Arts & Science Strategic Research Plan, 2023–2028

People walking down St. George street on a sunny fall day.The Faculty of Arts & Science (A&S) prides itself on being a cornerstone of research excellence across disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences at the University of Toronto. Our research community makes outstanding theoretical and empirical contributions to their fields, and partners with a wide range of community groups, non-profit organizations, industry, and government to address issues and concerns of societal importance.

The A&S Strategic Research Plan (SRP) serves as a companion document to the A&S Academic Plan, providing a roadmap for research over the next five years (2023 – 2028). It is informed by consultations across the Faculty of A&S in fiscal year 2021, where we heard from each of our academic leaders across our three sectors about the importance of supporting and celebrating individual Principal Investigator-led research programs, which are so integral to the A&S culture of research excellence, while also fostering the expansion and creation of new opportunities for collaborative research.

The A&S SRP is designed to ensure we are advancing our collective research vision and goals in A&S and builds from the strategic vision that is articulated within the University of Toronto SRP, as well as the University’s commitment to fostering Strategic Initiatives that increase our capacity to support large-scale, high-impact interdisciplinary research. We are also guided by the University of Toronto’s Response to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, outlined within the Answering the Call: Wecheehetowin report, and its commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI). Our plans and activities will incorporate these foundational values in everything that we do to foster and support research excellence within our community.

Vision & Goals

In A&S, we value curiosity, creativity, and innovation in research. We are committed to advancing an inclusive definition of research excellence that focuses on exceptional research quality within a given discipline or research area and which embraces a diversity of people, ideas, perspectives, and methodological approaches. Our research programs, guidelines, services, and initiatives will be designed to advance equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as opportunities for all A&S faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergrads to thrive in their research journeys.

Priorities & Commitments

Over the next five years, A&S will remain committed to strengthening its robust research services team with expertise in pre-and-post award services, including grant development, awards and honours, partnerships, and business development specialists with research training and expertise across the humanities, social sciences, and sciences. A&S also remains committed to leveraging its team of strategic and operational experts to advise and support A&S academic units and research initiatives in the sound management of research, with the goal of helping them grow and thrive.

Through the portfolio of the Vice-Dean, Research & Infrastructure, A&S will:

  • Enhance research capacity by supporting the development of financially sustainable and equitable structures (i.e., guidelines, operations, and staffing).
  • Foster a strong and diverse research culture that embraces the highest standards of integrity and collegiality.
  • Develop annual quantitative strategic research targets and execute a research support model that promotes our ability to achieve these goals. Our targets and support strategies will be designed to help us both:  
    • incrementally increase our application and success rates with tri-council operating grants programs, as well as national and international awards, where we already historically outpace other University of Toronto Faculties and universities across Canada, and
    • steadily increase our application and success rates in programs of opportunity and interest within our community, among them the SSHRC Partnership-suite of opportunities, the New Frontiers in Research Fund-suite, and the NSERC Alliance program, among others.  
  • Expand our offering of superlative grants and awards development support for our core community of scholars, whose independent investigator-led research programs push the boundaries of humanistic inquiry, social science research, and fundamental science discovery.
  • Increase and create new supports for the development of diverse research collaborations and partnerships (i.e., through dedicated staff support, internal research programs, as well as government, industry, and philanthropic funding).
  • Strengthen research infrastructure planning, processes, and resources to ensure efficient execution of capital/renovation projects and prioritize projects and facilities (new and existing) of strategic importance to A&S and its research community. 
  • Work with institutional partners to support the growth and sustainability of research facilities and infrastructure that are critical for our research community, including working to ensure access to safe, secure, and cutting-edge research computing infrastructure.
  • Adopt EDI-informed processes, practices, training, and support strategies, including within our internal research awards and funding program guidelines and evaluation procedures, to ensure we are advancing EDI in research.

The best research is organically driven by passionately curious people who have the freedom to ask important questions that excite and engage them. In A&S, this means that we have researchers who engage in the study of widely divergent topics, from the history of religion and colonialism in North America, to the untapped potential of undiscovered chemical combinations, how we produce and comprehend language, the study of criminal networks in war zones around the world, Indigenous traditional knowledge systems and oral culture, the origins of meteorites, early modern literature, the Dictionary of Old English, how ecosystems respond to environmental change, how alterations in the genome impact the etiology of human disease, how galaxies evolve, the role of computer and information sciences in enabling human society to thrive, probability theory, stochastic processes and partial differential equations, and so much more!

The diversity of research within A&S is what makes it so special, and this is something that we are committed to preserving and celebrating over the next five years and beyond. Some specific initiatives within this area will include:

  • Ensuring that our stellar faculty are recognized locally, nationally, and internationally by fortifying our robust internal structure for award nominations, fostering a culture of recognition and celebration across the Faculty, and leveraging A&S and U of T Communications to boost the profile of our research community, many of whom hold some of the most prestigious international honours worldwide, including Guggenheim Fellowships, Sloan Fellowships, and Nobel Prizes, as well as domestic honours that include Steacie Prizes, Orders of Canada, and an impressive number of Fellowships and Medals of the Royal Society of Canada.  
  • Dean’s Research Excellence Award ⁠— established and added to base funding in 2022, this new award celebrates the accomplishments of mid-career A&S researchers, with the aim of helping them compete successfully in prestigious national and international research awards competitions. 
  • Strategically managing A&S’s Canada Research Chairs (CRC) allocation to increase recognition for outstanding A&S faculty members who belong to federally designated groups. The CRC’s mandate to foster a more equitable, diverse and inclusive Canadian research enterprise is fully aligned with A&S’s commitment to increasing diversity within the faculty complement and fostering wider national and international recognition for the excellent research performed by faculty members who belong to underrepresented groups within the academy.  
  • Seeding and supporting novel approaches to research and collaboration through a new A&S Collaborative Research Seed Funding program.

In addition to establishing a modest seed funding program to support new cross-disciplinary research collaborations between faculty members from different A&S academic units and disciplines, we are also committed to providing vital space, infrastructure, and resources for research teams in the social sciences and humanities, including but not limited to communities of Indigenous, Black, and 2SLGBTQ+ scholars, as well as communities of Islamic and Muslim Studies scholars, and Iranian Studies scholars, who are pushing the boundaries of research within their disciplines to foster fruitful modes of collaboration with colleagues, postdoctoral fellows, students, and community-based research partners.

We are also deeply committed to supporting the expansion and long-term sustainability of the core A&S-led Institutional Strategic Initiatives, among them: the Acceleration Consortium, the Data Sciences Institute, the School of Cities, and the Schwartz Reisman Institute, and will continue working with our partner Faculties across the university to support other ISIs that represent vital research networks for our faculty.

A&S will also nurture existing and foster new partnerships with Indigenous organizations, government, industry, hospitals, community groups, and non-profit organizations that provide opportunities for our faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and students to lead in addressing research questions of societal importance and which push the boundary in research innovation.

A&S is also committed to advancing the research priorities of the Centre for Indigenous Studies, the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Indigenous Research Teaching and Learning, and individual Indigenous faculty members, postdoctoral fellows, and students. Specific initiatives we will support, include:

  • Developing a new community engaged Indigenous field work support fund that offsets unique costs related to working with Indigenous communities.
  • Supporting the development of Indigenous research resources designed to support and guide Indigenous and non-Indigenous students and faculty in best practices and ethical considerations for research taking place in partnership with Indigenous organizations and communities, and research taking place on Indigenous territories and/or about Indigenous lands.
  • Supporting efforts to recruit and retain new Indigenous scholars within the Faculty complement. 
  • Working with central research service offices to align finance, human resources, and research policies, processes, and training with Indigenous research practices. The aim here is to enhance supports for Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and facilitate stronger partnerships between A&S research and Indigenous community partners.
  • Supporting plans for new Indigenous community and research spaces that reflect and respect Indigenous peoples, culture, political, and intellectual traditions, in both design and functionality.

A&S will prioritize the creation of excellent research opportunities for A&S postdoctoral fellows, graduate students and undergraduate trainees in the following ways:

  • Incrementally increasing funding to the A&S Postdoctoral Fellows Program.
  • Providing application development support to Banting Postdoctoral Fellow applicants, in the interest of increasing success rates.
  • Advancing cutting-edge Artificial Intelligence methodological research training and discovery in the Natural Sciences and Engineering through the Schmidt AI Postdoctoral Fellowship program.
  • Supporting the expansion of research internships for all research trainees.
  • Encouraging the use of external research funds for creating new undergraduate and graduate research training opportunities, especially for researchers in the humanities, who are interested in modes of training and working with collaborative research teams of highly qualified personnel, which may be new to them. 
  • Promoting wider faculty member uptake of the Research Opportunities Program, the University of Toronto Excellence Award, the A&S Internships, and the work study program for creating meaningful undergraduate research opportunities.