Live-blogging the 2009 Vancouver PKP Conference

Public knowledge and knowledge mobilization: social sciences and humanities research funding policy in Canada, 1979-2009: The Session Blog

July 9th,  2009 at 2:30pm


Presenter: Johanne Provençal




Johanne Provençal is a doctoral candidate in the Curriculum Theory and Implementation Program in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University (SFU). Provençal also has ten years of professional and academic experience in publishing, most recently working as a substantive and stylistic editor of scholarly writing. Johanne’s research interests include social theory and education; philosophy of education; scholarly discourse and scholarly publishing; communication and genre theory; and rhetorical theory and analysis. Provençal has published work on media literacy, the classroom as a public sphere, representation in educational research, and scholarly publishing. Provençal’s doctoral research examines SSHRC’s “knowledge mobilization” discourse and the implications and possibilities it has for the social sciences and humanities research community in Canada.

Session Overview

Provençal outlined four main parts to the session: SSHRC beginnings, the transformation from ‘grant council to ‘knowledge council’ in 2004/2005, SSHRC in 2009, and opportunities & challenges.

SSHRC was established in 1979. Provençal used examples of strategic plans from 1979, 1989 and 1996 to illustrate ‘early traces’ of knowledge mobilization. In 1979 mention was made to make social sciences research more visible. In 1989 the term knowledge transfer was used in the summary: “a more general point is the repeated emphasis on dissemination, communication, diffusion of research results: to spread results and achieve knowledge transfer to increase understanding and build constituencies to package results of fundamental research for political use to increase access to databases” (p. 2). In 1996 knowledge transfer is again stressed. Johanne’s rhetorical analysis shows that the scene is changing. Knowledge mobilization succeeds as agency within the collaboration.

In 2004/2005 there was a degree of tension as a result of the transformation from grant council to knowledge council. The first volume of a three volume report in 2004 reports that social sciences  research is caught in a “paradox of ubiquity and invisibility: present everywhere, but for all intents and purposes, visible almost nowhere” (p.12). The 2005 strategic plan calls for a systematic interaction between the general public and the research community.

The issue of visibility continues to predominate in 2009. Provençal mentioned that researchers need to tell their stories to the public. Yet it’s also the reception of those stories that is necessary for knowledge mobilization. This is a challenge area. Three examples were given of continuing opportunities: the  Knowledge Impact in Society pilot study, the Community-University Research Alliance program, and the funding of open access journals, started in 2008.


Heather Morrison asked about the raised visibility of knowledge mobilization by SSHRC. Provençal responded that the funding for open access journals only came in 2008. There is still some resistance from publishers about the business model. There is some ambiguity as funding is for research as well as open access journals. Generally journals philosophically support open access, but economics may dictate otherwise. A question was asked from the audience about whether SSHRC had consulted with researchers. Provençal responded that the culture for this to occur is not yet in place.


Canadian Association of Learned Journals

Ghosts in Machines and a Snapshot of Scholarly Journal Publishing in Canada


Courtesy of Johanne Provençal