Revision of the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC) 2020 Version 1.0 - What We Heard

March 2024


In 2020, Statistics Canada, in collaboration with the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) published the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC). This new classification had 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. It also 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 is meant to 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 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.

Adopting a common approach for classifying research and expertise across different key stakeholders in Canada 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.

One of the commitments made by the Statistics Canada and its collaborators was to conduct a minor review of the CRDC every two years and major review every 5 years. This commitment was based on the continuous improvement model and to respond to shifts in the research ecosystem, including new and emerging fields of research. Due to the pandemic, the minor review was delayed.
The need for this review was reinforced by messages from the research community which highlighted the urgency of a review. It was decided that the minor review would take place in 2023, to be followed by the major review in 2025. The scope of the 2023 review was limited to Fields of Research. Broader changes will fall within the scope of the 2025 review.

Engagement and Outreach

  • The CRDC 2020 Version 1.0 review notice was posted on the Statistics Canada's Consulting Canadians and Standards websites, as well as via StatCan's accounts on social media platforms such as X (Twitter), LinkedIn, Facebook and Reddit.
  • The consultation period for the public was launched in August 2023 and closed in October 2023. Feedback was gathered from the public through the consultation call.
  • CFI was invited to share its data on the CRDC since implementing the CRDC in their systems.
  • Feedback was also gathered through internal sources, such as various advisory groups to the agencies and reports.
  • University Vice Presidents of Research (VPRs) were also invited to provide feedback from the office of the Vice-President of Corporate Affairs at SSHRC; a similar process was used in the 2018 review.
  • Feedback gathered over the years on an ad hoc basis through the SSHRC CRDC inbox were included for consideration as well; these requests were sent by researchers and academic groups representing new or emerging fields.
  • A working group was formed with members of SSHRC, NSERC, CIHR, CFI and Statistics Canada to review the data and make recommendations for changes based on this information.

Summary of what we heard

In the open consultation (Participate in the consultation for the update of the Canadian Research and Development Classification (CRDC) 2020 V1.0) 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 (FOR) and not on socioeconomic objectives (SEO) and type of activity (TOA).

Comments and suggestions provided for consideration
Field of research Most frequent comments and suggestions provided for consideration
  • Over 50 recommendations were received regarding the creation or elaboration of new FORs.
  • Of these 50 recommendations, 15 of them were accepted for revisions.
  • Interdisciplinarity came up several times as something that the CRDC failed to capture; this is outside of the scope of this review and will require more consultation and consideration in the future.
  • Some categories seem to be more granular than others.
  • Some categories seem to be outdated; there may be a need to consider new and emerging fields in the next review.
  • The delineation between categories is not always evident, and the definitions provided are not always helpful; it is acknowledged that the CRDC does not have specific definitions of each FOR (beside defining what R&D are about). In fact, defining each type of field of science is a large undertaking.
Black Studies
  • SSHRC's external Advisory Committee Addressing Anti-Black Racism in Research and Research Training (2021-2022) submitted several recommendations to SSHRC in its final report (2023).
  • The advisory committee recommended the addition of Black Studies in the CRDC.
  • Black Studies is a well-established field of research in the current Canadian research landscape.
  • The working group noted that since Black Studies is an interdisciplinary field, it did not fit neatly within either Social Sciences, Humanities or other domains such as health research. It was decided that on a provisional basis, that Black Studies would be included under 'Other Social Sciences' and with a definition addressing the interdisciplinary nature of this field. A wider consultation can take place in 2025.
Indigenous Studies
  • While Indigenous research is included under 16 different FOR currently (e.g. Indigenous Law, Indigenous languages, Indigenous education system, Indigenous economics, Indigenous literature, etc.), it has been observed by the research community, and members of the SSHRC Indigenous Advisory Circle, that this unnecessarily restricts and limits Indigenous research.
  • Feedback from the research community, including from members of the SSHRC Indigenous Advisory Circle, recommended adding Indigenous Studies included to the classification as an interdisciplinary field.
  • It was decided that on a provisional basis, that Indigenous Studies would be included under 'Other Social Sciences' and with a definition addressing the interdisciplinary nature of this field. A wider consultation can take place in 2025.
  • The SSHRC Indigenous Advisory Circle also recommended changing the existing FOR "Indigenous performing arts" to "Indigenous arts" to permit classification of other art forms.
  • The SSHRC Indigenous Advisory Circle also recommended adding "Indigenous Knowledge Systems." Based on the rationale provided, this would be a Level 1 change, and thus it will be considered for the 2025 review.
Critical Disabilities Studies
  • SSHRC's external Advisory committee on Accessibility and systemic Albeism (2022-2023) submitted several recommendations to SSHRC in its final report (2024).
  • The advisory committee recommended changes to the CRDC, specifically, the need to add Critical Disabilities Studies.
  • The advisory committee underlined the importance of advocacy as a part of their research and provided a detailed rationale for the inclusion of this FOR.
  • The working group recommended expanding the current definition of Disability Studies, adding the clause "including accessibility and critical disability studies".
  • A wider consultation can take place in 2025.
Comments and suggestions for consideration on the CRDC
Overall Comments and suggestions for consideration on the CRDC
  • 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. The categories will need to be reviewed regularly to ensure that areas that are developing past "emerging" are captured in the future.
  • There needs to be a framework or some guiding principles developed for determining how changes are made to the CRDC. These guidelines need to take into consideration objectives and measurable metrics, and keep the spirit of the CRDC classification system in mind, not just from a useability or 'visibility' perspective for the user, but also, for its reporting and statistical function. These will be considered in the context of a wider review for 2025.