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Dal researchers receive $2.4 million in funding from SSHRC

- June 4, 2018

Researchers from Dalhousie University have received $2.4 million for their innovative social sciences and humanities projects.

The funding is being awarded through grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), one of the three federal granting councils responsible for supporting the researchers and scholars who are strengthening science and evidence-based decision-making, while nurturing a culture of curiosity in Canada.

The announcement was made on May 28 at the University of Regina by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities. Over 800 research projects across Canada received more than $158 million in funding. This is the largest investment in fundamental research in Canadian history through Budget 2018.

These grants will fund research projects on education, immigration, youth, Indigenous arts leadership and climate change. The discoveries made will give us a greater understanding of the world around us and provide the government with evidence to make sound policy decisions about families and communities, health and environment, and jobs.

“Thanks to the work of the hundreds of researchers being recognized today, Canadians can gain a better understanding of the world we live in,” says Minister Duncan in a news release. “It is my honour to support these talented researchers and help them push the boundaries of knowledge that will mean a better environment, better health, better society, and a better economy for all Canadians.”

The funding Dal researchers received included $199,966 in Partnership Development Grants, which support formal partnerships between academic researchers, businesses and other partners, and $2.2 million in Insight Grants, which build knowledge and understanding about people, societies and the world by supporting research excellence in all subject areas eligible for funding from SSHRC.

Highlights of successfully funded researchers


Matthew Schnurr, Associate Professor, Department of International Development Studies
The GMO 2.0 Partnership (Partnership Development Grant)

Over half a billion dollars has been invested in creating Genetically Modified (GM) staple crops as a means of alleviating poverty and hunger in Sub-Saharan Africa. These second-generation GM crops — which we term GMO 2.0 — are nearly ready for wide-scale distribution.

Social scientists agree that the potential for new technologies to alleviate poverty depend on whether women gain decision-making power over cropping methods, variety selection, labour allocation, and the use of household income. The potential for GM crops to mitigate poverty will similarly hinge on their ability to enhance women's well-being, yet there is no research that seeks to evaluate how these soon-to-be-released technologies will impact gender relations.

The overarching goal of Dr. Schnurr’s project is to establish an international collaboration to investigate the second wave of Genetically Modified (GM) crops being introduced into Sub-Saharan Africa, with a focus on women farmers. This partnership brings together Canadian universities, African research institutes, and African Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) in four countries committed to commercializing GM crops by the end of 2019: South Africa (drought-resistant maize), Kenya (virusresistant cassava), Uganda (bio-fortified cooking banana) and Ghana (insect-resistant cowpea).

Karen Foster, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology
Seeing a future in it: Generations and work in Atlantic Canada (Insight Grant)

In many countries, concerns are mounting around what will happen when the “Baby Boomers” exit the labour force permanently. In rural Atlantic Canada, these concerns have crystalized around a looming crisis in the region’s independent farms, fisheries, and small businesses. Scattered statistics and anecdotal evidence suggest that as large cohorts of farmers, fishers, and independent business owners approach retirement, the next generation is not poised to take their place.

The objective of Dr. Foster’s research is to understand what is happening in independent, family-owned enterprises in rural communities, explain what is at stake in their survival, and shed light on what, if anything, should be done – particularly in terms of progressive policy responses to rural depopulation and the “crisis” of occupational succession.

Hélène Deacon, Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
Children’s understanding of complex texts: Sentence structure is key to success (Insight Grant)

Reading comprehension is the single most important skill that children learn in elementary school. It is the foundation for strong academic learning and full societal participation.

The skills needed for full literacy are growing because written materials in both schools and workplaces are becoming increasingly complex. There is a wealth of evidence on how children learn to read words, but far less data on how they understand what they read.

Dr. Deacon’s research program will provide systematic knowledge of the core skills that children need to understand what they read. Her research focuses on children’s awareness of sentence structure. Sentence structure is the key feature that makes written materials harder to read, and educators need to know how to help children with complex sentences to support full reading comprehension.

Deacon’s basic scientific research will provide a basis for highly effective teaching strategies, empowering educators with new knowledge on how to support strong reading outcomes.

The other researchers from Dalhousie who also received funding include:

Christopher Helland, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology
The cyber Lama and the virtual Sangha: Assessing the reach and impact of online religious authority within the Tibetan diaspora tradition (Insight Grant)


Christopher Moore, Professor, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience
The development of moral foundations (Insight Grant)




Mike Smit, Associate Professor, School of Information Management
Dalhousie University Collaborator: Mona Holmlund

Assessing the social impacts of hydroelectricity-driven landscape change using images, text, and archives: A big data approach (Insight Grant)


Kim Brooks, Professor, Schulich School of Law
The role of tax law experts in sustainable development (Insight Grant)

Christopher Bell, Professor, Department of History
Trade defence, air power and the North Atlantic triangle, 1939-43 (Insight Grant)


Sara Torres, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
Dalhousie University Co-applicant: Nancy Ross, Assistant Professor, School of Social Work
Exploring the role of cultural brokers as intermediaries between immigrant and refugee families and child welfare workers (Insight Grant)

Martha Radice, Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology
Grasping joy: New-wave carnival krewes in New Orleans (Insight Grant)


Catherine Mah, Associate Professor, School of Health Administration
Grocery gateways: An examination of the distribution and regulation of quality food at the nexus between supermarket firms and the informal food economy in Atlantic Canada (Insight Grant)


Stephane Mechoulan, Associate Professor, School of Public Administration
The impact of social reforms on the psychology of American youth (Insight Grant)

For more information, visit the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s website.


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