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Caught Between Two Councils: Funding Trajectories for Social S
Transcript of Caught Between Two Councils: Funding Trajectories for Social S
Funding Trajectories for Social Science and Humanities Health Researchers in Canada, 2006-2014
Sherri Klassen, Ph.D., Research Coordinator, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
Katelin Albert, M.A. Doctoral Candidate,
Department of Sociology, University of Toronto, Canada
In 2009, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) ceased accepting grant proposals with subject material focusing on health
Social science and humanist health researchers who previously sought SSHRC funding were
redirected to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
What Impact did this change have on Social Science and Humanistic health research in Canada?
What happened to the
Social Science and Humanities health researchers who could no longer apply to SSHRC for their health research? Were they successful in CIHR or SSHRC after 2009?
What are the characteristics
of the researchers who were successful with CIHR after 2009? What disciplines do they come from and what were their funding backgrounds before 2009?
Which researchers returned to SSHRC
and what strategies did they use to reframe their research to preserve its eligibility?
To answer these questions, we studied the researchers funded.
Stage 1: Getting the Sample
1. We conducted a health-related keyword search (health, wellness, mental health, stress) in the SSHRC Awards Search Engine for Applicants funded in the Standard Research Grant Program in 2006-07 (2 years before the policy shift)
2. We then manually cleaned the data to remove projects not health-related and those who received another SRG before 2009
3. For the sake of comparison, we also drew a random sample of 200 SSHRC researchers who did not have a health focus from the same years.
Stage 2: Tracking the Researchers
1. We inputted the names of the researchers (PIs)
from our sample into the CIHR database and pulled up their funding history both before and after 2009
2. We also searched for the same names in the SSHRC database after the 2009 change.
3. We then repeated this process for the random sample.
Stage 3: Profiling the Researchers
To gain an understanding of the characteristics of the researchers who successfully transitioned to CIHR and/or successfully secured more funding from SSHRC, we searched on university and professional websites to find the departments and divisions in which the researchers were employed.
Here's what we found
Many social scientists and humanities researchers face challenges as they moved their research into the health field because they are part of distinct “epistemic cultures” (Knorr-Cetina 1999) and scientific communities, affecting how practitioners conduct research and define health (Albert et al. 2008).
Why is this potentially a problem?
Because disciplines have unique
"cultures of evaluation" (Lamont 2009) when peer-reviewing the quality, excellence, and originality of research (Guetzkow et al. 2004), many SSH researchers fear that CIHR researchers are too far from their disciplinary norms to offer fair peer review (Albert 2014).
Navigating epistemological terrains can result in “undone science” where particular alternative research agendas and areas of research are not funded, are incomplete, and ignored (Hess 2007).
And so we ask...
A total of 249 social science and humanist health researchers received funding from SSHRC in 2006/07. They were from the following disciplines:
21% of the sample (53 researchers) held primary appointments in Medical Schools while conducting social science research
19% of the sample (48 researchers) were in Psychology Departments that were not part of medical schools
Those listed in the "Other Social Sciences" include faculty in Anthropology, Demography, Disability Studies, Geography, Gerontology or Life Course Studies, Information Studies, Policy and Public Administration, Political Science, and Sexology
of the sample were successful with the TriCouncil in the 4 years following the 2009 policy shift.
Some of this attrition is natural, as many SSH researchers do not continuously hold funding.
Nonetheless, in the random sample, approximately
were successful in receiving another operating grant in the same time period, suggesting that not all of the attrition was natural.
Here's how it panned out:
66 researchers went back and received more funding from SSHRC after 2009
44 researchers received new funding from CIHR after 2009
151 researchers received no new Tri-Council Funding by 2012
Of those 44 who received funding from CIHR, 19 were in disciplines housed in medical schools
5 were health sociologists
5 were in social work or social services
5 were in psychology
5 were n other social sciences
3 were in kinesiology or phys. ed.
1 was in business or economics
1 was a humanist
The one humanities scholar who succeeded was a philosopher studying ethics and pharmaceuticals
66 researchers successfully returned to SSHRC
17 were in psychology departments
12 were in the humanities
10 were in social sciences not listed elsewhere
7 were in social work and social services
5 were in business or economics
5 were in medical schools
4 were in sociology
4 were in education
3 were in kinesiology or phys.ed.
These numbers include 12 researchers who received funding from both councils after 2009 (4 psych, 2 other soc sci, 2 social work, 1 business, 1 humanities, 1 med, 1 phys ed)
To be successful at SSHRC, many researchers who had previously done health research, reframed their research
from health themes. Here's what happened:
public health polices
immigration policies or urban reform policies
conceptions of healing
concepts of the self
persons with disabilities
critical thought (in cognitive development)
sorcery (in Early Modern Spain)
Some SSH research themes and approaches are common the 2006-07 sample but diminish after 2009. These themes include:
Disability as a social construct
non-medical concepts of health and healing
intersections between health and the justice system
historical studies related to health and medicine
international case studies
intersections between health and poverty
This is what we call "undone science"
The results of this research show that after the 2009 policy change, the majority of SSH researchers continued to seek research funding from SSHRC, which often involved reframing their research away from health issues/outcomes.
To sum up
Most of the SSH researchers who were successful at CIHR after 2009 were housed in medical schools and/or had previous experience with CIHR. These researchers were arguably more similar in research and epistemic culture to the biomedical researchers who dominate in CIHR than the SSH researchers who returned to SSHRC or received no new funding after 2009.
Results suggest that a significant amount of SSH health research became “undone” with some SSH researchers reframing their work for SSHRC, and others not receiving any funding after the 2009 policy change.
Because of the nature of the public data, we cannot know whether these trends are due to peer review problems that resulted in SSH applications being unsuccessful, or the
of peer review bias that resulted in researchers not applying to CIHR (i.e., we do not have data on the number of unsuccessful applications). This is a limitation of the study.
CIHR is currently piloting a change to the peer-review system, whereby applications will be individually reviewed by five experts in the proposal’s area, rather than by a panel of multidisciplinary reviewers.
This change could resolve some of the difficulty in assigning appropriate peer reviewers, especially in fields where a significant number of applications arrive each year.
It remains to be seen if the College of Reviewers can be broad enough to encompass the expertise needed to fairly evaluate the diversity of the SSH health researchers, and how this will impact SSH researcher’s application decisions.
Thank you to Emilia Main, who worked as a research assistant on this project and did the tedious work of tracking the researchers, and thank you to the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto who, among other things, funded Emilia through the Work-Study Program.
For correspondence, please email Sherri Klassen: email@example.com
Albert, Katelin. 2014. Erasing the social from social science: The intellectual costs of boundary-work and the Canadian Institute of Health Research. Canadian Journal of Sociology. (Forthcoming).
Albert, Mathieu, Suzanne Laberge, Brian D. Hodges, Glenn Regehr, and Lorelei Lingard. 2008. Biomedical scientists' perception of the social sciences in health research. Social Science & Medicine 66(12): 2520-2531.
Guetzkow, Joshua, Michèle Lamont, and Grégoire Mallard. 2004. What is originality in the humanities and the social sciences? American Sociological Review 69(2):190-212.
Hess, David. 2007. Alternative Pathways In Science And Industry: Activism, Innovation, And The Environment In An Era Of Globalization. Cambridge: MIT Press.
Knorr-Cetina, Karin. 1999. Epistemic Cultures. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Lamont, Michèle. 2009. How professors think. Harvard University Press.