SSHRC Leaders 2017 Annual Meeting—Executive Summary

On December 7 and 8, 2017, SSHRC held its tenth annual SSHRC Leaders meeting at Library and Archives Canada (LAC) in Ottawa. This event was attended by a record 65 Leaders representing institutions across Canada. Prior to the meeting, 18 SSHRC Leaders representing new and existing members of the network participated in an orientation session.

Following welcome and introductory remarks from Ursula Gobel, associate vice-president, Future Challenges, SSHRC President Ted Hewitt delivered his opening remarks. He discussed the federal government’s response to Canada’s Fundamental Science Review and provided an overview of this past year’s activities, noting an increase in the number of collaborations with various government agencies.

An Update and Discussion on Programs and Competitions session led to a meaningful exchange among SSHRC Leaders and SSHRC’s senior management. A range of topics was discussed, including:

  • support to small universities;
  • support for undergraduate research scholarship and international students;
  • research-creation funding; and
  • classification of design as a research area.

This was followed by a session on strategic overview, which involved an open conversation with the five members of SSHRC’s senior executive team and was moderated by Robert Luke, SSHRC Leader from OCAD University. Comments and questions from the SSHRC Leaders touched on a range of issues, including levels of federal funding for social science and humanities research; institutional recognition for the value of community-engaged research and knowledge mobilization; and challenges for smaller institutions.

The first of three thematic discussions focused on the Research Portal. Feedback was sought through roundtable discussions in the following areas: funding opportunities, merit review process, achieving results, and award administration.

The second thematic discussion, in a panel format, was on the Government of Canada’s Innovation and Skills Plan. Speakers included policy-makers from three departments: Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Treasury Board of Canada, and Employment and Social Development Canada. The panelists emphasized the important role of social sciences and humanities research in policy-making and as an input to innovation.

The third and final thematic discussion also took the form of a panel, with representatives from the three federal research agencies—SSHRC, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. This was followed by roundtable discussions and a plenary session. Small group discussions centred on five areas:

  • internationalization;
  • leadership;
  • support for Indigenous research and researchers;
  • assessment of individuals with career interruptions; and
  • integration of social sciences and humanities into the Canada Excellence Research Chairs.

An evening reception followed the close of the day’s sessions. Ted Hewitt made brief introductory remarks, thanking the LAC for hosting the SSHRC Leaders meeting. Normand Charbonneau, assistant deputy minister and chief operating officer, provided welcoming remarks on behalf of the LAC.

On day two, Roseann O’Reilly Runte, president and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), spoke about the CFI’s current activities and longer-term objectives. O’Reilly Runte remarked on the value of interdisciplinary research, the importance of training students with skills essential for their future work, as well as evaluation systems and success measures.

Ursula Gobel presented SSHRC’s 2018-21 implementation plan for the Imagining Canada’s Future initiative, which is composed of three pillars: Foresight on Societal Futures, Research on Emerging Issues, and Futures in Research and Training.  

SSHRC Leaders also participated in a series of World Café sessions, rotating among three of six topics of their choice: research data management, Indigenous research, scholarly publishing / open access, doctoral awards harmonization, social infrastructure, and harmonization of post-award administration.

It was noted that 2018 marks SSHRC’s 40th anniversary, and universities are encouraged to spotlight the contributions of SSHRC-funded research and talent at their respective institutions. Further information on SSHRC’s 40th anniversary activities will be forthcoming.