Congratulations SSHRC on a new strategic plan. Implementing this plan will help social sciences and humanities research have an impact on the lives of Canadians.
Toutes nos félicitations pour ce nouveau plan stratégique ! Grâce à lui, la recherche en sciences humaines et sociales aura encore plus d’impact sur la vie des Canadiens et des Canadiennes.
SSHRC recently released its new strategic plan to guide its investments and impact from 2016-2020. The plan is organized around the three pillars of SSHRC’s funding: research (=insight); training (=talent) and knowledge mobilization (=connections). All three underpin SSHRC’s traditional impacts on scholarship and training; however, the strategic plan also provides direction on how the social sciences and humanities can have an impact on Canadians outside of the academy. For more information on the potential impacts of the social sciences and humanities please see the Federation of the Humanities and Social Sciences who launched a project in late 2014 to explore how to measure these impacts.
SSHRC’s desire to create impacts is evident right from the opening page:
It [social sciences and humanities research] enhances our ability to understand and creatively respond to complex individual, social, cultural and economic issues.
Right to the very last sentence:
SSHRC will advance opportunities for the results of its funding – new ideas and trained people – to be more accessible to Canadian organizations in all sectors, to contribute to decision-making and innovation, and to address the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Ted Hewitt, in his introduction to the Strategic Plan, points out that, “Findings from [social sciences and humanities] research are used by – and often, developed with – stakeholders across all sectors, to improve our quality of life, enrich cultural expression, and drive prosperity, equity and sustainability through innovation.”
What SSHRC is committing to is not new for researchers. Canadian researchers, students and their research institutions have a long tradition of working in collaboration with partners from all sectors to create new knowledge, train the next generation and mobilize knowledge into social, economic and environmental impacts. For more than ten years The Harris Centre (Memorial University) and York University’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit have been leading local knowledge mobilization efforts that connect researchers and students to non-academic partners. The Community Engaged Scholarship Institute (U. Guelph) has been supporting the Research Shop and community based research since 2009. These three are among twelve universities working together as ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR). Our knowledge mobilization network has a vision to “maximize the impact of university research for the social, cultural, economic, environmental, and health benefits across local and global communities.” RIR will accomplish this by “developing and sharing best practices, services and tools, and by demonstrating to relevant stakeholders and the public the positive impacts of mobilizing knowledge” (RIR Strategic Plan, 2014).
The commitments in SSHRC’s Strategic Plan and those of the RIR Strategic Plan are mutually reinforcing. Both will support the work of researchers and their partners seeking to make an impact on Canadians. SSHRC makes a commitment to “advance opportunities for the results of its funding–new ideas and trained people—to be more accessible to Canadian organizations in all sectors, to contribute to decision-making and innovation, and to help identify and address the challenges of today and tomorrow. In pursuit of this objective SSHRC will:
- Collaborate with the public, private, not-for-profit and academic sectors to address key current and future challenge areas for Canada;
- Increase opportunities for students to engage with non-academic sectors in internships and other innovative research-based learning initiatives;
- Work with students, researchers, research institutions and other stakeholders to better articulate the value and contribution of research.”
This also describes the work of RIR. RIR supports knowledge mobilization that facilitates research collaborations to enable research impacts. RIR promotes engaged undergraduate and graduate student experiences through community service learning, student internships and research shops. RIR is developing methods to assess and communicate the impacts of research on Canadians. RIR has adapted the impact case study format of the UK Research Excellence Framework and complemented it with methods of contribution analysis.
The work at SSHRC to achieve this commitment is well underway. SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative as an example of how SSHRC is already connecting research and researchers beyond the academy to help address and prepare for our future. In 2014 the (then) four Ontario RIR universities – Carleton, York, Guelph and Wilfrid Laurier – collaborated on four regional, SSHRC funded events that collectively helped to imagine Canada’s future by addressing the question: “What knowledge do we need to thrive in an interconnected landscape and how can emerging technology help leverage that goal and its benefits?” Details on the Carleton and Guelph events are available on line. The York event featured SSHRC Partnership Grant funded researcher, Anna Hudson, and her partners from northern Inuit communities and Inuit media companies who also recently presented to the Canadian Knowledge Transfer and Exchange Community of Practice. This recent event created further connections to Canada’s knowledge mobilization researchers and practitioners.
RIR is pleased that SSHRC is not only continuing to promote traditional impacts on scholarship and training but is supplementing these efforts by promoting the broader impacts of research on Canadians. The social sciences and humanities can raise awareness and understanding of economic, cultural, social and environmental issues. They can inform public policies, social services and professional practices that are the basis of Canadians’ responses to these complex issues. Echoing SSHRC’s last commitment above, the RIR universities also look forward to working with students, researchers and other stakeholders to support, assess and articulate the impacts of social sciences and humanities research.
Congratulations SSHRC. The RIR universities look forward to collaborating on impact.
Started in 2006, the RIR universities now include Memorial University of Newfoundland, University of New Brunswick, Université du Québec à Montréal, Université du Montréal, Carleton University, York University, McMaster University, University of Guelph, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Saskatchewan, Kwantlen Polytechnic University and University of Victoria.