Jessica Clark and Matthew McKean, Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
The ASPP (Awards to Scholarly Publications Program) has been, in one incarnation or another, at the heart of the Federation since day one. The competitive funding program, designed to assist with the publication of scholarly books on topics in the humanities and social sciences, has supported over 6000 books since it began.
In 1940, the Aid for Publication program was established, thanks to a $5000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation. The goal was to ensure that completed works by “competent scholars” did not go unpublished. In the early days, Aid for Publication funding supported scholarly books recommended by the Canadian Social Science Research Council, which was also founded in 1940.
Its partner, the Humanities Research Council of Canada, founded in 1943, did not initially have access to the Rockefeller funds and was unable to offer publication grants until 1947, when both Rockefeller and the Carnegie Corporation agreed to extend their support of publications to scholarship in the humanities.
Within a decade, the American funding bodies were encouraging the Canadians to find home-grown sources of support. And by 1957, the Canada Council assumed responsibility for the program, with the research councils continuing to oversee the process of peer-reviewing incoming manuscripts. SSHRC took over the funding responsibility in the late 1970s.
When the two councils merged in 1996 to form the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, the Aid for Publication program was re-branded as the Aid to Scholarly Publications Programme and later as the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, or the ASPP as we know it today.
In fact, the creation of the ASPP was a central reason for the formation of the two original councils. It was clear to the founding members of the two councils that a concerted effort to support the dissemination of Canadian research was needed, and their solution was the ASPP. Documents from the early years of the councils show that the ASPP’s funding and administration was not just a priority, but a given, though sometimes one that needed to be defended amid competing demands for government funds.
As the Federation looks ahead to its next 75 years, where issues such as Open Access and the Digital Humanities may take centre stage, it is important to trace our roots and acknowledge the power and simplicity of books. Books have been and continue to be central to our disciplines. And this is not likely to change any time soon. Moreover, books are central to the history of the Federation, through its long relationship with the ASPP. We are proud to be the administrators of this historic and important program, which has and will continue to support the Canadian humanities and social sciences community for many years to come.