Tri-Council Funding


Are you a researcher who is interested in serving on a peer review panel for SSHRC or NSERC? If so, please read this important letter from the Tri-Council Funding Task Force...

Background and Context

In 2016, the CSLA Board of Directors established the Tri-Council Funding Task Force and a Terms of Reference for the Task Force was approved by the Board. The term Tri-Council refers to the three major government funding bodies that provide funding for scholarly research in Canada: the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR) and the National Science and Engineering Council of Canada (NSERC).

Currently, seven programs of landscape architecture (BLA and MLA) exist in Canada. One new program, at Dalhousie University (BLA) has recently been established. Dalhousie University will be seeking CSLA accreditation. This is a signal that landscape architecture is a legitimate and growing area of scholarship.

Further, the importance of research in the profession cannot be understated. 

  • The LACF exists to promote scholarship and research 
  • Scholars in landscape architecture are often published in journals and author books 
  • The Canadian Landscape Charter advocates for expanding knowledge in the profession 
  • Accreditation standards for curricula include the requirement to include research and scholarly methods in graduate level programs (MLA programs) 
While landscape architecture can draw a great deal from interdisciplinary research that does not explicitly address landscape architecture’ [Joan Iverson] Nassauer says, ‘this leaves landscape architecture research and practice to infer its implications for the discipline… I think landscape architecture needs the rigorous intellectual self-awareness that comes from research within the discipline to advance and lead in an interdisciplinary world.’  Lolly Tai, 2003. Doctoring the Profession, LAM 93(11): 64-73 [quote, pg. 70].

Funding from Tri-Council bodies is of great importance to scholars in landscape architecture, and to the profession generally. 

The Task Force, for the past few years, has been investigating challenges and constraints  that scholars in landscape architecture have in obtaining funding for research:

  • Which funding council should be approached for landscape architecture research projects? (landscape architecture is a discipline that does not easily fit into one funding council or another)
  • Are the councils’ staff and adjudicating committees properly briefed to determine the eligibility of landscape architecture proposals? (as a smaller non-traditional academic discipline, not all committee members may be in a position of understanding the proposed research)
  • Are landscape architecture research proposals reviewed by landscape architects or those in related cognate fields?

A Quick Survey of Canadian Landscape Architecture Scholars - The Question

In the Spring of 2017, the CSLA launched a survey of Canadian landscape architecture researchers. We asked about their success in obtaining research funding from the following national Tri-Council scholarly funding bodies:

  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
  • National Science and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) 
  • Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The researchers’ responses make it apparent that Tri-Council funding is a real issue derived either from the eligibility of research projects in landscape architecture when applying to any of these councils, or a lack of understanding of landscape architecture at the committee review stage. The results have typically been either an ineligibility ruling or the project being declined.

The messages to Councils and members

_Funding in scholarly landscape architecture research from SSHRC, NSERC and CIHR is essential for the continued growth of the profession by creating publicly-funded, discipline-specific knowledge. This is a tangible benefit to society and the environment.

_The lack of tri-council funding is an important and consistent issue with landscape architecture scholars. 

_Research by landscape architecture scholars is being funded and published by other agencies, proving that it is a legitimate and valued area of research, but since universities value and prioritize Tri-Council funding, this needs to be emphasized more.

_Finally, there is a gap in scholarly landscape architecture work, whereby it is expected that researchers should apply for and obtain Tri-Council funding, and yet there is inadequate recognition of the discipline by the Councils and therefore limited opportunity for success. While the Councils claim that interdisciplinary work is important, those fields are not represented on the adjudication committees, and the programs do not, in practice, support those proposals to the same degree that is claimed. Tri-Council Funding is a central component of the universities’ research agenda – it is therefore essential that landscape architecture scholars access that funding.

Members of the Task Force

Robert Corry (University of Guelph), Chair
Patrick Mooney (University of British Columbia)
Danielle Dagenais (Université de Montréal)
Heather Braiden (Dalhousie University)
Liat Margolis (University of Toronto)
Bev Sandalack (University of Calgary)
Marcella Eaton (University of Manitoba)
Michelle Legault (CSLA Executive Director)

“The latter, which is the most intellectually important part, belongs firmly in the design, the social sciences and humanities. While I am strongly supportive of the overall research program proposed, it seems to be that it would be more appropriate as a SSHRC proposal…This is a hard proposal to evaluate: it falls ‘between the Tri-Council cracks.’ The overall proposal is, in my view, certainly worthy of long-term support. However, as a NSERC reviewer, I must apply the lens of the natural sciences and engineering, which makes it hard to evaluate this proposal as strongly meritorious.” From an NSERC review of a proposal submitted by a landscape architecture researcher.

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