Partnerships and opportunities: academia

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) collaborative activities with academic institutions to date encompass the following:

  • Contributions in-kind towards a common objective (collaborative agreements)
  • Cost shared initiatives in pursuing a common science and technology objective
  • Exchanges of personnel at the cost of the parent employer
  • External academic activities by DRDC’s scientists such as: adjunct professorships, research associates, honorary research associates and teachers
  • Student employment via the Federal Students Work Experience Program
  • College and university co-op programs
  • Research Affiliate Program

As part of the Defence and Security Science and Technology Strategy, DRDC is undertaking to increase engagement activities in areas where expertise lies within the national innovation system. In order to access external science and technology capabilities, new partnerships and delivery models are being developed. In this context, academic institutions are important partners for DRDC.

DRDC and the Royal Military College of Canada (RMCC) have a strategic partnership. Being under one department – the Department of National Defence, the two entities form a natural bond addressing the challenges of the Canadian Armed Forces jointly with the involvement of students and other universities. DRDC leverages RMCC’s vast network on topic-specific issues on a case by case basis.

NATO welcomes collaboration from industry, academia and government. Please browse the following sites:

Please contact Yanina Klopotovskaya, if you have any questions.

Institute for Research in Defence and Security

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) is creating the Institute for Research in Defence and Security. The Institute’s goal is to engage the academic community in finding solutions to challenges Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) members faces when using technology.

Canadian Safety and Security Program

The Canadian Safety and Security Program (CSSP) is led by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Centre for Security Science, which operates in partnership with Public Safety Canada, to provide science and technology services and solutions to address public safety and security priorities. Annual Calls for Proposals are managed through Public Services and Procurement Canada; information about open calls is made available on the website. Visit the CSSP-funded projects page for an overview of projects funded through the CSSP Call for Proposals since the program was launched in 2012.

DRDC’s science and technology domains of interest for greater external partner engagement:

  • Physical sciences: physical protection, energetic materials and systems, platform performance (through-life maintenance aspects)
  • Electromagnetic sciences – sensor data exploitation and fusion
  • Information sciences: command and control, information systems for command and control
  • Health sciences – human performance
  • Social and behavioural sciences: human systems integration, learning and training
  • Operational research and analysis: operational research/operational analysis force development/concepts development and experimentation/concepts development

New Partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to Support Discovery Research

DRDC is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The partnership will provide up to 20 research supplements of $120,000 ($40,000 annually over three years) to support unclassified university-based research dedicated to the development of non-weapon-specific technologies with dual-use applications in defence and security areas.

Applicants to the current NSERC Discovery Grant competition will be considered for the DND/NSERC Discovery Grant Supplement, based in part on their evaluation results and the extent to which the proposed research activity addresses the Defence and Security Target Areas identified by DRDC. As part of the Discovery Grants application process, applicants will be asked to indicate their interest in being considered for the new supplement and provide written justification of how their proposed research fits within these target areas.

The target areas are:

  • Autonomous Systems and Robotics
  • Information Management and Data Science
  • Human Systems Performance and Protection
  • Resilient Networked Systems
  • Explosive Hazard Avoidance, Blast Characterization and Mitigation
  • Next Generation Material Systems and Signatures

These funds may be used to expand the recipient’s research group (e.g., students, postdoctoral fellows, technicians), to purchase or access specialized equipment, or for other initiatives or resources that would accelerate the recipient’s research program.

For more information, go to the NSERC website or send an email to

DND/NSERC Research Partnership Program

DND and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) have established a jointly managed and funded DND/NSERC Research Partnership Grant that aims to:

  • capitalize on the complementary research and development capacity existing in the universities and in DND in order to generate new knowledge and support the development of new technical capabilities relevant to the development and application of dual-use technologies in selected areas of interest to both DND and NSERC
  • build strong two- and three-way linkages and create synergy between researchers in DND and universities and the private sector
  • achieve the efficient and effective transfer of research results and technology to identified receptors in the public and the private sector

Joint Initiative with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council

Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) have signed a joint initiative agreement to support social sciences and humanities research and related activities pertaining to military personnel readiness, organizational and operational effectiveness, and human effectiveness in modern operations.

DRDC conducts social science research to support the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and DND in developing effective, efficient and affordable evidence-based strategies, policies, programs, procedures, processes and technologies, that, together:

  • Optimize the intake, training and management of the Defence Team, ensuring a workforce at the right numbers, at the right ranks/occupations, and with the appropriate skills and experience to meet future operational needs. This includes research in support of strategic and operational priorities in domains such as attraction and recruitment, selection and assessment, motivation, career management, training and education and workforce analytics;
  • Enhance individual and family well-being, care for the ill and injured, and prepare members for the transition to civilian life. This includes research with a focus on health, resiliency, morale, welfare and compensation;
  • Enable the effective employment of the Defence Team in operational and organizational environments, and strengthening of the operational and strategic leadership capacity of the CAF. This includes research addressing the physical, psychological, social and cultural demands of military operations, as well as the efficient governance, agility and adaptiveness of the organization; and
  • Enhance the command and intelligence effectiveness of the CAF, and the ability to achieve their missions in complex campaign environments. This includes research with a focus on understanding the social and cultural factors that provide context for effective operations in the non-kinetic sphere; understanding and predicting the intention, behaviour and influence of relevant individuals and collectives; and effective collaborations in contemporary multifunctional mission environments.

Defence and Security Target Research Area Descriptions

Defence and security challenges for consideration for co-funding with SSHRC

Through the DND–SSHRC MOU (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Memorandum of Understanding), DRDC once again has the opportunity to co-fund defence and security related research in academia as part of the Insight Grants program. The following topics were developed through internal consultation, with certain subjects proposed by SSHRC.

This represents a significant multi-year investment for ADM(DRDC), so the topics were selected and prioritized for relevance, in particular for alignment with the new Strong Secure Engaged defence policy for the CAF (Canadian Armed Forces) and the Safety and Security strategic agenda.

The topics have been grouped under four themes:

  1. Personnel – Recruitment and Selection
  2. Readiness – Training and Development
  3. Social Processes in the Workplace
  4. Operational Effectiveness

Theme 1:  Personnel – Recruitment and Selection

Selection tests. Projects under this research challenge should focus on the development of selection tools (e.g., to assess cognitive ability, integrity, personality—both positive and negative aspects—resilience/hardiness, situational judgement, etc.) using the latest research and technology and should be assessed by their potential impact in achieving the CAF’s goal of selecting the right person for the right position at the right time. The scope of this challenge includes integrity testing for selection/hiring purposes; personality testing for selection/hiring purposes; advancements in cognitive ability testing for selection/hiring purposes; development of tests that do not demonstrate adverse impact (in particular to assess psychometric abilities for pilots, spatial reasoning, executive functioning, and learning);and online selection testing. The tools should address challenges inherent in testing, including (a) computerized/online testing; (b) cultural and language issues in test development, recognizing that any tool developed must be available in both official languages; and (c) test accommodations for reasons related to religion, learning disability, and physical and mental health.

Theme 2: Readiness - Training and Development

Emerging learning and training modalities. The CAF (and allied nations) are responsible for maintaining high readiness for capabilities in several mission-critical domains, including, for example, response to CBRNE (chemical-biological-radiological-nuclear-explosive) threats and casualty management. The ability to operate effectively in environments with evolving threats requires comprehensive and flexible learning and training approaches involving a variety of challenging conditions, in both live and simulated training environments. Notably, the lack of assessment metrics, techniques, and analytical tools for evaluating the effectiveness of existing learning and training approaches in such environments is a knowledge gap. Projects that would address the gap would greatly help the CAF, allied forces, and first responders evaluate learning and training mechanisms, evolve them as necessary, and maximize their effectiveness and readiness for current and emerging threats. 

Theme 3: Social Processes in the Workplace 

The Impact OF COVID-19. The COVID-19 pandemic is currently disrupting the lives of many Canadians and organizations, including Defence Team personnel and their families. Although the scale of this crisis is unprecedented, social/behavioural science can provide insight into many important aspects of this crisis.  The scope of this challenge includes the following domains:

  • Adjusting to isolation and working at home – Science insights into the challenges people face in isolation (e.g., lack of connectedness, boredom) and, in the context of COVID-19, how that might affect our personnel, such as their health and well-being (guilt, meaningful), work-life balance, and their ability to work effectively from a home office. If possible, identify those more susceptible to any negative effects of working from home and provides strategies to mitigate these effects (individual, leader, organizational, etc.).
  • Common reactions to crises and mitigation – Discusses common short- and long-term reactions to crises (emotional, psychological, behavioural), reactions to COVID-19 in particular, high risk groups, and recommendations on how to prevent or manage these reactions and impacts (self, leader, organization).
  • Managing family stress – Considers the potential negative (and positive) effects of COVID-19 on families (spouses, children, elderly dependents), and how they may impact individuals in the short- and long-term.
  • Reintegration and coping with the aftermath – Potential personnel challenges associated with reintegration back to normal once restrictions are lifted. Topics could include workplace readjustment (e.g., prioritizing, catching up, expectations, do processes change, re-establishing relationships / trust); managing the residual impacts of the crisis like, financial loss, family relations, school progress, and grief associated with the mourning of a loss that could not be dealt with in normal or traditional ways because of the restrictions put in place.
  • Characteristics of non-compliers and mitigation – Insights into the social and psychological facts that predict compliance with rules and guidelines on how to act safely during extended crises like COVID-19. The work might also explore the factors associated with tendencies to engage in negative coping strategies. Finally, the work could provides insights into what DND/CAF may do to nudge high risk groups toward adaptive behaviour.

Diversity, gender and armed forces. Canada’s most recent defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, calls for the application of gender-based analysis (ie. GBA+), identifies numerous initiatives related to diversity and inclusion, and prioritizes human resource outcomes such as recruitment, training, retention, health and resilience, and a culture of leadership, respect, and honour. Ongoing work in this domain also recognizes that a lack of diversity and gender inclusion among current military populations might be a barrier to operational capability as well as potentially overlooking talented applicants. Moreover, changing demographics in Canada and among its allies require a better understanding of how to attract, recruit, and retain the next generation of military personnel from diverse communities in order to maintain operational readiness and effectiveness. While research has examined many of the challenges to achieving greater diversity and gender integration in the military, additional research is required to better understand how to develop and sustain a military organization that is effectively inclusive.

Developing trust in diverse organizational teams and in cross-cultural settings. Projects under this research topic should focus on concepts and frameworks for understanding trust and techniques to enhance the development of trust in diverse organizational teams and in cross-cultural settings. Work can include research to improve engagement, shared understanding, motivation and collaboration, planning, decision making, and execution of activities in multi-organizational and multicultural teams. Research could involve the development of frameworks, models, and theories to better understand the psychological and group dynamics and performance metrics in either diverse organizational or diverse cultural teams. Research might also address the development and validation of techniques, approaches, and technologies to facilitate initial trust building, the detection of decreases in trust and strategies for the repair of broken trust, and how to mitigate the destructive effects of distrust in these settings.

Transition to civilian life: The role of identity in the transition process. Transition from military to civilian life (MCT; military–civilian transition) is challenging for all military personnel. Although most do well, the changes are quite difficult for some. Early research on transition points to the importance of "identity" in transitioning successfully to civilian life. Previous research has focused on understanding what happens to serving members' sense of identity and how they relate to society after they leave the military. It has been proposed that a "good MCT" is one where veterans and their families achieve strong global wellbeing. Current research on identities suggests that well-managed identity shifts are central and necessary in MCT adjustment; indeed, identity and a new sense of purpose are the key determinants of wellbeing in post-service MCT. We need theoretical frameworks and new methodological/analytic approaches to understand the transition experience and innovative ways to inform releasing members about their upcoming identity disruptions and to equip them with the life skills and knowledge that will help them to develop healthy post-service identities.

Socio-cultural change in military organizations. Culture and socio-cultural change is a persistent challenge for military leaders and as such has been addressed in various ways in recent decades. This priority is reinforced within Canada’s Defence Policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, which calls for institutionalized culture change to promote a culture of leadership, respect and honour, with a view toward the elimination of harmful behaviours, and to promote work environments free from harassment and discrimination. While the specific objectives of Operation HONOUR are of particular import, numerous other institutional priorities create concurrent demands for action and change across the CAF. The social challenges facing the CAF today demand further understanding of cultural dynamics, including successful approaches to culture change. Past research is generous in addressing how to change culture as well as establishing the important role of measuring and monitoring of change initiatives; however, there is little evidence-based research that includes, for example, measures or assessment of successful culture change initiatives, the sustainment of culture change objectives over time, or the identification and assessment of key enablers of, and barriers to, culture change. That is, notwithstanding the multiple efforts targeting diversity, inclusion, and elimination of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct, little evidence is available to support the broader objective of culture change. Research which addresses qualitative, quantitative, and mixed method models and approaches to monitoring and measuring socio-cultural change are important to better understand how organizations, and the military in particular, can provide evidence-based research related to culture change.

Psychosocial Well-Being of Minority Groups in the Workplace. The Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces established a commitment to promote the well-being of its personnel, as well as the ideals of diversity, respect, and inclusion. Internal research has established baseline measures of workplace well-being across the Defence Team, as well as population level insights into a number of attitudes and behaviours related to diversity climate, culture, leadership, harassment, discrimination, racism, sexual misconduct, mental health, and resilience. In some cases, results have highlighted differences among sub-groups in the Defence Team, including among women or members of LGBTQ communities, or members who identify as belonging to other designated groups such as visible minorities, Indigenous people or persons with disabilities. Additional work is needed to investigate the unique experiences and aspects of psychosocial well-being of various intersectional groups, including risk and resilience factors. Projects under this topic should consider how best to measure psychosocial well-being among minority groups in large organizational settings; the links between experiences of inappropriate and discriminatory behaviours and psychosocial well-being; the extent to which intersectionality and negative experiences such as discrimination or harassment are moderators of risk and resilience factors of psychosocial well-being; and strategies to mitigate risk or enhance resilience factors that may be applied by organizations in order to effectively cultivate or sustain the psychosocial well-being of minority groups in the workplace.

Preventing and responding to reprisals after interpersonal conflicts. One of the primary tenets of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) Defence Policy (formalized as Strong, Secure, Engaged) is to promote a healthy, respectful workplace. This requires an environment where any emerging interpersonal conflicts, harassment, or inappropriate behaviour can be identified and addressed without fear of reprisal. Projects under this research challenge should focus on studies, theories, and frameworks to better understand the nature of formal and informal reprisals that could occur in a workplace setting like the military; the interpersonal and organizational factors that increase (and by contrast, that mitigate) the risk of actual or perceived reprisals; and how to effectively respond when perceived acts of reprisal are reported following disclosures of interpersonal conflict, harassment, or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

Theme 4: Operational Effectiveness

Individual, social and cultural dimensions of radicalization. Radicalization is a process through which individuals or groups transition from moderate and societally accepted social, political, or religious views to extreme ones that, in can some circumstances, lead to violence or other hostile or malign activities (e.g., ideological support to or the promotion of violence). Projects under this research challenge should focus on developing models and frameworks to describe and explain how culture, society, group membership, identity, gender, mental health, and an individual’s sense of belonging contribute to the process of radicalization, together with possible mitigation strategies.

Ethical dimension of using artificial intelligence in defence and security. Artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities and applications have rapidly advanced as a result of significant increases in computer-processing power, access to data, and improvements in algorithms. While AI can provide solutions to a wide range of military capability gaps and challenges, AI technology must be designed with a mind towards not only its benefits, but also its risks and limitations. Errors caused by improper actions or faulty advice from AI technologies can put lives of military personnel and civilians at risk.  The use of AI also involves complex ethical and social issues that may impede its design, development, implementation, evaluation, and use deployment by the CAF and DND. Internal research highlighted the need for, and consequently led to the development of, an Ethics Assessment Framework for Emerging AI and Robotics Technologies in future military systems. Application of the framework to emerging AI and Robotics technologies has identified several pervasive issues, including privacy, bias, safety/security, accountability/responsibility, reliability, trust predictability, policy, training, verification and validation, and testing. Future research should examine the ethical implications of specific technologies in a military and a public-safety context, should consider the technical, institutional, legal, and regulatory elements of an AI code of ethics, and importantly, could address immediate and emergent challenges posed by adversarial use of AI and Robotic technologies by non-state actors and competitive nation states.

Human dimensions of cyber security. The security of computers and computer networks is under constant threat from malicious actors who seek access and control of the information stored in them. To a great extent, the protection of systems and networks from malicious actors is a technical challenge that can be met by deploying effective tools to detect and deny attempts to gain access. Other threats to network security are caused by (a) users’ susceptibility to influence by malicious actors or (b) users’ willingness to disregard policy and engage in behaviours that put cyber systems at risk. Projects under this research challenge should focus on a) experiments and frameworks to understand the human factors that underpin non-malicious behaviours that compromise network security, including policy non-compliance, users’ response to security events, or users’ susceptibility to social engineering by malicious agents; b) developing and testing methodologies for assessing potential risk to systems and networks due to non-malicious human behaviour; and c) developing and testing interventions for mitigating threats from non-malicious human behaviour. (Topic also proposed by SSHRC.)

Shaping attitudes, opinions, and behaviour. People can, and times need to be, persuaded or influenced to change their attitudes, opinions, or engage in behaviours at odds with their values and beliefs. For example, adversaries may try to persuade target audiences to endorse or oppose an idea or key leader. As another example, an organization may take steps to try to change its members’ attitudes towards seeking help related to mental health. Projects under this research topic should focus on understanding the psychological and sociological factors by which individuals, groups, communities or whole populations can have beliefs, opinions, or behaviour shaped by individual, group, media, industry, or state actors through persuasive communications, including, in the case of adversary attempts to shape attitudes and behaviour, deception (e.g., misrepresentation, disinformation and other forms of information manipulation) techniques. Projects will take qualitative, quantitative, or both approaches to understand how factors such as individual vulnerabilities, group processes, gender, and social identity contribute to shaping attitudes, opinions, and behaviour in the physical and/or online environments.

Social and cultural demands of military operations. Canada’s defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged, highlights a future characterized by an unpredictable and complex security environment. Within this context, mission success will require the ability to build relationships with a diverse range of individuals, organizations, and allies within demanding security contexts, both at home and abroad. Building these relationships requires a high cultural competence across an agile, well-educated, flexible, diverse, and combat-ready military organization; a healthy and resilient military community of members and families; and the ability to address the unique challenges faced by women, men, and children in conflict zones. Recognizing that social and cultural demands are essential to operational effectiveness, research is required to develop knowledge and contribute to military capacity to enhance institutional processes in meeting these challenges, including the capacity to integrate gender-based analyses into institutional and operational processes. (Topic also proposed by SSHRC.)

Gender perspectives on operations, defence, and security. Projects under this research topic should focus on the integration of gender perspectives or gender-based analysis plus (GBA+) into operations, defence, and security. The work would take national or international perspectives in order to better understand the potential impacts of operations and other interventions on diverse groups of people, taking into account gender and a broad range of identity factors, such as culture, language, race, religion, age, income, education, or geography. Projects under this challenge may also address the women, peace, and security agenda laid out in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and subsequent resolutions, which seeks to address the disproportionate and unique impact of armed conflict on women and the key role they can play in conflict management, confliction resolution, and sustainable peace. Research could investigate the challenges and opportunities afforded by the inclusion of gender perspectives, and the conditions under which the integration of gender perspectives/GBA+ may contribute to the improvement of operational effectiveness and to meet the diverse needs of those affected by conflict, crisis, or natural disaster.

Civil–military relations: Projects under this research challenge should focus on the ability to develop and maintain effective, collaborative relationships between the military and civilian populations, including government departments, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, the local population, or others. This research should expand on current theories of civil–military relations at strategic, operational, and tactical levels in the variety of settings and contexts where civilian–military relations occur. Topics could include bridging gaps in civil–military organizational cultures; the relationship between civilian authority and military authority; collaboration in civil–military operations including multi-domain operations; civil–military pre-deployment planning and training; policy influencing civil–military relations; stabilization policies and processes; the relationship between civil–military relations and hybrid warfare; humanitarian and military relations, particularly with respect to humanitarian mandates and law. This research could involve the development or expansion of theories and models on civilian–military relations; the analysis of current civilian–military processes, policies, doctrines, and mandates; the analysis of training and learning techniques and technologies intended to facilitate civil–military relations, as well as the development of new training and learning techniques and technologies. (Topic also proposed by SSHRC.)

Working effectively in diverse organizational teams and in cross-cultural settings. Projects under this research topic should focus on concepts and frameworks for understanding cross-cultural/intercultural competence and techniques to work and interact effectively in diverse organizational teams and in cross-cultural settings. Sub-projects can include research to improve engagement, shared understanding, trust, motivation and collaboration, planning, decision making, and execution of activities in multi-organizational and multicultural teams. Research could involve the development of frameworks, models, and theories to better understand the psychological and group dynamics in either diverse organizational or diverse cultural teams, as well as the development and validation of techniques, approaches, and technologies to facilitate initial relationship building, the detection of decreases in positive working relationships and strategies for the repair of conflict or distrust, and how to mitigate the destructive effects of conflict in these settings.

All Domain Situational Awareness S&T Program

Through an investment of up to $133M over five years in All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) S&T, DND will conduct research and analysis to support the development of options for enhanced domain awareness of air, maritime surface and sub-surface approaches to Canada, and in particular those in the Arctic. This research and analysis will be delivered through collaboration with other government departments (OGDs), academia, industry and allies. Surveillance solutions explored will support the Government of Canada’s ability to exercise sovereignty in the North.

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