Knowledge Synthesis Grants: Shifting Dynamics of Privilege and Marginalization

March 2023 Competition

Value $30,000
Duration 1 year
Application deadlineFootnote * December 15, 2022 (8 p.m. eastern)
Results announced March 2023
Apply Web CV, application and instructions

On this page


SSHRC is pleased to launch a Knowledge Synthesis Grants competition to mobilize, examine and synthesize social sciences and humanities research on the topic of shifting dynamics of privilege and marginalization. Genome Canada has joined SSHRC as a funding partner for this call and is seeking social sciences and humanities insights on issues related to genomics. The outcome of this knowledge synthesis grant will help to inform policy and decision-making across sectors and help to ensure a cohesive, equitable and just Canadian society.

Shifting Dynamics of Privilege and Marginalization is one of 16 global future challenges 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 the challenges cross multiple sectors and research disciplines and require broad collaboration to address. This Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity is informed and shaped by cross-sectoral and diverse perspectives, including subject matter experts, policy leaders and community leaders and Genome Canada’s fall 2021 Future of Genomics dialogue series.

In the context of increasing global uncertainty and social volatility, the social, political, cultural and economic fabric of Canadian society is experiencing rapid, significant and diverse transformations. Concurrently, significant and rapid technological developments in artificial intelligence (AI) and quantum technologies, in genomics sciences, and in emerging biodigital convergence pose pressing and important questions about equity, diversity and inclusion, and about the possible combination of some of these technologies and their impacts on society, economies and ecosystems.

Our colonial past, racism and slavery continue to shape processes of marginalization and privilege today. More recent events such as the rise in polarized and illiberal political views, social movements around racism and decolonization, or demonstrations around climate change call into question the dynamics of power in different societies. The continued instability in the Middle East, the Russian invasion in Ukraine and the heightened geopolitical tensions in Southeast Asia have intensified discussions about power dynamics, the collapse of the liberal international order and what new world order lies ahead. The forced displacement of tens of millions of people within countries or across borders, exacerbated by migration due to climate change, calls into question hierarchies that exist among different communities of displaced people, how and why they are accepted, supported, welcomed or not, and the respective role of nations, communities and individuals in migration. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified inequalities between the marginalized and the privileged, and has contributed to the escalation of tensions between various groups in civil society and the polarization of political thought.

The social sciences, arts and humanities are well situated to address considerations associated with a volatile, uncertain and divided world. The risks associated with the widening of the gap between the privileged and the marginalized are multifold, and can reach far and wide into the fabric of society. The concepts of marginalization and privilege are experienced and expressed in a variety of ways at the societal and individual levels, and often have specific cultural significance that evolves over time. Further, an individual, group or community could find themselves at the intersection of multiple barriers, furthering their risk of experiencing the negative impacts of marginalization and exclusion. A deeper understanding of the many forms in which the world is being reshaped, at an individual, community and societal level, is necessary to navigate the shifting dynamics of privilege and marginalization.

SSHRC, with additional funding from Genome Canada to support key issues related to genomics, is launching this Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge about the shifting dynamics of privilege and marginalization brought about by a variety of factors, such as old and recent socio-political events; new technologies, including genomics; the new mis/information age; and the COVID-19 pandemic. All have contributed to a more volatile and uncertain future. The resulting syntheses will identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors could play in promoting a more cohesive and equitable environment, and can inform the development of effective tools and technologies, robust policies, and sustainable practices required to support the path toward a prosperous and equitable future for all Canadians.

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 Grants 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 multimethod 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 virtual kick-off webinar (tentatively scheduled for May 2023); and
  • participate in a virtual knowledge mobilization forum six months after the grant has been awarded (tentatively scheduled for November 2023) to share research findings with community practitioners and knowledge users in various sectors. Further details on the forum will be shared with successful applicants when finalized.

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 and Genome Canada will make all evidence briefs publicly available on their websites. See examples of final reports and evidence briefs produced through a recent Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity for additional guidance.


The themes below illustrate some of the many interconnected issues that encompass the global challenge of Shifting Dynamics of Privilege and Marginalization. The themes are intended to provide guidance to applicants; proposals on other issues relevant to this future challenge are welcome.

For projects to have a connection to genomics, they need not be specifically about genomics research, technologies or innovations, but instead can contribute to the strategic priorities and work of Genome Canada in the areas of equity and inclusivity, health, food security and climate action. The application should address the potential implications of findings for policy and practice to support the delivery of equitable and impactful genomics research and innovation.

The call for proposals invites applications from researchers in any discipline that can inform and contribute to the objectives of this funding opportunity. Future challenges cross multiple sectors and research disciplines and require broad collaboration to address them; applicants are encouraged to submit proposals that feature multidisciplinary research teams.

Researchers are encouraged to consider the issues below through an intersectional lens to yield a better understanding of how this challenge can affect different people, communities and populations in a variety of environments. Knowledge syntheses related to First Nations, Métis and Inuit communities should be participatory and collaborative, prioritizing research completed by Indigenous communities and Indigenous-led organizations, and grounded in Indigenous worldviews and approaches to research.

Uncertain, divided world: The world’s volatile economic and socio-political landscape is experiencing several tensions that create insecurities about the state of our future society. People are confronted with new sets of beliefs, cultures, needs and power dynamics through migration, through social movements at home or by coming out of isolation. These changes can exacerbate old tensions, create new ones, or create new opportunities. Marginalized populations could continue to be excluded in the future if solutions are not brought forth or invested in now. How will people (re)build shared values and norms in this changing landscape? How does the present evolving environment inform our political, social and cultural choices in the context of potential fragmentation across and within societies? How can an understanding of historical events inform us in a world going through geopolitical transitions? How do marginalized communities perceive and engage with genomics?

Identities, privileges and opportunities: The world continues to experience massive displacement of people and an increase in the divide between the privileged and marginalized. Progressive societies promote values of diversity, equity and inclusion as enriching societies culturally, informing innovation and research, and allowing business development. Yet some marginalized or underrepresented groups continue to be perceived as outsiders in their own country of origin. How will established communities navigate the influx and resettlement of people with different values and diverse belief systems in their cities, towns and regions to offer them the same privileges, opportunities, rights and freedoms? How will the merging and creation of new social, cultural, political or personal identities influence societies’ cohesiveness, help the push toward equality and inclusion, or bring about positive change for the world? How does societal fragmentation along echo-chamber lines affect the future of genomic technologies? How have growing access and applications of genomics affected peoples’ sense of self or group inclusion?

Accessibility: New technologies have meant improved health care services and solutions and new developments in productivity and work capabilities. However, biases have been found to be reproduced in AI, impacting decision-making negatively in the workplace, policing, health care or relationships. How is access or the lack of access to innovative health care potentially creating new classes of humans and citizens? How will all people be trained to work and function in a highly computerized environment? How will a reinvigorated civic debate on human rights, values, ethics and morals inform a common understanding of what it means to be human? What are the barriers to deploying a view of disability as being something that is socially constructed? How can policy-makers work to effect change that will allow current and next generation children and youth the opportunity to contribute to society without having been filtered out by arbitrary and discriminatory processes? How do we ensure that genomics-enabled personalized medicine is equitably accessible? How is societal representation ensured within relevant genomic data sets to minimize interpretation bias?

Sense making: Where and how minds are being shaped and formed has shifted. From K-12 to postsecondary education and ongoing education programs, pedagogical approaches and initiatives have failed to close the socio-economic gaps impacting underrepresented and marginalized communities and individuals. New media technologies, content creation opportunities and a multitude of sharing platforms have made the pull and push of information, disinformation and misinformation ubiquitous. How do people collect and understand information to give meaning to what surrounds them, how the world impacts them and how to behave? How does the shifting landscape of learning, teaching and informing help or hinder dynamics of privilege and marginalization? How can intersectional teaching and learning practices—or the lack of them—as a central component in information systems inform leaders and policy-makers in framing the vision for their people, communities and individuals? How do we move away from the effects of colonization and the continued privilege of colonizers, and how does different ways of knowing provide direction and decisions around access to and applications of genomic technologies?

Life sciences and genomics: Worldwide, genomics is hampered by the underrepresentation of equity-deserving groups; for example, Indigenous Peoples have been excluded from the research landscape in terms of curating data sets, governance and leadership bodies. This leads to inequitable access to research resources, inequitable distribution of benefits, and ongoing community harm. The need for inclusion of individuals of diverse ancestral backgrounds and identities in genomics research is critical, from the perspective of both scientific necessity and equity. Recent innovations in biogenetics have allowed for the merging of the “live” with the “technological” (e.g., nanotechnology, AI, quantum computing): how will new advances in biodigital convergence, which may come with new forms of humans and robots, impact our societies and the concept of being human?

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 October 2023, prior to the virtual forum. Up to 30 grants may be awarded, of which up to seven will be awarded to genomics-related Knowledge Synthesis Grants.

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 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 a Canadian institution that holds institutional eligibility before funding can be released (see below). 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.

Students enrolled in a program of study are not eligible to apply.


Grant funds can only be administered by an eligible Canadian postsecondary institution . Institutions proposing to administer a grant awarded under this funding opportunity must hold or obtain institutional eligibility.

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 institution; not-for-profit organization; philanthropic foundation; think tank; or municipal, territorial or provincial government; or
  • 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 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 when they receive their Notice of Award.

Application process

Applicants must complete the application form in accordance with the 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 merit review

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

The goal of SSHRC and Genome Canada is to support syntheses covering a range of topics relating to the themes of this Knowledge Synthesis Grant. 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 Grants practices, SSHRC and Genome Canada will consider the overall coverage of themes among recommended applications in their 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 can 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

Merit review 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. Any feedback or comments provided to the applicant are at the discretion of the committee.

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:

Toll-free: 1-855-275-2861

Date modified: