The Social Science and Humanities Research Council, says philosopher Jean Grondin, “is the lifeblood of all social sciences and humanities researchers in Canada. It makes our research possible, and adds to its credibility and impact. I do not know what we would do without it.”
This year, Grodin’s connection is even stronger, as the SSHRC — pronounced ‘shirk’ – awarded him its Impact Prize Gold Medal, “given to individuals whose sustained leadership, dedication and originality of thought have inspired students and colleagues alike.” This year’s awards ceremony was held October 3 in Ottawa as part of SSHRC’s 40th anniversary celebrations.
The Gold Medal is one of five annual Impact Prizes handed out by the government agency for exceptional research, applications or scholarship derived from SSHRC funding or fellowships. In the last fiscal year, SSHRC, one of three government agencies that give grants for academic research, awarded more than 4,200 grants, fellowships or scholarships from a grant budget of CAN$388 million.
Grodin, a professor in the Department of Philosophy at the Université de Montréal and president of the Royal Society of Canada’s Academy of the Arts and Humanities, is one of the most read philosophers in the world. He’s written more than 20 books — including 1993’s L’universalité de l’herméneutique, 2003’s Hans-Georg Gadamer: A Biography, and Introduction à la métaphysique from 2004 — which have been translated into 15 languages. Grodin is known for his work on German philosophy, metaphysics and hermeneutics, and his own philosophy of meaning emphasizes the human mind’s capacity for understanding, initiative and hope.
Since 1984, Grondin has consistently received SSHRC funding. Last year he received a five-year Insight Grant for his highly original research on preserving the legacy of metaphysical thinking.
SSHRC awards four other Impact prizes: Insight, Talent, Connection and Partnership.
Cultural anthropologist Tania Li at the University of Toronto received the Insight Award, which honors contributions to understanding people, societies and the world. Li, through her work and publications such as Land’s End: Capitalist Relations on an Indigenous Frontier, challenges the idea that high-market value agriculture brings uniform development benefits for residents. With SSHRC support for her Poverty and Wealth in Indonesia’s New Rural Economies project, her research team examined the nature and outcomes of rural land transformation on the islands of Sulawesi and Kalimantan. A former director of the University of Toronto’s Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, she has presented research results to decision-makers at institutions like the World Bank, the former Canadian International Development Agency and the European Parliament.
“The ethnographic research I do in Indonesia,” she said, “requires linguistic skills, area knowledge, contacts and expertise that build up over time—hence the value of SSHRC’s sustained support.”The Talent Award, which recognizes for both research achievement and career potential from the holder of a SSHRC doctoral or postdoctoral fellowship or scholarship, went Shane D. Neilson, an adjunct professor of family medicine at McMaster University. Neilson had a varied trajectory as a medical doctor-poet before becoming an SSHRC Vanier Scholar. His interdisciplinary model of “medical humanities,” combines literary studies and medicine and allows him to explore how pain can be understood, described, and treated in ways beyond opiates.
“I’d like to point to the broader humanities context in which I was allowed to flourish,” he said after receiving the Impact prize. “That context depends on SSHRC support for the journals and monograph publishers that disseminate our research, as well as the institutes, conferences and symposia that allow us to gather and collaborate.”
The Connection Award recognizes an initiative that allows SSHRC-funded scholarship to flow between or beyond the social sciences and humanities research community. Through SSHRC’s former Community-University Research Alliance program, Jennifer Llewellyn at Dalhousie University’s Schulich School of Law led the “Beyond Theory: Assessing Restorative Justice in Practice” collaborative research project which brought together five universities and 18 government and community partner organizations. The results have resonated in Nova Scotia – it became become the Nova Scotia Local Restorative Learning Community — and around the world. Llewellyn, the Yogis and Keddy Chair in Human Rights Law at Schulich, studies the need for a wide range of institutions to create the right conditions for just relationships, where all parties enjoy equal respect, care and concern, and dignity.
The Partnership Award recognizes a SSHRC-funded formal partnership for an outstanding achievement, either in research or scholarship or in finding new ways for the partnership to approach research. The award goes to Carla Lipsig-Mummé, a professor in York University’s Work and Labour Studies program who has shown how workplaces and labor unions influence climate change, especially in developed countries. Her partnerships have led to large-scale, publicly accessible databases of successful labor-management agreements for collaboration on reducing the production of greenhouse gases. The founding director of York’s Centre for Research on Work and Society, she has been the principal investigator on 46 grants to date, 28 of which were funded by SSHRC.