Knowledge Synthesis Grant – Living Within the Earth’s Carrying Capacity

Aboriginal Peoples
Arctic and Northern Regions
Community, Regional & Enterprise Development
Creative Arts, Culture and Heritage
Environment, Energy and Natural Resources
Governance and Public Policy
Information and Communication Technology
Oceans, Fisheries and Aquaculture
Social Justice
Well-being, Health and Biomedical Discovery


Academic Unit: Inquire with Unit

Memorial Deadline: Monday 23rd, December 2019

External Deadline: Tuesday 7th, January 2020


Adapting to live within the Earth’s carrying capacity is viewed as one of humanity’s most important challenges. Increasing pressures on the planet’s capacity to support life are generating important opportunities to explore changes in global ecosystems, to evaluate mitigation and adaptation measures, and to examine shifting values and cultures.

For many observers, developments such as rising global temperature, growing ocean acidification, frequent forest fires, decreasing biodiversity and disruptive weather patterns are symptoms of deeper issues. Human demands may be exceeding the absorptive and productive capacity of global ecosystems, with evidence indicating that pressures on several ecosystem services are near a tipping point.

A better understanding of the linkages across biodiversity and ecosystem services will help identify their potential interactions and the extent to which natural systems can continue to sustain life. The connections and interdependencies between natural and human systems likewise require further consideration, particularly with respect to adaptation and mitigation responses, governance and capacity-building, socio-economic and policy dimensions, individual and social behaviours, and Indigenous knowledge systems and legal systems. The resulting knowledge will inform possible transitions in coming decades to a more sustainable, equitable and healthy future for generations to come, and will be key to addressing pressing questions regarding humanity’s ability to live within the Earth’s carrying capacity.

Living Within the Earth’s Carrying Capacity is one of 16 new global future challenges identified through SSHRC’s Imagining Canada’s Future initiative. These complex issues were identified following an extensive foresight exercise and reflect key challenges that Canada is likely to face in an evolving global context over the coming decades. All of the challenges cross multiple sectors and research disciplines, and require broad collaboration to address.

SSHRC, with support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), is launching a Knowledge Synthesis Grants funding opportunity to foster a deeper understanding of the state of knowledge regarding the absorptive and productive capacity of global ecosystems, as well as the connections between natural and human systems. The resulting syntheses will identify roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors, as well as Indigenous rights-holders, may play in advancing and supporting mitigation and adaptation responses, and may inform the development of effective tools, robust policies and sustainable practices required to support the transition to an equitable, prosperous, healthy and sustainable future.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants support researchers in producing knowledge synthesis reports and evidence briefs that:

  • support the use of evidence in decision-making and the application of best practices; and
  • assist in developing future research agendas.

Applicants must address the following three objectives in their proposals:

State of knowledge, strengths and gaps

  • critically assess the state of knowledge of the future challenge theme under consideration from a variety of sources, as appropriate;
  • identify knowledge strengths and gaps within the theme; and
  • identify the most promising policies and practices related to the theme.

Research data

  • assess the quality, accuracy and rigour (i.e., methodological approaches) of current work in the field; and
  • identify strengths and gaps in the quantitative and qualitative data available.

Knowledge mobilization

  • engage cross-sectoral stakeholders (academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors) and/or First Nations, Métis and Inuit rights-holders throughout the project to mobilize knowledge related to promising policies and practices; and
  • use effective knowledge mobilization methods to facilitate the sharing of research findings with cross-sectoral stakeholders and Indigenous rights-holders.

Expected outcomes

Knowledge syntheses are comprehensive analyses of literature and other forms of knowledge on a particular question or issue. All types of knowledge synthesis approaches, tools and protocols, such as scoping reviews, systematic reviews and narrative syntheses, are encouraged under this funding opportunity. Synthesized results can include qualitative, quantitative or multi-method research.

Knowledge Synthesis Grants are not intended to support original research. Rather, they are intended to support the synthesis of existing research knowledge and the identification of knowledge gaps. This call is particularly focused on the state of research knowledge emerging over the past 10 years. The horizon for impacts may be as much as 20 years.

In support of the objectives above, Knowledge Synthesis Grants will help in identifying roles that the academic, public, private and not-for-profit sectors, as well as Indigenous rights-holders, may play in developing and implementing robust policies, best practices and tools.

Successful applicants will be expected to do the following:

  • Complete a synthesis report (maximum 40 pages) and two-page evidence brief within nine months of receiving the grant.
  • Participate in a kick-off webinar (tentatively scheduled for April 2020).
  • Attend or send a delegate to a one-day knowledge mobilization forum in Ottawa, attended by multisector stakeholders and Indigenous rights-holders, to discuss the knowledge syntheses. Travel costs for the forum should be included in the budget submitted as part of the application. Details on the meeting (tentatively scheduled for December 2020) will be provided to successful applicants.
  • Identify and invite a non-academic partner or knowledge user to the knowledge mobilization forum, and include their travel costs in the budget submitted as part of the application.

Successful applicants will be provided with guidelines for completing their synthesis report and the two-page evidence brief. Examples of the final reports and evidence briefs produced in a recent Knowledge Synthesis Competition are available on the SSHRC website.

Funding Sources

Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR)
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC)
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)

This opportunity was posted by: RGCS

Last modified: October 28, 2019