Development of the Canadian Research and Development Classification - What we heard

Release date: August 13, 2020 (Previous notice)


Accountability and transparency—which are of the utmost importance for research funding organizations—are becoming increasingly critical for demonstrating how funds are deployed. Research stakeholders, the government and the public are seeking information about which areas of research are receiving support and the levels of investment in each of these areas. Furthermore, since research efforts are global, the ability to combine and compare information about funded research with other organizations is necessary to improve collaboration, improve support for research and development (R&D), and benchmark investments and performance both nationally and internationally.

Since December 2017, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and Statistics CanadaFootnote 1 have been jointly developing the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC). This new classification has been designed to include all research sectors and represent the current research landscape in Canada while also contributing to greater alignment with international standards. It is also comprehensive enough to support a wide range of needs within the R&D ecosystem. Furthermore, it has been developed to facilitate the peer review process and the reporting of investments by federal research funding agencies and the Government of Canada. The CRDC will help ensure the consistent compatibility and comparability of statistics across research funding agencies both in Canada and internationally while balancing the needs of different users and highlighting specific areas of Canadian research strength. The CRDC is the product of months of reviews, consultations, analysis and negotiations among the sponsors and the Canadian research community in an effort to make research classification consistent in Canada.

The CRDC is a set of three interrelated classifications:

  • Type of activity (TOA): This is categorization by type of research being undertaken, e.g., fundamental, applied, experimental development.
  • Field of research (FOR): This is categorization by field of research; it is the methodology used in R&D that is being considered. The categories within this classification include major fields of research based on knowledge source, subject of interest, and methods and techniques used.
    • There are four hierarchical levels: divisions are the broadest level, and groups, classes and subclasses represent increasingly detailed dissections of these categories. This resulted in a comprehensive list of fields of research—nearly 1,800 in total—to help reflect Canada's current research landscape.
  • Socioeconomic objectives (SEO): This is categorization by R&D purpose or outcome.
    • There are two hierarchical levels: divisions are the broadest level, followed by groups. There are approximately 85 groups.

While Statistics Canada will use the CRDC to report on Canada's R&D activities at the national and international levels, the federal research granting agencies have been involved from the beginning of the project, as they see great benefits in having a common research classification. Adopting a common approach for classifying research and expertise across the federal research granting agencies aims to

  • provide a common language for discussing research in the higher education sector, in the public sector and within government, enabling better evidence-based decision making within the research ecosystem
  • make it possible to identify expertise and research areas in a truly multidisciplinary classification
  • improve the identification of emerging research fields
  • help identify potential collaboration opportunities to optimize research efforts and improve outcomes
  • improve the identification of research funding gaps and opportunities
  • provide the research community with harmonized and integrated R&D classification
  • improve reporting on the agencies' combined contributions to research and science in Canada
  • help the agencies streamline their operational processes for peer review, recruitment and reviewer selection.

How we reached out and whom we heard from

  • Over 100 research funding agency employees
  • Over 300 subject-matter experts across all sectors
  • 18 webinars hosted by project sponsors
  • Over 860 responses from the online consultations
  • Over 1,700 notices of interest about the CRDC received through the pilot program
  • Over 1,000 suggestions proposed by subject-matter experts and the research community as a whole

The project sponsors sought to engage and consult as wide of an audience as possible to collect evidence-based recommendations to help develop the CRDC. The consultation process started in February 2018 and ended in September 2019. Those consulted include

  • the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics New Zealand and the Australian Research Council, as they have been using a similar model for 10 years and could share their expertise and experience
  • internal staff at each Canadian federal research granting agency to ensure that the CRDC supports the full range of uses of a research classification for program delivery, monitoring and reporting
  • subject-matter experts in the research community to inform and validate the terminology used in and the scope of specific fields of research
  • targeted stakeholders, such as federal science-based departments and agencies, provincial funding agencies, and provincial statistical agencies, to obtain feedback on the general structure and principles of the classification.

An open online consultation process ran from February 11 to March 22, 2019, to give a wider audience the chance to provide feedback on the proposed categories and terminology. The New Frontiers in Research Fund at SSHRC used a pilot version of the classification.

Summary of what we heard

In the open online consultation, participants and subject-matter experts were asked to review proposed categories and suggest any changes to specific categories—including adding, removing, combining, splitting and renaming—to represent the current Canadian research landscape, and to ensure that the classification would meet the needs of different stakeholders across the Canadian research ecosystem. The objective of the consultation process was to obtain feedback on fields of research and socioeconomic objectives, not on type of activity.

CRDC open online consultation

  • 817 responses received
  • 313 responses with comments on field of research
  • 5% of respondents identified their field of research as "other"
CRDC participation by sector
Description - Participation by sector
  • Agricultural and veterinary sciences (1%)
  • Engineering and technology (8%)
  • Humanities and the arts (13%)
  • Medical and health sciences (20%)
  • Natural sciences (34%)
  • Social sciences (24%)
Most frequent comments and suggestions provided for consideration on fields of research
Field of research Most frequent comments and suggestions provided for consideration
  • The CRDC FOR codes are well mapped to existing categories in different research classifications.
  • Several comments recommended updates to different categories.
  • Cross-sector categories are not always easy to find.
  • Some categories are not well defined and do not represent the evolution of some of the fields in the Canadian research landscape.
  • The level of granularity in each category seems to be adequate for supporting each granting agency's needs—such as the peer review process—by allowing peer reviewers to be selected and review committee members to be identified based on common disciplines.
  • The ability to aggregate different levels of data seems to be adequate for supporting reporting on investments, research activities in specific fields, and R&D objectives at the organizational, national and international levels.
  • Some categories seem to be more granular than others.
  • The delineation between categories is not always evident, and the definitions provided are not always helpful.
Category specific (examples)
  • Electronic and electrical engineering need to be reviewed to reflect the current research landscape.
  • Neurosciences should be subdivided by how it pertains to each sector.
  • Geosciences is spread across all relevant fields; however, some important categories are missing.
  • Literature fields are neither well categorized nor representative, and it would be difficult to classify current research within the proposed categories.
  • Industrial engineering categories will need to be updated to reflect current progress being made in Canada.
  • Examples of specific categories that were identified as missing include rhetoric studies, disciplinary education and genetic epidemiology.
Comments and suggestions for consideration on socioeconomic objectives
Socioeconomic objectives Comments and suggestions for consideration
  • Depending on the time frame considered when identifying the outcome of the research, the socioeconomic objectives could be different.
  • Examples for each group category would help delineate each category or group.
  • Interdisciplinary research spans disciplines and does not fit neatly into these objectives.
Category specific (examples)
  • Split arts and leisure into two categories.
  • There is uncertainty about which category changes in health-related policy would fit into.
  • Categories for social justice topics are missing.
  • Well-being and mental health need to be listed under five-digit levels under health.
  • The understanding of past societies is included, but the understanding of current societies is missing.
  • The education categories need to be better defined, as the category title is not intuitive and creates confusion.
  • The lists are very comprehensive, but lack interdisciplinary studies across the natural and social sciences, e.g., socioecological systems.
Comments and suggestions for consideration overall
Overall Comments and suggestions for consideration
  • The way the codes are displayed needs to be more user friendly and intuitive to make it easier for the user to identify their area of research or expertise.
  • Some of the definitions provided were very poor.
  • The categories will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure that areas that are developing past "emerging" are captured in the future.
  • The granularity and structure of the CRDC are flexible enough to meet the needs of the research community.

Next steps

The consultations provided insights to help improve the proposed CRDC and its categories to better reflect the current Canadian research landscape. Participants and subject-matter experts identified many areas and categories for improvement. Based on the consultation results, the CRDC was revised, and the suggested fields of research, socioeconomic objectives and other proposed changes were taken into account. Opportunities to minimize the burden of identifying and selecting fields of research and socioeconomic objectives are being studied to improve usability and findability.


  • Pre-consultation period
    • March to December 2017
  • Consultations
    • February 2018 to September 2019
  • Release of the What We Heard report
    • August 2020
  • Release of the new Canadian Research and Development Classification
    • Fall 2020
  • Implementation within each federal research granting agency
    • Ongoing
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