Knowledge Synthesis Grants

Mobility and Public Transit

December 2020 Competition

Value $30,000
Duration 1 year
Application deadlineFootnote * December 17, 2020 (8 p.m. eastern)
Results announced March 2021
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SSHRC and Infrastructure Canada (INFC) have launched this Knowledge Synthesis Grants (KSG) competition to mobilize social sciences and humanities research to examine and synthesize existing knowledge on mobility and public transit issues. Grant holders will identify research gaps and opportunities and their work will inform and guide policy-makers and service providers responsible for public transit at the community level.

The ability of Canadians to effectively travel across their communities and regions significantly affects their day-to-day quality of life. The various personal mobility realities in Canadian urban and rural contexts result in differentiated levels of access to basic services, education and employment opportunities, health services, and recreational and cultural amenities. The social and economic implications of unequal access to public transit are particularly evident in rural communities, many of which have aging populations and are struggling with slow economic growth.

Policy-makers and service providers in the broader urban and rural mobility sectors are not only working in a complex policy environment, but they are also encountering new challenges due to emerging societal trends, environmental imperatives, and technological innovations. Additionally, while the COVID-19 pandemic has presented an opportunity to reflect on changing transit needs and to reimagine the provision of transit services, it has given rise to new funding challenges and pressing questions about transit, land use, urban planning, and public health and safety.

Public transit represents the largest funding area under INFC’s Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program. It also represents a key piece of Canada’s core public infrastructure, one that has immediate implications for the social, environmental, and economic well-being of urban and rural communities. This Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity will identify critical gaps in existing knowledge to guide future research related to urban and rural mobility issues in Canada. By identifying best practices, lessons learned and indicators of success, the resulting syntheses may inform the development of effective tools, robust policies and sustainable practices that support the transit needs of urban and rural communities.

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:

State of knowledge, strengths and gaps

  • critically assess the state of knowledge of the 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.

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.

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.

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 knowledge emerging over the past 10 years.

In support of the objectives above, Knowledge Synthesis Grants will help in identifying roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors may 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 March 2021).
  • Participate in an in-person or virtual knowledge mobilization forum six months after the grant has been awarded to promote research findings with cross-sectoral stakeholders and knowledge users. The format of the forum has yet to be determined. Grant applicants must include travel costs for a one-day forum in Ottawa as part of the budget submitted with their applications. If the forum takes place virtually, the funds set aside for travel can be reallocated towards additional knowledge mobilization activities. Successful applicants will receive further details on the forum (tentatively scheduled for December 2021).

Successful applicants will receive guidelines for completing their synthesis report and the two-page evidence brief. Researchers are expected to make their synthesis report publicly available, such as through a personal webpage or an institutional repository, and to include the link in their evidence brief. SSHRC will make all evidence briefs available on its website.


The themes below illustrate the many interconnected issues that encompass the challenge of Mobility and Public Transit. The thematic questions are intended to provide guidance to applicants. Proposals examining other issues relevant to a theme are also welcome, as are proposals that combine themes or questions.

Researchers may include international comparisons and case studies in their proposals, 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:

  • Drawing on domestic, international and/or cross-sectoral evidence, what can the Canadian academic community tell us about these issues?
  • How might the findings guide public policy, practice and research agendas for Canada and the world?

Modal shift and integrated transportation

  1. What is being done, in Canada and elsewhere, to holistically encourage modal shift toward public transit (e.g., integrated public transit investments, road tolling / cordon pricing, zoning, parking restrictions, etc.)? How are emerging transit use issues tied to the COVID-19 pandemic being addressed (e.g., safety and physical distancing rules, potential restrictions on the number of users, attractiveness of transit with new psychological and societal considerations)?
  2. What leading and innovative approaches are being used, in Canada and internationally, to pursue multimodal transportation integration? How can these approaches be leveraged to increase transit ridership? What might be the longer-term impacts and challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic for different transport modes?
  3. How are new technologies (digitization, open data, automation, apps, etc.) being leveraged to assist multimodal transportation integration? How can they be used to address emerging needs triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic for more timely and better information for transit system users and staff (e.g., real-time information on the number of travelers and capacity, new health and safety rules and amenities, etc.)? What roles are sustainable and other emerging mobility solutions playing in local and national transit plans (e.g., closed loop system, on-demand service models, Mobility-as-a-Service, etc.)?
  4. In line with digitization, how are data being collected, protected, and used to make decisions about transit investments? How are technology infrastructures being established to underpin changes in transportation systems and what approaches have been most effective? If technologies are leveraged for multimodal transportation integration, what are best practices and challenges of the procurement process in Canada?
  5. How is active transportation being promoted in Canada and internationally, and how can public transit developments be leveraged to encourage active modes of transportation?

Land use planning and transit-oriented development

  1. What leading practices are being used to integrate transportation and land use planning in North America and elsewhere (including public transit, greenhouse gas mitigation, and housing considerations)? What data are currently being collected, and which indicators best measure success?
  2. How is transit and transportation planning currently being used to tackle sprawl in Canada and North America? What approaches have been adopted by different levels of government (national, provincial/territorial and regional/municipal)? What might be the longer-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic―and related sociological changes―on urban development, land use patterns and density? What might also be the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on commuting patterns and broader individual socio-economic habits and preferences (e.g., telework, retail development trends, car use, consumption choices), and what might be appropriate land use planning considerations?
  3. What leading practices are being used to better align access to transit and affordable housing? How can transit-oriented development be used to pursue social equity objectives more broadly?
  4. What leading practices are being used to better align access to transit to essential services? How does proximity to transit affect low-income and vulnerable populations?
  5. What is being done, in Canada and elsewhere, to effectively leverage transit-oriented value uplift, and to reinvest this value in public services and assets? What is a workable private sector role in this space? Has the COVID-19 pandemic had negative impacts on the promotion and attractiveness of denser urban developments near public transit, and what are the strategies to address these negative impacts?

Environmental considerations

  1. What are the leading approaches to quantifying and assessing immediate and long-term direct and indirect  greenhouse gas impacts of public transit development? What data are currently being collected and what are data gaps? What indicators would best measure this? How can these approaches be used to support investment decisions?
  2. What innovative and emerging solutions are being employed, in Canada and internationally, in the context of public transit investments, to mitigate the impacts of natural disasters and improve climate change resilience?
  3. Are public transit users motivated by concern for the environment and a desire for a more sustainable way of life? What role have environmental concerns played in determining community investment in public transit? How can emerging public health and safety rules and imperatives be addressed while pursuing or reinforcing the achievement of environmental goals and targets?

Rural mobility

  1. What innovative and emerging solutions are being used to promote rural mobility in Canada and elsewhere? What data are currently being collected, and which indicators best measure success?
  2. What unique social and economic barriers do rural municipalities face in providing sustainable, viable public transit services?
  3. What are the impacts of regional transit networks and coordinated transit plans on rural communities in Canada and elsewhere?

Changing transit needs

  1. What data (age, gender, socio-economic status, etc.) are collected about public transit users in different jurisdictions and what methodologies are used? How have user profiles influenced the development and provision of public transit in Canada and elsewhere, and how might this data be used to create more equitable, sustainable public transit systems?
  2. How might changing commuting patterns, the popularization of remote work arrangements, and public health concerns (as experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and previously during SARS outbreaks, in Canada and internationally) affect public transit ridership, the use of active transportation options, and overall modal shift? How might transit systems and municipalities adapt as they also look to transition to zero-emission technologies?
  3. How do changes in economic activity affect transit ridership, and how do recessions in particular affect mobility? How do economic boom and bust cycles affect the fluidity of people and goods, as well as the operations and finances of transit systems, and how can transit systems adapt to these changes?

SSHRC welcomes applications involving Indigenous research.

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 2021, prior to the one-day forum. Up to 20 grants may be awarded.

By applying for this funding opportunity, successful applicants consent to SSHRC and INFC 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 can 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 an eligible Canadian institution before funding can be released. Researchers who maintain an affiliation with a Canadian institution, but whose primary affiliation is with a non-Canadian postsecondary institution, are not eligible for applicant status.

Applicants who have received a SSHRC grant of any type but have failed to submit an 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 Corporate Strategy and Performance if they have questions about institutional eligibility.


An individual (including postdoctoral researchers) is eligible to be a co-applicant if they are formally affiliated with any of the following:

  • Canadian: Eligible postsecondary institution; not-for-profit organization; philanthropic foundation; think tank; or municipal, territorial or provincial government.
  • International: Postsecondary institution.


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 institution.

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

Multiple applications and holding multiple awards

See SSHRC’s regulations on 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 who 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 and INFC is to support syntheses covering a range of themes relating to the challenge of Mobility and Public Transit.

Grants may not necessarily be allocated evenly across themes; where there are value-added differences in approach and coverage, more than one grant may be allocated to a single theme. In addition to the evaluation criteria below, and in keeping with established KSG practices, SSHRC will consider the overall coverage of themes among recommended applications in its funding decisions to ensure that a broad distribution of topics will be addressed by the synthesis reports.

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 informs all applicants in writing of the outcome of their applications within a month after adjudication. Results are not provided by telephone or email.

Regulations, policies and related information

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

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

Grant holders must also follow 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) may 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:

Tel.: 343-552-9333

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