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4.1 International Policy and Strategy

One of the goals of SSHRC's strategic direction is to strengthen connections across borders and disciplines. SSHRC's international policy and strategy is a key means by which the Council aims to meet this objective. The international policy and strategy is multi-lateral in its basic orientation and aims to:

  • Provide opportunities for new and established Canadian researchers to lead and contribute to international collaborative activities;
  • Promote the contribution of Canadian social sciences and humanities researchers to, and Canada's leadership in, major global issues and international research agendas; and
  • Increase opportunities for research trainees to study and conduct research in an international context.

Specifically, the international strategy aims to:

  • Involve Canadian researchers in international research initiated here and abroad;
  • Foster international mobility for Canadian students, and for foreign students wishing to study in Canada;
  • Disseminate Canadian research around the world;
  • Strengthen Canada's presence in international research forums; and
  • Position Canadian social sciences and humanities research internationally.

Current key international activities, initiatives and partnerships include the following.

The European Research Area and Canada (ERA-Can): ERA-Can is a multi-agency, multi-year (2005-06 to 2008-09) initiative within the European Commission's European Research Area Network (ERA-NET) program. The initiative has established a Canada-European Union Cooperation Office to facilitate S&T collaboration between Canada and the European Union.
SSHRC's Canadian partners in the initiative are Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, CFI, NSERC, CIHR, Genome Canada and the National Research Council Canada. Key results in 2006-07 include:

  • Implementation of a website and publication of two newsletters to provide stakeholders with information on ERA-Can;
  • Delivery of information sessions on the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme, or FP7, at the annual meeting of international liaison offices of Canadian universities and at the University of Toronto, and the planning of three additional sessions for 2007-08; and
  • Organization of a Canada-European Union workshop on nanotechnologies held in Waterloo in June 2007.

European Research Area on Societal Aspects of Genomics (ERA-SAGE): ERA-SAGE is a multi-agency, multi-year (2005-10) consortium64 that aims to co-ordinate research funding efforts and capacity-building on the societal aspects of genomics.
SSHRC's partners in the consortium include research funding agencies in the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Canada, Austria, Finland, Norway, Germany, Israel and Switzerland. Canada is a full member of the network through SSHRC. The Council is working closely with Genome Canada65 on ERA-SAGE and has taken a lead in mapping North American research capacity in this area. Key results in 2006-07 include:

  • Two major studies on trends in research on the societal aspects of genomics in North America, and a workshop with researchers and stakeholders to validate the research reports and identify emerging research trends; and
  • A Genome Canada, SSHRC and CIHR workshop to identify best practices in funding research on the societal aspects of genomics.

The reports from these activities will be used by ERA-SAGE to help develop a plan for future transnational activities.

New Opportunities for Research Funding Co-operation in Europe (NORFACE) -
A Strategy for Social Sciences: The ERA-NET NORFACE Strategy for Social Sciences66 is a multi-agency, multi-year (2005-10) partnership between research funding agencies in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Estonia, Slovenia and Portugal to increase co-operation in research, research funding and research policy in Europe. Canada is an associate member of NORFACE. In 2006-07, SSHRC contributed to the work of the network by:

  • Organizing an international workshop on user engagement in research, an area in which Canada has extensive expertise to share with NORFACE partners (the workshop report is being used by NORFACE's management board to help develop a joint international program); and
  • Joining NORFACE's staff exchange visit program promoting the exchange of program managers and directors in order to help partners gain deeper knowledge and understanding of member organizations and, thereby, help in the development of joint transnational activities.

Canada-Mexico Partnership: In 2005, Canada and Mexico entered into an agreement to strengthen bilateral policy and economic and research co-operation, and to promote private and public sector dialogue at senior levels between the two countries. SSHRC and Mexico's Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologa (CONACYT)67 are members of one of the related working groups on human capital. The group is examining how enhanced research collaboration between the two countries can be promoted. Key results for 2006-07 include:

  • Mapping granting agencies' converging research priority areas to help establish the potential for joint activities; and
  • Developing a pilot peer review exchange arrangement between CONACYT and Canada's three federal research granting agencies.

4.2 The Tri-Council Memorandum of Understanding on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards

The Tri-Council Memorandum of Understanding on the Roles and Responsibilities in the Management of Federal Grants and Awards68 (MOU) was put in place in 2001. It describes the basic requirements for obtaining and maintaining institutional eligibility to administer agency funds. The MOU represents an important and tangible element in the shared accountability of granting agencies and institutions in support of research, and these organizations' joint responsibility for the more than $1 billion annual research investment made by the federal government.

Development was started in 2004 on a second phase of the MOU to add several appendixes to the agreement. Phase 2 has involved two rounds of consultations with the university community to ensure that the provisions of the new appendixes are clear and can reasonably be implemented at the institutions.

The second round of consultations was completed in spring 2006. The tri-agency working group now charged with the development of Phase 2 held an informal consultation in May 2007 on the latest version of the MOU, inviting representatives of several organizations to review the text and identify any concerns. The final text of the Phase 2 MOU will be made available to the university community for review in fall 2007. Sign-off by the executive heads of the universities is anticipated for late 2007.

In 2006 the federal government launched an independent blue ribbon panel to recommend measures to make the delivery of grant and contribution programs more efficient while ensuring greater accountability. In December 2006 the panel submitted its final report, which identified the MOU as a best practice.

4.3 Ethics of Research Involving Humans

In 2001 the three federal research granting agencies developed, approved and implemented a joint policy statement to promote the ethical conduct of research involving human subjects-the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans. The agencies will only fund researchers, institutions or partnering organizations that comply with the ethical principles and articles of the policy statement.

In 2006 a group of organizations, including the three federal research granting agencies, sharing a common interest in promoting research involving humans that meets the highest standards in excellence and ethics, came together to form the Sponsors' Table for Human Research Participant Protection in Canada. The Sponsors' Table is exploring new ways to encourage ethical practice, as well as a system of accreditation or alternative system for the governance of human research ethics. To this end, the participating sponsors have created a committee of experts to develop and assess an accreditation and alternative systems for human research participant protection in Canada.

The Experts Committee report is expected to be released in late summer 2007 as part of an upcoming consultation exercise carried out by the Sponsors' Table. SSHRC is working closely with NSERC, CIHR and other members of the Sponsors' Table to ensure that the consultation exercise and any decisions regarding ethics governance accommodate the needs and interests of all researchers.