Think Big: How the social sciences and humanities are building a better Canada

In November 2021, the Federation released its report, Think Big: How the social sciences and humanities are building a better Canada

As we continue to emerge from the global pandemic, Think Big has a single, overriding message for Canada and its elected leaders: we must recognize and support the vital contributions of the humanities and social sciences. The knowledge and skills gained through these disciplines will help drive Canada’s COVID recovery and contribute to a better future for people across the country and around the world.

From climate change and human migration to income inequality and the rise of populism, huge global shifts require us to have the right skills, perspectives, and understanding to navigate an uncertain future.

At the top of the list are critical thinking and analytical skills; historical and cultural awareness; and the insights, discoveries, and competencies acquired and shared through the humanities and social sciences.

These disciplines address big issues, whether racial injustice, reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples, or the rapid advance of Artificial Intelligence. In times of crisis, they inform and guide our response. They discover, preserve, and mobilize knowledge about Canada and the world — including knowledge about our histories, languages, and cultural heritages. They promote engaged citizenship and public leadership, and they strengthen our democracy by analyzing issues, informing policy decisions, and exposing misinformation.

And Think Big has reassuring news for students and their families: studying the humanities and social sciences leads to secure jobs and rewarding careers. Today’s employers are looking for grads who have “human skills”: sophisticated communications skills; an ability to work with, understand, and adapt to other people; and analytical and problem-solving abilities.

These are the skills that help organizations to grow and thrive. They are also the hallmark of an education in the humanities and social sciences.

Read the report (PDF)

We asked the experts: what do they think about the #RoleofHSS?

A photo of Dr. Chelsea Gabel, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Well-Being, Community engagement, and innovation; associate professor at McMaster University. Dr. Gabel’s quote in the image says “The importance of HSS is that it consists of working with multiple partners, across multiple political spheres and within multiple knowledge systems. Thus, the needs, lived realities and knowledges of Indigenous peoples and communities should be valued and recognized with the continued goal of improving relations"

An image of Miao Song, PhD and Professor in Design and Computation Arts at Concordia University. Dr. Song’s quote in the image says “The human aspect of any technology development is extremely important. This is why one of my major research areas is in the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) and interaction design, to improve the technology for the human being and keep the human in the loop for usability, ethics, aesthetics, adoption, and overall human factors.”

A photo of Dr. Malinda Smith. The text says “Dr. Malinda S. Smith — a nationally recognized leader in equity, diversity and inclusion — is highly regarded for her contributions to an enhanced approach to equity policies and practices in Canada. Currently vice-provost (equity, diversity and inclusion) and professor of political science at the University of Calgary, Dr. Smith’s 2018 P.E. Trudeau Foundation Fellowship research has uncovered and shared the stories of largely forgotten Black figures in Canada...


A photo of Patricia Bérubé, a PhD candidate in cultural mediations at Carleton University. A quote from Patricia says: “The increasingly interdisciplinary nature of the humanities and social sciences disciplines is leading to a number of rewarding collaborations. From these exchanges, researchers can learn about other perspectives and implement them in their approach, thereby generating innovative solutions to important social problems."


Logo of the Federation for the Humanities and social Sciences and Evidence for Democracy. Text reads: Advocacy in action: Bridging research and policy-making. Headshots of Karine Coen-Sanchez, Kaitlin Schwan, Paul Dufour, Chelsea Gabel and Nicole Goodman.

Advocacy in action: Bridging research and policy-making

Description | Meet the panelists | Watch the webinar | Transcript Description We all benefit when researchers are empowered to raise their voices and advocate effectively. Today, public policy needs researchers more than ever. In the face of...

Logo of the Federation for the humanities and social sciences and RSC. Text reads: Putting the Humanities to Work for Canadians' Health. Headshots of Sean Bagshaw, Erika Dyck, Maya Goldenberg, Nazeem Muhajarine, Nathan Nickel and Cynthia Milton.

Putting the Humanities to Work for Canadians' Health

Description | Meet the panelists | Watch the webinar | Transcript Description COVID-19 has been a stark reminder that understanding a novel pathogen is essential but insufficient to protect us from disease. Biomedical and technical solutions are...