Social Sciences and Humanities Research Network on Sustainable Agriculture in a Net-Zero Economy

October 2023 Competition

Value Up to $2 million
Duration 5 years
Application deadlineFootnote * October 20, 2023 (8:00 p.m. eastern)
Results announced January 2024
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To meet the Government of Canada’s ambitious climate mitigation targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 40-45% below 2005 levels by 2030 and to reach net-zero by 2050, all economic sectors need to contribute. In the agricultural sector, Canada has made commitments to reduce emissions from fertilizer use by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030, and to support the Global Methane Pledge to reduce global methane emissions by 30% below 2020 levels by 2030. Budget 2022 included a commitment for immediate action toward climate mitigation and to support the 2030 Emissions Reduction Plan: Canada’s Next Steps for Clean Air and a Strong Economy to support farmers as partners in building a clean, prosperous future.

Currently, agricultural emissions from primary production are estimated to account for 10% of Canada’s total emissions. Agricultural practices release greenhouse gases primarily from biological sources (e.g., nitrous oxide emissions from nitrogen fertilizers and manure management, methane emissions from livestock feed digestion), as well as from combustion of fossil fuels (e.g., operation of farm machinery). Agriculture is also in a unique position to further climate change mitigation using nature-based solutions that can remove and sequester carbon from the atmosphere.

While some solutions (e.g., beneficial management practices and technologies) are available and being developed to help reduce these emissions, there is a realization that improving current production systems will not be enough to meet the long-term ambitious objectives of decarbonizing the economy. In that context, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) are collaborating to support research to accelerate the development of transformative innovations, practices, technologies, products, land uses and inputs that will lead to a sustainable, profitable, and resilient agriculture and agri-food sector in an uncertain climate to move to a net-zero economy in the future.

SSHRC and AAFC are collaborating further to emphasize the need to foster more social sciences and humanities research in this area through the development of an agricultural social sciences and humanities research network. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Network on Sustainable Agriculture in a Net-Zero Economy would bring together social sciences and humanities researchers and practitioners from all sectors to enhance learning, expertise and knowledge sharing across Canada on studies in agriculture, climate change and the environment. The research network would feed into the fundamental and applied research call through ongoing identification of research gaps and opportunities, and would interact with AAFC to ensure policy-research linkages that reflect the policy and data needs of the department.

This social sciences and humanities research network will help to reinforce, coordinate and scale up Canada's domestic research capabilities through partnerships between universities, colleges and organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors, focusing on building up social sciences and humanities research in this area through an inclusive approach that welcomes various perspectives and knowledge, including traditional and Indigenous knowledge.

Overall goal

The overall goal is to establish a research network to enhance social sciences and humanities research capacity in universities, in the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, and in communities to fill knowledge gaps and expand the discourse for effective decision making on agri-environmental investments and actions. The research network will support knowledge mobilization and partnership research that leverage ongoing collaboration and mutual learning between academics and researchers from think tanks, institutes, the private, public (external to government) and not-for-profit sectors, etc. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Network on Sustainable Agriculture in a Net-Zero Economy will inform the NSERC/SSHRC Sustainable agriculture research initiative through, for example, information exchanges as workshops and symposiums, and in terms of identified research gaps and collaboration opportunities. The research network will collaborate with researchers in the NSERC/SSHRC Sustainable agriculture research initiative to help build research relationships and, ultimately, knowledge in this area. The research network will also interact with AAFC to ensure policy-research linkages that reflect the policy and data needs of the department.


This interdisciplinary social sciences and humanities research network would foster innovative research, partnership and training activities pertaining to:

  • social and socio-economic impacts of policy actions in agriculture in a net-zero future;
  • behavioural and societal influences on agricultural practices in the agricultural and food sector; and
  • approaches to scale up adoption of practices that contribute to Canada’s climate and environmental goals.

More specifically, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Network on Sustainable Agriculture in a Net-Zero Economy would be used to share knowledge among various groups to maximize learning outcomes in the social sciences and humanities in agriculture, climate and environmental research. The research network would bring together researchers and practitioners from all sectors and communities to enhance learning, expertise and knowledge sharing across Canada. It would also create workshops, conferences and other knowledge sharing events, as well as research, training activities and ongoing collaborations for those involved to develop their expertise and amplify research outcomes.


The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Network on Sustainable Agriculture in a Net-Zero Economy aims to raise the profile of social sciences and humanities research in sustainable agriculture and contribute to Canada’s ambitions involving climate and the environment by facilitating the flow and exchange of research knowledge through collaboration among researchers and the development of training activities. The main objective of the research network is to support knowledge mobilization and partnership research on the social and socio-economic impacts of policy actions in agriculture pertaining to net-zero, behavioural and societal influences on agricultural practices, and inform approaches to scale up adoption of practices that support Canada’s environment and climate goals. Projects supported under the research network will leverage ongoing collaboration and mutual learning between academia and stakeholders from different sectors, including private, public and not-for-profit organizations, and from communities.

The research network would be expected to deliver a series of activities, which could include some of the following, for example:

  • Develop research priorities, identify research gaps in research pertaining to sustainable agriculture in a net-zero economy and deliver, within the first two years, partnership research knowledge mobilization activities such as workshops, colloquiums, conferences, forums, or other events or outreach activities that facilitate intersectoral and interdisciplinary exchanges between academic researchers in the social sciences and humanities and researchers/practitioners from the private, public and/or not-for-profit sectors, and communities to identify research priorities and develop partnership research activities.
  • Conduct, within the later period of the grant, partnership research and training activities focused on the needs of stakeholders from the private, public and not-for-profit sectors, as well as other sectors.

In collaboration with AAFC, more specific outcomes and objectives of the research network would be developed with members once the network is established.

Within the first two years, the objectives of the research network are to:

  • enable the multidirectional flow of social sciences and humanities research knowledge among researchers, and across academia and society as a whole, to enhance intellectual, cultural, social and economic influence, benefit and impact;
  • increase the accessibility and use of social sciences and humanities research knowledge among academic and non-academic audiences;
  • support the building of reciprocal relationships among social sciences and humanities researchers, and between the researchers and those in a position to either co-create or use research knowledge; and
  • develop partnered research activities responding to the needs of partner organizations from the private, public and/or not-for-profit sector, and communities that will inform decision making.

Within the remaining period of the grant, the following objectives are to also be pursued:

  • address considerations in agricultural research design and research practice;
  • produce innovative approaches that enrich partnered research training experiences for students and postdoctoral researchers;
  • develop intersectoral collaborations and connection activities, such as public outreach activities, workshops and conferences; and
  • leverage contributions from all partner organizations (cash and/or in-kind contributions).

Only a Canadian university that holds institutional eligibility can administer funds. However, the intellectual leadership and governance for research network activities can come from within the research community and/or from within the private, public and/or not-for-profit sectors.

Equity, diversity and inclusion

All applicants to SSHRC opportunities are encouraged to consider equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) in both research practice (EDI-RP) and research design (EDI-RD).

EDI-RP involves promoting diversity in team composition and trainee recruitment; fostering an equitable, inclusive and accessible research work environment for team members and trainees; and highlighting diversity and equity in mentoring, training and access to development opportunities.

EDI-RD involves designing the research so that it takes EDI into account, through approaches such as intersectionality, antiracist frameworks, gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) and disaggregated data collection, and analysis that includes consideration of diversity and identity factors such as, but not limited to, age, culture, disability, education, ethnicity, gender expression and gender identity, immigration and newcomer status, Indigenous identity, language, neurodiversity, parental status/responsibility, place of origin, religion, race, sexual orientation, and socio-economic status.

AAFC and SSHRC encourage projects to use GBA+ and welcome applications involving Indigenous research, as well as those involving research-creation.

Value and duration

The grant offered under the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Network on Sustainable Agriculture in a Net-Zero Economy is valued at up to $300,000 for the first two years and up to $400,000 for the third and fourth years, followed by up to $600,000 for the last year for an overall total maximum of $2 million over five years. A one-year automatic grant extension without additional funding is also available under this joint initiative.


Subject matter

Proposals can involve any disciplines, thematic areas, approaches or subject areas that are eligible for SSHRC funding or that are facilitating the flow and exchange of research knowledge and training activities on the social and socio-economic impacts of or influences on changes in the Canadian agricultural sector.

Projects whose primary objective is curriculum development, program evaluation, preparation of teaching materials, digitization of a collection or creation of a database are not eligible for funding under this funding opportunity.

An application will be declared ineligible if it is determined that 30% or more of the requested budget has been allocated to ineligible expenses.


Applications must be submitted by an eligible Canadian university that meets the institutional eligibility requirements. The project director must be affiliated with the host institution (the applicant), and prepares the application on behalf of the host institution and the formal partnership.

Project directors 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.

Students and federal scientists are not eligible for project director, co-director or co-applicant status.

Postdoctoral researchers are not eligible for project director or co-director status.


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

If your institution does not currently have institutional eligibility to manage SSHRC funding, have a representative contact as soon as possible to discuss the steps required. The deadline for the institutional eligibility application is five business days before the grant application.

To start your funding application, you must have already begun the institutional eligibility process, so you can select the administering organization under Affiliations in the application portal. You must identify an institutional representative as the research administrator, who will be responsible for forwarding the grant application to SSHRC by the deadline. Creating a research administrator role for your organization in the Convergence Portal can take up to about five business days; however, during this time you can continue to work on key sections of your grant application (e.g., Supporting Documents attachments). See the application instructions for more details.


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.
  • 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.

Partner organizations

Partner organizations can be Canadian or international institutions or organizations (private, public or not-for-profit) of any type.

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 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 administering institution, 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.

Institutional and partner organization contributions

Applicants must include a proposed plan to secure, over and above the budget requested from SSHRC, additional cash and/or in-kind contributions from sources other than SSHRC during the life of the grant. SSHRC recognizes that the project can grow beyond the original planned amount as additional partner organizations become involved over the life of the grant.

For more information, see SSHRC’s Guidelines for Cash and In-Kind Contributions.

Merit review

Applications are reviewed, and available funds awarded, through a 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.

SSHRC’s Guidelines for the Merit Review of Indigenous Research are relevant for researchers preparing SSHRC applications related to Indigenous research. SSHRC provides these guidelines 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 to judge the extent to which the guidelines can be applied to a particular research proposal.

For this initiative, AAFC and SSHRC will establish a joint interdisciplinary and intersectoral merit review committee that may include expertise in sociology, economics, political science, Indigenous research, geography, psychology, anthropology, history and other relevant interdisciplinary fields, such as food studies and/or policy studies, with members from academia and non-academic sectors.

Participants in the review process, if not in a conflict of interest with the applicant or any team members, will be asked to evaluate proposals based on the evaluation criteria below.

After 18 months into the grant period, a merit review committee will assess the progress to date of the successful project, including the knowledge mobilization activities produced and the merit of its proposed partnership research and training activities. SSHRC will conduct this evaluation process in collaboration with AAFC.

This evaluation should be seen as an opportunity for the grantee to address any realignment of the project since the start of the grant and provide more details to the evaluation committee on the research and training activities to be developed in the remaining years of the grant.

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%):
    • alignment of the proposal with the goal and objective of the funding opportunity;
    • expected contribution to the preservation of, access to and/or mobilization of research knowledge;
    • quality and significance of the research being mobilized;
    • originality, significance and expected contribution to knowledge;
    • appropriateness of the literature review, including oral literature, if applicable;
    • appropriateness of the theoretical approach or framework;
    • appropriateness of the methods/approach, including the co-creation of knowledge and, if applicable, Indigenous ways of knowing and storytelling;
    • quality of training and mentoring to be provided to students, emerging scholars and other highly qualified personnel, as well as opportunities for them to contribute, and quality of equity, diversity and inclusion considerations in the recruitment, training and mentoring plan;
    • potential for the project results to have influence and impact within and/or beyond the social sciences and humanities research community; and
    • identification of progress indicators.
  2. Feasibility—The plan to achieve excellence (30%):
    • appropriateness of the proposed timeline and probability that the objectives will be met;
    • quality and genuineness of the formal partnership, associated management and governance arrangements, and leadership of partner organizations from the private, public and/or not-for-profit sector, including their involvement in the design and conduct of the research and/or related activities;
    • expertise of the team and appropriateness of partner organizations in relation to the proposed project;
    • appropriateness of the requested budget and justification of proposed costs;
    • quality of the proposed contribution plan for leveraging cash and in-kind support from the host institution and/or from partner organizations; and
    • quality and appropriateness of the knowledge mobilization including effective dissemination, exchange and engagement with stakeholders within and/or beyond the research community, where applicable.
  3. Capability—The expertise to succeed (30%):
    • quality, quantity and significance of past experience and published and/or creative outputs including community products of the applicant / project director and any co-directors or co-applicants, relative to their role in the partnership and to the stage of their career;
    • 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 media), and of impacts on professional practice, social services and policies, etc.;
    • quality and quantity of past contributions to the training and mentoring of students, postdoctoral researchers and other highly qualified personnel; and
    • past experience in collaborative research initiatives or partnerships.

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.

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

Research offices will be informed of their applicants’ competition results via SSHRC’s secure site. All applicants will be provided, in addition to SSHRC’s notice of decision, a summary of the merit review committee’s evaluation of their proposal.

Regulations, policies and related information

AAFC personnel with responsibility for management of this initiative will be given access to relevant application material for purposes consistent with administrative or merit review processes, as required. Aside from information publicly available (e.g., list of award holders, administrative organizations, value of SSHRC's grants, title and keywords of projects), SSHRC will not share with AAFC any information pertaining to applications submitted to SSHRC without the consent of SSHRC applicants or award holders.

Therefore, by submitting an application to this funding opportunity, applicants/project directors agree to their application content being shared with AAFC for the purposes stated here.

AAFC and SSHRC reserve 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) and the Tri-Agency Research Data Management Policy, which, as of April 1, 2021, has replaced SSHRC’s Research Data Archiving policy for all active grants.

Specific rules for the use of grant funds

  • Project coordinator/manager positions are an eligible expense, with three restrictions:
    • an individual cannot be a participant on the grant;
    • an individual cannot be paid for administrative services that the institution normally provides; and
    • an individual cannot be paid to conduct research activities.
  • Not-for-profit organizations can request a salary research allowance to cover up to 50% of the annual salary of an employee who is being temporarily replaced because they will be devoting their time as an applicant / project director, co-director or co-applicant.
  • 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.
  • As outlined in the Tri-agency Guide on Financial Administration, grant funds can be used to hire research support personnel (students, trainees, research assistants, etc.) to work on the research activities, provided that the directive on employment and compensation expenditures is met and that the hiring is in accordance with the organization’s (administering institution’s) policies and processes. Individuals employed to work on funded research/activities are not considered employees of SSHRC and can be compensated via salary or stipend from the grant funds. If employment includes provision of compensation benefits, the organization’s (administering institution’s) share of the costs of mandated compensation benefits is eligible for reimbursement from grant funds. Subject to the restrictions identified in the directive above, individuals employed and compensated by another organization for the time spent on the funded research/activities cannot be compensated from grant funds. In addition, SSHRC grant funds cannot be used to pay compensation to grant recipients or individuals who conduct research independently (including, but not limited to, the applicant / project director, co-directors, co-applicants and collaborators) as part of the terms and conditions of their employment.

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

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