Considering Funding Part III: CIHR and the Medical Humanities

In Funding, History of medicine, History of Nursing by Kate Walker0 Comments

Given the perception that there was a funding overlap between SSHRC and the CIHR when it came to funding health research from the perspective of the humanities and social sciences, it is worthwhile investigating whether or not the CIHR has funded graduate and post-doctoral research by applicants in the discipline of History.

I searched the CIHR Funding Decisions Database for award winners of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for doctoral students and the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships who listed “history of medicine” as a keyword in their applications between 2009-10 and 2013-14. There were no winners with this keyword. I also searched the database for recipients of the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarships for the keyword “history,” hoping that this would capture a broader group of award winners. Although this yielded nine results, all of these applications used the term in a contemporary scientific sense and their projects were firmly rooted in the sciences. I also searched the database for recipients of the Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships with the keyword “history,” which resulted in a single result.

Based on these searches, it seems as though the CIHR has not been funding graduate or post-doctoral research from applicants whose primary discipline is History or whose main objective is the study of the history of health. It is possible that graduate and post-doctoral researchers in these areas do not see the CIHR as a primary source of funding, particularly as SSHRC’s website states that “proposals may be eligible if there is no intent to directly or indirectly impact health, or if health is a subsidiary element in a study intended to increase our understanding of individuals, groups and/or societies.”

I also wanted to get a sense of whether or not the CIHR has supported career researchers whose projects were primarily concerned with the history of medicine, so I searched the CIHR Funding Decisions Database for the phrase “history of medicine,” which revealed 6 matches for awards given between 2004 – 2014 with a total of $668,610 awarded. While this is encouraging, it represented only 0.01% of all funding in the online database. One caveat: not all projects with a focus on the history of health are represented in the database using this keyword search, so this number is an underestimation.

The Canadian Information Research System allows for a search of all grants and awards by participating agencies.  A search for the “history of medicine” in all the years in the database (beginning with the 1999-2000 funding year) lists 11 matches (with a total value of $758,325) funded by the CIHR. Again, this search may underestimate the number of funding recipients due to the nature of the keyword search. I went back to my searching and used the keyword “history,” but this resulted in a substantial list due to the use of the term by scientists. When I perused the list, I found additional recipients of funding for projects related to the history of health.

Since the beginning of the Canada Research Chair program in 2000, the CIHR has also funded several chair-holders in the discipline of History who engaged in research directly related to healthcare. I obtained a list of Canada Research Chair holders since the program’s inception, which lists 4435 chair-holders* over the course of the program. Of these, the CIHR was the originating grant funding agency for 1461 Chairs. By examining this list, I found chair-holders in International Health, the History of Surgery, and the Social History of Medicine, whose grant agency was CIHR.

Career scholars seem to have been more success than graduate and post-doctoral researches when it comes to receiving funding from the CIHR according to my searches. It may be that graduate and post-doctoral applicants whose primary research interest is the history of medicine do not see the CIHR as their primary funding agency, but there are likely other factors at play and I would welcome more input into the discussion.

My next post will look at another source of funding for Canadian scholars conducting research into the history of health, the AMS.

* This number represents the number of Chair positions awarded by the Canada Research Chair program (some individuals have held more than one award).

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