on the meetings (scheduled for April 2016 and November 2016, respectively) will be provided to successful applicants.

Successful applicants will also be provided with guidelines for completing their synthesis report.

The call for proposals invites applications from researchers in any discipline that may inform and contribute to the objectives of this funding opportunity. The Imagining Canada’s Future foresight initiative highlighted four enduring issues that are central to all six future challenge areas:

  • sustainable, resilient communities;
  • creativity, innovation and prosperity;
  • values, cultures, inclusion and diversity; and
  • governance and institutions.

As well, the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative identified the importance of international, institutional and gender dimensions as cross-cutting.

Further, SSHRC welcomes applications involving Indigenous research, as well as those involving research-creation.

Proposals should address one or more of the specific questions listed under the themes below. However, applicants may choose to identify and/or develop specific aspects or elements within the questions to frame the knowledge synthesis.



The themes described below frame key issues that draw from the emerging technologies future challenge area, as well as from relevant issues in the comprehensive list of six future challenge areas and subquestions. Other issues demonstrably relevant to the themes and subquestions listed below are welcome, as are international comparisons and interdisciplinary collaborations that may inform policy issues relevant for Canada. Note that the four themes are not mutually exclusive, as there are important linkages among them.

Proposals are not limited to the technologies named herein, and are welcome on both disruptive and emerging technologies, the latter defined as technology that is commercialized but in limited use, or that could be used in new ways.

1. Access, ethics and governance:

  • What is needed in order to maximize equitable access to information and communication technologies, foster digital literacy and participation, seize new opportunities, and mitigate the digital divide in Canada and the world?
  • Anticipating how human thought and behaviour influences the development, design and adoption of technologies, and how emerging technologies might impact citizens in all aspects of their lives, what changes are needed from institutions and governments to support socially just and democratic practices?
  • What are the opportunities, risks and related ethical and legal questions and policy requirements raised by the adoption of emerging and disruptive technologies (e.g., 3D printing, automated manufacturing, robotics, machine intelligence, nanotechnology, fracking, drones, new forms of energy production and storage)?
  • How can citizens, organizations and governments balance competing needs of security and privacy in an increasingly “open” society?
  • How might Canadians be affected by, and influence, new developments in “big data,” data analytics and information management?

2. Socio-economic impacts:

  • What impacts are emerging and disruptive technologies likely to have on the Canadian economy, its commerce, industries and workers; and what are the likely responses and best practices, across the economy, of management and labour?
  • How can different groups of citizens, including marginalized and remote communities, be best equipped to shape and benefit from new technologies, and what are the mechanisms by which a given technology becomes socially and culturally acceptable?
  • How do emerging and disruptive technologies affect human connectivity, identity, and intergenerational and other relationships?
  • How might agricultural production, food security, natural resource development and sustainability be affected by emerging and disruptive technologies?

3. Time, place and space:

  • What possibilities and challenges do new technologies present for urban planning, infrastructure, architecture, design and the achievement of sustainable, prosperous and resilient rural and remote communities?
  • How might space science, exploration, governance and settlement be important for the future of Canadian research, economy, culture and society?
  • What do human-enhancement technologies and advances in genomics mean for life quality, meaning and duration; human reproduction; and gender relations?

4. Impacts on research, research-creation and innovation:

  • What role could digital technologies play in teaching and preserving diverse First Nations, Métis and Inuit heritage, memory and identity, and in increasing resilience through connectivity?
  • How do literature, cinema and other arts and humanities anticipate future technologies, help their creation and development, and support human adaptation to disruptive changes brought about by technological advances?
  • How are emerging technologies affecting the social sciences and humanities research enterprise and its training environments?


Value and Duration

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are one–year grants worth up to $25,000. However, all synthesis reports must be completed by October 14, 2016. Up to 15 grants will be awarded.

By applying for this funding opportunity, applicants consent, should they be awarded a Knowledge Synthesis Grant, to SSHRC sharing the resulting synthesis report with other interested organizations and individuals.



Subject matter

Knowledge Synthesis Grant proposals may involve any disciplines and approaches or subject areas eligible for SSHRC funding. Please see Subject Matter Eligibility for more information.

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


Applicants must be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution at the time of application. If the Canadian postsecondary institution with which they are affiliated is not a SSHRC eligible institution, the institution must meet the requirements to administer grants and awards, as outlined in the Institutional Eligibility Requirements for the Administration of Grants and Awards, and must contact SSHRC at least five business days prior to the application deadline to begin the eligibility process. Applicants successful in the competition must be affiliated with an eligible institution before funding can be released.

Applicants who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but who have failed to submit a final research report by the deadline specified in their Notice of Award are not eligible to apply for this or any other SSHRC grant until they have submitted the report.

Postdoctoral fellows/researchers are eligible to apply for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant. For SSHRC to release grant funds, however, successful applicants must have formally established an affiliation with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution before the grant is awarded, and maintain such an affiliation for the duration of the grant period.


Co-applicants may be individuals from any of the following:

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

Postdoctoral researchers are eligible to be co-applicants for a Knowledge Synthesis Grant under the same conditions as those outlined in Applicants.


Any individual who will make a significant contribution to the research initiative is eligible to be a collaborator. Collaborators do not need to be affiliated with an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.

Note that individuals from the private sector or federal government may participate only as collaborators.


Grant funds may only be administered by an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution.


Application Process

Applications must be emailed as a .pdf file attachment, using the following format:

  • single-sided,  8 1/2" x 11" (21.5 cm x 28 cm) paper size;
  • single-spaced, with no more than six lines of type per inch;
  • body text in a minimum 12 pt Times New Roman font;
  • all margins set at a minimum of 3/4" (1.87 cm);
  • name of the institution appears within the set margins at the top right corner of every page; and
  • all pages, including the printed copies of the CV, numbered consecutively and indicating the total number of pages sent (e.g., 1 of 14 or 1/14 … 14/14).

Applications must include the following:

  1. a letter (maximum four pages, not including references) containing:
    • a descriptive title (maximum 255 characters);
    • a description of the knowledge synthesis project, including the significance, expected contributions and impacts of the proposed synthesis, contextualized within the current literature and accounting for previous work done in the area(s);
    • an outline of the relevant expertise and experience of the applicant/team;
    • a work plan, including timelines, and a description of the proposed methodology and approach;
    • the applicant’s signature; and
    • in the upper right-hand corner of each page, the applicant’s name and the theme and subtheme(s) under which the proposal falls;
  2. an itemized budget (maximum two pages), including justification of proposed expenditures;
  3. a knowledge mobilization plan (maximum two pages), identifying the target research users expected to receive the synthesis results, how the results will be shared with these users, and one or more examples of knowledge mobilization the applicant/team has conducted with research users;
  4. a half-page summary of the proposal, written in clear, non-technical language (by submitting an application, applicants consent, should they be awarded a Knowledge Synthesis Grant, to the use of this summary for promotional purposes outside the research community, to inform politicians, media and members of the public who request information about research funded by SSHRC);
  5. a SSHRC Web CV for each applicant and co-applicant (the CCV cannot be accepted at this time);
  6. the discipline codes applicable to the proposal;
  7. a list of research contributions (maximum four pages) for each applicant and co‑applicant, describing:
    • research contributions over the last six years (refereed, non-refereed and forthcoming contributions, creative outputs, etc.);
    • other contributions to research and the advancement of knowledge within the last six years, including research contributions to non-academic audiences (general public, policy-makers, private sector, not-for-profit organizations, etc.);
    • career interruptions and special circumstances; and
    • contributions to training within the last six years, including roles in supervising or co-supervising ongoing and/or completed theses, listing these by the student’s level of studies;
  8. a separate page containing the signature of an authorized signatory from the applicant’s institution, certifying that the institution will administer any award in accordance with SSHRC policies; and
  9. a signed Consent to Disclosure of Personal Information for each applicant and co-applicant.

All application materials must be submitted in .pdf format and be received by 8:00 p.m. (eastern) January 12, 2016.

Email complete applications Applications submitted in whole or in part by other means will not be considered.


Evaluation and Adjudication

SSHRC’s goal, through this funding opportunity, is to support syntheses covering a range of the subthemes outlined within each of the two broad thematic areas, as set out above.

Please note that grants may not necessarily be allocated evenly across subthemes; and, where there are value-added differences in approach and coverage, more than one grant may be allocated to a single subtheme.

An expert adjudication committee will assess all applications, using the following criteria:

Challenge (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).

Feasibility (20%):

  • 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; and
  • 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.

Capability (40%):

  • qualifications of the applicant/team to carry out the proposed project (expertise in the content area, synthesis methods, information retrieval, etc.); and
  • evidence of other knowledge mobilization activities (e.g., films, performances, commissioned reports, knowledge syntheses, experience in collaboration/other interactions with stakeholders, contributions to public debate and the media), and of impacts on professional practice, social services and policies, etc.

Communication of results

Research offices will be informed of the competition results pertaining to their applicants by way of SSHRC’s secure site.


Regulations, Policies and Related Information

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

Grant holders must also comply with the Tri-Agency Open Access Policy on Publications. See SSHRC’s Open Access overview for more information. SSHRC also encourages researchers to manage data arising from their research, in accordance with both community standards and best practices.

Guidelines and related support material

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

Privacy notice

SSHRC is responsible for complying with the Privacy Act, and all information collected by SSHRC is subject to, and governed in accordance with, this Act. SSHRC is committed to the protection of the personal information under its control. The personal information that you provide is collected by the agency under the authority of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Act, and stored in the SSHRC personal information bank PPU 055, as described in Info Source. The information is used in accordance with the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

Only the information needed to deliver, administer and promote the Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition and awards is collected. This may include sharing application information with other agencies and departments of the Government of Canada, as well as other organizations, that are specifically interested in supporting the research and related activities generated through Knowledge Synthesis Grants awards and with which SSHRC has established agreements. SSHRC will contact you to obtain your consent prior to any disclosure of personal information to these funding partners. For more specific information about the organizations/institutions involved in this Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition, please contact SSHRC program staff.

Further details on the use and disclosure of the information collected by SSHRC are available under Use and Disclosure of Personal Information in Applications for SSHRC Awards.

In addition to protecting your personal information, the Privacy Act gives you the right to request access to and correction of your personal information. For more information about these rights, or about our privacy practices, please contact the SSHRC Access to Information and Privacy manager at 613-992-1058 or You also have the right to file a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada if you think your personal information has been handled improperly.

Related opportunities

SSHRC and its partner organizations offer several initiatives that complement the Knowledge Grants funding opportunity:

  • Researchers working individually or in smaller, less formal teams are encouraged to apply for Insight Grants. For scholars interested in carrying out research in its initial stages, SSHRC also provides short-term support by way of its Insight Development Grants.
  • Researchers involved in formal partnerships are encouraged to apply for Partnership Grants or Partnership Development Grants.
  • Societal Implications of Disruptive Innovation in Genomics promotes social sciences and humanities research and related activities aimed at expanding understanding of the potential for new and emerging genomic innovations to affect society. Interested researchers should develop proposals related to this focus and submit their applications through funding opportunities offered under SSHRC’s Insight and Connection programs, or to relevant Knowledge Synthesis Grants competitions. For more information, see the Genome Canada website.
  • Applicants requiring infrastructure funding to support their research and/or related activities may be eligible for support from the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund. For more information, please visit the CFI website, or contact the CFI liaison officer at your institution


Contact Information

For more information about this funding opportunity, or for advice on how to prepare your application, please contact:

Roxanne Dompierre
Senior Program Officer
Office of the Associate Vice-President, Future Challenges
Tel.: 613-944-5327

Email applications to: