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Societal Implications of Genomics Research

Genome Canada and SSHRC Joint Initiative on Societal Implications of Genomics Research

1. Background

Genome Canada (GC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) have signed a joint initiative agreement to jointly support social sciences and humanities research and related activities pertaining to research in the field of genomics.

Next generation genomics, with its decreasing sequencing costs and significant ability to generate and analyze vast amounts of data is opening up whole new fields of exploration for life scientists as well as social science and humanities scholars passionate about advancing biotechnology in unforeseeable ways. Genomics-based innovation in fields such as synthetic biology, or agriculture to optimize farming processes, or protecting the environment through bioremediation and biofuels, provide just a few examples. The significant ethical, economic, environmental, legal and/or social challenges and opportunities of this new wave of innovations in the field of genomics can entail complex economic and social changes, and therefore represent a potentially rich topic for social scientists and humanities scholars to explore.

2. Objective

The overall objective of this joint initiative is to support social sciences and humanities research and related activities that will enrich the understanding of the societal implications of genomic research. It is also intended to help build the cadre of social sciences and humanities scholars interested in pursuing genomics-related research collaborations and facilitate their becoming part of multidisciplinary teams applying to Genome Canada applied research competitions.

The objective will be achieved by supporting activities in the field of genomics, outlined as follows:

  • Supporting research and partnerships led by researchers in the social sciences and humanities
  • Supporting multidisciplinary and multisectoral research and connection activities

This joint initiative is open to all social sciences and humanities disciplines using quantitative and qualitative methodologies to investigate genomics in society, with the aim of potentially informing applications, practices and policies related to genomics. That said, certain disciplines are often in demand as part of research collaborations within Genome Canada’s large-scale applied research competitions. We therefore particularly encourage researchers in the following specialities to apply, as success under this joint initiative may facilitate future interactions and potentially collaborative research projects with the genomics research community:

  • Economists with sectoral expertise (e.g. health, agriculture, fisheries, forestry, energy, mining, environment)
  • Regulatory experts (particularly in the above sectors)
  • Sociologists
  • Policy/Political scientists
  • Environmental scientists
  • Legal scholars with expertise in intellectual property

3. Application Process

In order to be considered for funding under the Genome Canada and SSHRC Initiative, applicants must submit their grant application to one of the following SSHRC funding opportunities:

  • Insight Development Grants support research in its initial stages. The grants enable the development of new research questions, as well as experimentation with new methods, theoretical approaches and/or ideas. 
  • Insight Grants support research excellence in the social sciences and humanities. Funding is available to both emerging and established scholars for long-term research initiatives. Insight Grants research initiatives may be undertaken by an individual researcher or a team of researchers working in collaboration.
  • Partnership Development Grants provide support to foster new research and/or related activities with new and/or existing partners; and to design and test new partnership approaches for research and/or related activities.
  • Connection Grants support workshops, colloquiums, conferences, forums, summer institutes or other events or outreach activities geared toward short-term, targeted knowledge mobilization initiatives. These events and activities represent opportunities to exchange knowledge and to engage on research issues of value to those participating.

Upon application to one of these funding opportunities applicants will be invited to indicate their interest in being considered for this joint initiative on Societal Implications of Genomics Research. By doing so, an applicant agrees to allow SSHRC to share application information with Genome Canada.

4. Eligibility

In addition to adhering to SSHRC’s policies and regulations pertaining to the above-mentioned funding opportunities, the proposed projects must also address the objective pertaining to this joint initiative as described above and adhere to Genome Canada’s Guidelines for Funding.

5. Evaluation and Adjudication

Applications received for this Genome Canada and SSHRC joint initiative on Societal Implications of Genomics Research will be assessed against all other proposals received under a given SSHRC funding opportunity. Genome Canada will determine which applications are relevant to the joint initiative and share the cost with SSHRC of the relevant proposals recommended for funding by the merit review committee.

Exceptions to Genome Canada’s Guidelines for Funding

  • Genome Centres : Although applications must be submitted directly to SSHRC, and do not require sign-off from a regional Genome Centre, applicants are encouraged to contact their Genome Centre for advice regarding this joint initiative from the genomics perspective.
  • Co-funding: There is no requirement for co-funding.
  • General and Administrative Costs: While administrative costs must be reasonable, low and directly related to the research proposed, due to the nature and size of the projects under this joint initiative Genome Canada’s normal limit of 5% of the non-administrative costs of the budget will not be applied.
  • Reporting Requirements: The intent is to harmonize reporting requirements with SSHRC as much as possible. Financial reporting will be required on an annual basis. Some Genome Centres may also require periodic reporting on research progress, but this is expected to be no more frequent than annually.

Projects