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Research Prominence

The Conversation: Science in Canada needs funding, not photo-ops

Fresh off an election win in 2015, the Trudeau government won the support of the Canadian research community with a declaration that science and evidence-based decision making was back.

"Andrew Craig"
Andrew Craig, an associate professor in biomedical and molecular sciences at Queen's University, would like to see the government implement all recommendations from the Naylor report. (University Communications) 

Early action included the appointment of Canada’s first minister of science, and a modest increase in funding to the federal agencies that administer federal research funds in their first budget. While disappointed with the magnitude of investment, the research community rationalized that much more substantive changes to science funding would require more time, and hoped for an evidence-based process.

To this end, Science Minister Kirsty Duncan commissioned a review of federally funded research led by David Naylor and a panel of university administrators and distinguished researchers, including Nobel laureate Arthur McDonald.

The report was delivered in late 2016. But the official release was delayed until early April 2017, after the government presented its second federal budget with no new funds for Canada’s three federal research agencies, commonly referred to as the tricouncil: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Picking winners instead of basic research

In fact, there was no mention of these funding agencies or the importance of fundamental research in the 2017 federal budget, despite a major focus on innovation, which inevitably builds on fundamental discoveries.

Instead, Ottawa continued the trend of previous governments to support directed funding for specialized themes, including $6 million for stem-cell research, $81 million for space exploration, $10 million for quantum computing and $35 million to support international collaborations. This approach amounts to picking winners, and ignores the value of broad support for the science ecosystem.

To this day, there has been limited endorsement of the Naylor report recommendations by the Canadian government. Some suggest the science minister and the Naylor report failed to make a compelling case that a major reinvestment of $485 million dollars annually — less than 0.1 per cent of GDP — is needed to restore funding for fundamental research to 2005 levels.

Duncan was slow to endorse the report and appeared to question whether funding recommendations should be left to elected officials — surprising since she herself commissioned the report, and it provides the basis for evidence-based decisions on how to bolster Canadian science funding and delivery.

Research funding dire

Research funding in Canada has remained relatively flat. (Handout)
Research funding in Canada has remained relatively flat. (Handout)

Instead, a grassroots effort among Canadian researchers led to the organization of town hall meetings across Canada where researchers weighed in on their concerns. These forums revealed how dire the funding situation is for researchers, especially for those in early and mid-career positions who are attempting to build or sustain their research program.

The meetings also demonstrated that the research community strongly supports implementation of all recommendations in the Naylor report. “Support the Report” became a mantra taken up by many Canadian scientists on social media and in meetings with government officials. We collectively met with most federal MPs and ministers and often found ourselves educating them on the Naylor report — even those within the Liberal government.

Since then, there has been no evidence that the science minister or the prime minister will provide the budget support needed to enact the report’s recommendations.

Now at the midpoint of its mandate, the Trudeau government is attempting to traverse an ever-widening gap between the government’s messaging on science and its actions. Due to inaction, they have effectively reduced available funding for federal research in open competitions where the research topics are not constrained or dependent on industry partnerships.

Serious implications

Why should the public be concerned? The loss of investigator-initiated grants means that we are currently limiting the support for new fundamental discoveries that cannot be predicted by well-intentioned government or granting council executives.

Further, these discoveries are often not translated into new treatments or devices immediately. The late Tony Pawson, who made seminal discoveries during his biomedical research career in Canada, had an important message for all governments when accepting the prestigious Kyoto Prize in Japan in 2008: “Governments increasingly want to see immediate returns on the research that they support, but it is worth viewing basic science as a long-term investment that will yield completely unexpected dividends for humanity in the future.”

This was certainly a failing of the Harper government, and still largely applies to the science policy of the Trudeau government, despite the warm platitudes of how they value science.

Action needed now

It is time for the Canadian government to move past boutique programs and photo-ops. Without new investment in unfettered research funding to the tricouncil agencies, we will see generations of highly skilled scientists leave Canada or choose another career.

This will further the steady decline in Canada’s reputation for world-class research. It also has the unintended consequence of stemming the flow of new discoveries that feed into the innovation sector.

Recently, several positive steps on the science portfolio have included appointment of Canada’s chief science adviser to the government and a Canada Research Coordinating Committee. These are promising developments, but without a major increase in federal funding, the research ecosystem will remain on life support.

The ConversationIt is now 2017, a time for evidence-based decisions in science policy. It is time for the Canadian government to demonstrate they are moving ahead with all recommendations from the Naylor report to return balance and support Canadian science in all its wonderful diversity.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Five leading researchers recognized by Queen’s

2017 Prizes for Excellence in Research are Queen’s highest internal research award

The recipients of the 2017 Prize for Excellence in Research are committed to building connections. Whether it be between organic compounds and metals or scholars and Indigenous communities, each scholar has established themselves as leaders in their fields, working to connect their studies to the world at large. Spanning disciplines across the university, the 2017 PER recipients are Sam McKegney (English), Liying Cheng (Education), Cathleen Crudden (Chemistry), Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering), and Denis O’Donnell (Medicine).

Awarded annually in five areas (humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and health sciences), the awards have been the signature internal research prize since 1980, and represent an important investment by Queen’s in recognizing research and scholarship. Recipients are some of the top scholars in their fields, and they are each awarded a prize of $5,000 as well as the chance to give a public lecture on their research in the spring. More information on the public lectures will be made available in early 2018.

“I would like to extend my sincerest congratulations to this year’s Prize for Excellence in Research recipients,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “This prize is a testament to the level of research excellence found at the university, and a true mark of excellence for these scholars.  Each researcher has made a significant, long-standing impact in their field. I look forward to watching them receive their prize at fall Convocation and to hearing their public lectures in the spring.”

Sam McKegneySam McKegney (English) is an associate professor whose research has greatly impacted considerations of the ethical roles of settler scholars in Indigenous Studies. He has written many articles on environmental kinship, Indigenous prison writing, and the Truth and Reconciliation process. Dr. McKegney’s 2014 book Masculindians explored the connections between constructions of racial and gender identities by interviewing North American Indigenous artists, and received an honourable mention for The Canadian Women’s and Gender Studies Association’s Outstanding Scholarship Award.

Liying ChengLiying Cheng (Education) has helped to redefine language assessment practices around the globe. A professor in the Faculty of Education and Director of the Assessment and Evaluation Group, Dr. Cheng’s research into how effective assessment practices can lead to enhanced language teaching and learning outcomes for second language students has influenced education policy, curriculum, pedagogy, and language assessment practices. She is highly respected in the international education community for her research into “washback,” or the impact of language assessment practices on language learning and teaching.

Cathleen CruddenCathleen Crudden (Chemistry) is the Canada Research Chair in Metal Organic Chemistry and an internationally-recognized scholar whose discovery of how the bonding of organic compounds to metals in well-defined monolayers has garnered global attention from many different fields. She is an expert in synthetic organic chemistry, and has demonstrated bond formation reactions that were thought to be impossible by other scholars. Dr. Crudden has made immense strides in her field, and she now maintains extensive international collaborations with many researchers.

Pascale ChampagneAs the Canada Research Chair in Bioresource Engineering and Director of the Beaty Water Research Centre, Pascale Champagne (Civil Engineering) is an internationally-recognized researcher with an innovative and diverse research program in the fields of environmental engineering and bioresource management. Her research program focuses on topics of critical importance in Canada and internationally, and pillars in achieving sustainable development, including low energy and low impact eco-engineered systems for the treatment of wastewater, as well as using renewable resources in the creation of novel routes for the production of bioenergy, biofuels and bioproducts. Many of her projects are in collaboration with private industries, government/regulatory agencies, and municipalities. 

Denis O'DonnellDenis O’Donnell (Medicine) is a world-class respiratory physiologist specializing in the mechanisms of breathlessness and exercise limitation in patients with chronic lung disorders. His research in this field has been so influential that the respiratory community has named the critical lung hyperinflation point corresponding to an abrupt increase in intolerable breathlessness in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) the “O’Donnell Threshold.” He served as Chair of best practices guidelines for COPD management in Canada, has published extensively in top respiratory journals and has served on numerous international scientific panels and journal editorial boards.

Queen’s researchers are renowned for their success in garnering research accolades, and the university ranks second nationally for external faculty research awards and honours, according to Maclean’s. Queen’s is also a member of the U15 group of Canadian research-intensive universities, and our faculty and students are advancing research programs that have real world impact and are addressing global challenges.

A focus on Indigenous research collaboration

Queen’s Adjunct Professor Alex McComber (DSc’16) delivers a lecture about Indigenous research collaboration. (University Communications)

Several recommendations within the Queen’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission Task Force final report challenged researchers across the university to ensure they are engaging Indigenous communities in culturally appropriate and respectful ways.

To help share the perspectives of both Indigenous and non-Indigenous researchers and build competency at Queen’s, the School of Graduate Studies, the Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University (ACQU), and Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre hosted a three-hour session about “Research Collaboration with Indigenous Communities”. More than 80 faculty and students attended the workshop, which included a keynote address and panel presentations by masters student Jon Aarssen; PhD candidate Natasha Stirrett; Heather Castleden, Associate Professor and Canada Research Chair in Reconciling Relations for Health, Environments, and Communities; and Marlene Brant Castellano, Co-Chair of Aboriginal Council of Queen’s University. The event concluded with a talking circle which included all participants.

“This event is one way our School is responding to the recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report at Queen’s, a number of which speak to how we engage in research with Indigenous communities,” said Marta Straznicky, Associate Dean in the School of Graduate Studies and one of the event organizers. “The strong attendance at this workshop is a testament to the need for this type of information.”

This presentation was the realization of months of effort by the School of Graduate Studies to better educate its students on how to engage Indigenous communities in research – being ever mindful of the adage “nothing about us without us”. The workshop idea originated this summer, when the School of Graduate Studies and the ACQU established a Committee on Indigenous Research Collaboration. The committee includes representation from the ACQU, the School of Graduate Studies, Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre, and other faculty members and students.

The workshop represents phase one of a longer-term plan to help broaden access by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit communities and organizations to the research resources of the university, appropriate to community needs and priorities. The School is also seeking to promote and develop the skills and intercultural competencies of graduate students and faculty for community-engaged research with, and by, Indigenous Peoples. Moving forward, The School of Graduate Studies will aim to provide students and faculty with the knowledge to build strong, mutually respectful, and durable research collaborations between Queen’s University and Indigenous communities, added Dr. Straznicky.

As an example of a successful research collaboration, Queen’s Adjunct Professor Alex McComber (DSc’16) gave a keynote address about a project within the Kahnawà:ke Mohawk Territory aimed at supporting health promotion and diabetes prevention in local schools. This major and long-term effort united the local community and Montréal-based researchers. Dr. McComber said the approach of those original researchers, who incorporated community feedback and Indigenous ways of knowing into their work, resulted in a balanced relationship and served as a positive model for this type of research.

“Sometimes students come in with an idea, and when we hear the idea we think, ‘Well, that’s interesting but the way that they’re talking about it is never going to work,’ so we sit with the student and talk with them,” he said, reflecting on researchers approaching the Kahnawà:ke community leaders. “I remember the last time we told a student this she almost started to cry, thinking her idea was no good, and I said ‘No, the idea is awesome! But we need to help you understand [community participatory research]’. When she came back around, she understood what we were wanting her to learn, and how she could contribute back to the community.”

Dr. McComber noted, in the past, researchers would fly into Indigenous communities, gather information, and leave without contacting the community again; the next time the information would be seen was when a report was published. He suggested aspiring researchers should instead make the goal of their work to create new knowledge in collaboration with Indigenous communities and to build relationships that bring about understanding on both sides.

“As up and coming researchers…you have two ears, two eyes, and one mouth,” Dr. McComber said in closing. “Come in with respect, and be open to being challenged and doing things differently.”

The session was part of an annual two-day Indigenous Research Symposium organized by the Four Directions Aboriginal Student Centre. In addition to the Friday workshop, the symposium explored the themes of this year’s Queen’s Read title, The Break, from an Indigenous perspective.

Queen's researcher recognized for major contributions to global cancer research

Elizabeth Eisenhauer has been awarded for exceptional leadership in cancer research.

"Elizabeth Eisenhauer"
Elizabeth Eisenhauer has been recognized by the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance with its award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research. (Photo by Bernard Clark)

The Canadian Cancer Research Alliance (CCRA) has recognized Professor Emerita Elizabeth Eisenhauer with its award for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Research for her preeminent work in the field of cancer clinical trials, cancer treatment and drug delivery, and cancer research strategy and development.  

Dr. Eisenhauer, renowned for her research in ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma, and malignant brain tumours, is one of only six recipients who will be formally presented with CCRA awards at the organization’s biennial scientific conference next week.

“I feel very honoured to have received this recognition from the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance,” says Dr. Eisenhauer. “CCRA has brought together research funding agencies from across the country to develop common strategies and shared investments designed to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer – work that I have long supported.”

Improving cancer treatment
In 1990, Dr. Eisenhauer discovered a method for administering a commonly-used cancer drug Taxol that not only sustained the drug’s efficacy longer, but also reduced its toxic side effects in patients. Her discovery led to a new global standard of care for Taxol use in the treatment of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, non-small cell lung cancer amongst others.

In 1982, Dr. Eisenhauer was instrumental in creating the Investigational New Drug (IND) Program for the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), based at Queen’s University. Under her directorship, the IND program offered an opportunity for clinical investigators and patients to obtain new cancer drugs and contribute to their evaluation and development. During her tenure, which ended in 2012, Dr. Eisenhauer presided over 200 phase I-III clinical trials involving more than 5,500 patients and more than 100 new cancer-fighting drugs. Many of these drugs led to new international standards of cancer treatments.

From 2006 to 2017, Dr. Eisenhauer also assumed several other national leadership positions, including roles as president of the National Cancer Institute of Canada; expert lead, Research at the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer; and co-chair of the CCRA. Most recently, she served as head of oncology at Queen’s before her retirement in June 2017.

“Dr. Eisenhauer’s ground-breaking research contributions have fundamentally changed how scientists develop, test, and administer new treatments for cancer,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research) at Queen’s. “Her efforts to advance potential treatments safely and effectively through clinical trials have led to new standards of care and increased quality of life for cancer patients around the world. On behalf of Queen’s, I want to offer my congratulations for this well-deserved recognition, and commend Dr. Eisenhauer for her exceptional leadership in the fight against cancer.”

Looking ahead, Dr. Eisenhauer says there has been excitement around emerging immune treatments and molecular-targeted medicines for cancer, but she stresses that it would be a mistake to focus solely on a few treatment areas.

“Reducing the burden of cancer will require research and implementation of important findings in all areas, including prevention, early detection, treatment, survivorship, and palliative care,” says Dr. Eisenhauer. “There is a tendency to assume that there are simple answers to cancer, which leads to a lot of funding being directed into a single area of research. However, there have never been simple solutions, so a multi-pronged approach will be the only sufficient way to reduce the impact of this disease.”

The CCRA conference runs from Nov. 5-7 in Vancouver.

On the road again

Queen’s University engineering lab redesigns bicycle for teenager with cerebral palsy.

Janessa Gerhardt with, from left, Elizabeth Hoskin, Louise Munro, Andrew Gowthorpe, Claire Davies, and Karen Forbes.
Janessa Gerhardt has a bicycle that suits her limited range of motion thanks to the work of, from left, students Elizabeth Hoskin, Louise Munro, Andrew Gowthorpe, as well as Claire Davies (Mechanical and Materials Engineering), and physiotherapist Karen Forbes. (Queen's University)

Janessa Gerhardt has a cool, new set of wheels thanks to Queen’s University engineer Claire Davies and a team of fourth year students working in her Building and Designing Assistive Technology Lab.

The Napanee teenager, who is living with cerebral palsy, had been trying for years to find a bike that would suit her limited range of motion. Her search came up empty until her physiotherapist Karen Forbes met up with Dr. Davies, who proposed a solution.

“We attended a special adaptive bike fair last spring but no bike worked for Janessa so she left in tears,” Ms. Forbes says. “We met with Claire soon after and she proposed a solution.”

A team of fourth-year students redesigned the crankshaft of Janessa Gerhardt's three-wheeled bicycle, allowing her to pedal up to two or three kilometers twice a day. (University Communications) 

Dr. Davies says she tasked a team of her fourth-year students with redesigning the crankshaft of a three-wheeled bicycle, which was the main area of concern. Due to her limited range of motion, Ms. Gerhardt was unable to pedal a traditional bicycle. Now, she rides up to two or three kilometers twice a day which is critical for someone confined to a power wheelchair, according to her therapist.

“Most kids her age who are at her level of mobility are confined to a power chair and that isn’t healthy,” she explains. “Janessa understands the health benefits of exercise so it’s important for her to be active. Obesity is a genuine concern which affects all areas of health, especially for those with limited mobility.”

During a media event on campus, Ms. Gerhardt couldn’t stop smiling or talking about her bicycle.

“It gives me exercise and freedom and my legs work like they are supposed to," she says. "It’s really fun. If it wasn’t for Karen, Claire and their team, I wouldn’t be riding at all.”

Dr. Davies says the vision for her multidisciplinary lab at Queen’s, which includes occupational therapists and physical therapists, focuses on designing and building assistive devices to increase the independence of individuals with disabilities. Research includes assistive learning devices for children with visual impairments and Nintendo Wii software to prevent older adults from falling by improving their balance.

Principal outlines priorities for 2017-18

The Principal has outlined his major priorities for Queen’s University in 2017-18. In this interview with the Queen’s Gazette, Daniel Woolf previews what’s to come this year.

 

How do your priorities advance the university’s mission and build the Queen's of the future that you have envisioned and spoken about?

We are collectively building the Queen’s of the future every day. It’s a place of great traditions, and many of those traditions still survive from my time as a student. Yet no institution survives by staying in the same place. We need to adapt and change. We have made huge progress in the last few years, and I think our trajectory is simply going to continue upward.

My first priority as Principal was to put our financial and governance house in order, develop a culture of planning, and introduce a new budget model – which has been done thanks to the hard work of the Deans and our former Provost. The last few years have been focused on putting in place the conditions for future success, including drafting documents such as the Strategic Framework and the Comprehensive International Plan, ensuring sustainable enrolment growth, improving town-gown relations, and working on our talent management.

My current goals are based on a three-year rolling plan, which includes short-term and long-term priorities. The 2017-18 underlying themes are primarily: catalyzing change, which relates to faculty renewal and research prominence; respecting our community, which includes diversity and inclusion as well as encouraging safe and respectful behavior; and an infrastructure strategy, which will look at the question of how we eliminate $300 million worth of deferred maintenance in the next ten to twelve years and, of course, how we will pay for it.

The faculty renewal effort underpins many of these priorities. It will support our commitment to equity and inclusion, enhance our teaching and learning by ensuring students receive mentorship from faculty with diverse backgrounds and experience, and will help us attract promising early- and mid-career faculty who demonstrate exceptional promise as researchers.

Achieving these goals will put us in a position to reach for much greater success in research and innovation. This should lead us, five to ten years down the road, to an enhanced reputation as one of the most distinctive universities in the country in terms of the quality of its teaching, the quality of its students and faculty, the quality of its research, and its ability to innovate.

 

Looking ahead to the fifth year of our planned faculty renewal efforts, what difference will we see in the Queen’s of 2021-2022?

You will see nearly a quarter of the entire faculty complement turn over between new hires, retirements, and other departures. We will have a number of younger faculty out of recent PhD programs with somewhat different approaches to pedagogy, community relations, and interdisciplinarity. You will also be seeing some mid-career and senior appointments in designated fields to firm up areas of established excellence and promising emerging subjects. Hiring these 200 new faculty is a strategic investment that will lead us into the future.

These new faculty will want to come here because we will be one of Canada’s leading research intensive and teaching universities. They will want to be here because we are a place that recognizes innovation. They will be drawn by the good quality of life, the vibrant culture, and the affordability of living in Kingston. And they will have the chance to teach outstanding students in an environment where there is a great care for health and wellbeing, and in a place where we have made some thoughtful and strategic choices in terms of our research excellence.

The two primary lenses we are using to guide our hiring decisions are research excellence – the few areas at Queen’s that have the capacity to be really world-leading – and diversity and equity, where we know that we have some work to do.

We cannot aspire to be a world leader in every single subject and every single discipline. We have the capacity to make some choices to pursue areas – particle physics is an obvious one, but not the only one – where we can rank in the top 100 or higher. Making such choices does not disadvantage or diminish other areas. A rising tide lifts all boats.

The Provost and I will be taking advice from the Deans and the incoming Vice-Principal (Research and Innovation) in terms of what are the most promising areas. I say ‘areas’ rather than necessarily ‘departments’ or ‘disciplines’ since some will be multidisciplinary. We will also be appealing to our alumni, who recognize the importance of hiring and retaining the best and brightest, for support for endowed chairs and professorships to support our hiring plans.

 

Why are our research reputation and graduate student experience so important?

For Queen’s to be where we need to be five to ten years from now, we need to raise our game on research and graduate education.

We have an outstanding reputation as an undergraduate institution. We are one of the lead providers of a baccalaureate education, inside and outside the classroom. But it is important, if we are to be a truly balanced academy, that we are equally recognized for our research. It is not just an add-on – it is as big a part as the teaching and support for our faculty members.

Student engagement scores are solid on the undergraduate side. We have a little work to do on graduate engagement scores, and the Deans are looking closely at how we can improve those. It’s something we need to see some movement on in the next few years.

The graduate piece is really important because graduate students contribute enormously to the university. On the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) side of the house, they work on research projects that are very much connected with supervisor’s research programme. They are a big part of the engine that drives research. On the non-STEM side, where that model occurs sometimes but is less common, they contribute to the intellectual life of the humanities and social sciences departments. Even in my current job I still supervise one or two graduate students. They keep me on my toes intellectually. And graduate students also enhance our teaching as TAs and Teaching Fellows.

 

What do you hope to achieve by implementing the international strategy, and what impact will this have on Queen’s reputation?

Our international recognition has begun to improve through the great success our admissions and international teams have had in bringing people in. If you tell the world about us, they will actually come. Students who come here and return home build our reputation further.

Reputation is important. Apart from attracting fantastic students, it also has an impact on our ability to form international partnerships and secure international research funding. There is an awful lot of research money available in Europe and Asia, for example, which we could be accessing if we had more collaborative partnerships. We want to build on strategic partnerships with institutions we see as equal or better, opening up exchanges for students, creating opportunities for our faculty to have overseas sabbaticals and for faculty to come here on their sabbatical, and build more international research collaborations.

At the same time, there is also funding to be had in industry partnerships. That, in turn, helps the city and our country. All of this is part of a virtuous circle which will further enhance our reputation.

As I suggested above, interdisciplinarity is important. To solve the problems of the world, physicists have to work with chemists, biologists have to work with environmental engineers and, frankly, all of them need the advice of the social sciences, arts, and humanities. Looking ahead in the next few years, I would like to see us move in a bolder direction to organize interdisciplinary entities that bring together people from different departments and faculties.

 

What do employees need to know and be aware of as far as Queen’s financial competitiveness?

We have come a long way. We would not be hiring 200 faculty over the next five years if we had not got our financial house in order, and achieving this has very much been a collective effort.

On the staff side, Physical Plant Services has been managing our energy costs, saving us a good deal of money over the years. Advancement has been remarkably successful in getting donors to invest and I want to thank them for their hard work. Every dollar into the endowment produces 3.5 cents for particular things we need each year. When you have a large endowment, as we now do, that’s a significant chunk of money.

We have staff in research services and the faculties who work with faculty members and students generating scholarships and operating grants, and those who develop new programs which have brought in additional revenue to the university. Senate has been exceptionally busy in recent years overseeing the development of new programs and exercising its academic oversight of their quality.

And we have a very engaged board of trustees and committees with a lot of financial acuity and experience, and they have helped manage risk and given us a sound financial strategy.

There is still some work to do. We are getting close to resolving some of our long-standing pension issues, which remain a major financial threat. We have significant deferred maintenance challenges to address in the next few years, and it is not only our oldest buildings which need work. We are making progress, as you can see with the number of cranes, trucks, and workers around. Our Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) is developing a strategic asset management plan so we can identify which buildings are the most urgent for refresh or outright replacement. We have also benefitted from strong returns on our investments and a continued increase in student enrolment, though we must remain cautious and continue to address some of our financial risks.

 

What are the growth areas for Queen’s reputation, and how do we get there?

Interim Vice-Principal (Research) John Fisher is leading our strategic research plan renewal process, and Deputy Provost (Academic Operations and Inclusion) Teri Shearer is leading the academic plan renewal. Both of these processes should be resolved later this year, pending approval by Senate, and those, in turn, will inform our next iteration of the strategic framework in 2019.

We need to develop a more pan-university approach to some of the things we do. As I suggested above, it’s essential that we bring social sciences, humanities, and arts into some of our more well-known areas of strength. Among other things, they are going to be enormously important in our future digital strategy.

There remain some health and wellness challenges, especially around alcohol consumption, where student leaders have been working with us, and with community members, to encourage safe drinking. University Council has a number of Special Purpose committees looking into matters of importance such as alcohol consumption on and off campus. And we need to remain vigilant on the issue of sexual violence, which is often related to abuse of alcohol.

Finally, we must consider what we can do to become a leader in policy innovation once again. I am expecting, in the next month or so, a report on the future of public policy at Queen’s. I think it will give us some very interesting guidance on directions we might take, and the larger issue of Queen’s in the Canadian and larger international public policy sphere. This obviously involves the School of Policy Studies but I think it can involve so many more of our faculty and students around the university.

Keeping up The Conversation

It’s a simple, but powerful, formula. Take one part leading academic research, add a dash of journalistic flair, and mix in a robust digital presence. It is this winning recipe that has earned The Conversation, an academic journalism website, the participation of thousands of researchers worldwide, and captured the attention of millions of citizens interested in news with a healthy dose of academic rigour.

The Conversation
Queen's is a founding member of the Canadian national affiliate of The Conversation and, since its launch earlier this year, 33 articles by Queen's experts have been published.   

After a successful soft launch this summer, the Canadian national affiliate of The Conversation is running at full steam, having published hundreds of researchers’ articles, including a number from Queen’s. The university is a founding member of the national news platform.

“Our participation in The Conversation relays the importance and impact of disseminating and promoting the leading-edge research and scholarship happening at Queen’s University,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “The Conversation is a powerful tool for community engagement and is already bolstering the efforts of our researchers to share their expertise and build profile.”

Over the course of the summer, over two dozen Queen’s academics contributed to The Conversation, sparking dialogue about the business of marijuana, how to improve the skills of tomorrow’s doctors, , recruiting more women to join the military, how to prevent irregular heartbeats, the meaning of The Tragically Hip’s lyrics, and more. These faculty and graduate students suggested topics, wrote columns, and submitted them to The Conversation. From there, professional journalists helped edit the articles to ensure consistency and clarity.

The Conversation’s unique model puts the researchers in the driver’s seat when sharing their expertise,” says Benoit-Antoine Bacon, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic). “It is increasingly important that we convey the impact of our research and ideas beyond the academy, and we believe tools such as The Conversation are filling that gap in a powerful way.”

THE STATS

The 33 articles published to date by Queen’s experts have garnered a combined 167,000 reads and 166 comments on The Conversation’s website. One of the most popular, and possibly most controversial, pieces was an article by David Maslove, Clinician Scientist with the Department of Medicine and Critical Care Program, about the need to regulate journalism in the same way his profession is regulated.

“Working with The Conversation’s editorial team was great, with turnaround times between drafts that were much faster than what I’m used to in traditional academic publishing,” says Dr. Maslove. “It was really gratifying to see the piece we created reach a wider audience and stimulate debate.”

Another notable Queen’s submission included Sarita Srivastava’s (Sociology) “I wanna be white!’ Can we change race? – a piece analyzing a recent controversy on transracialism. Dr. Srivastava’s piece led to an invitation for her to speak during a symposium on the matter held at the University of Alberta.

Sarita Srivastava
Sarita Srivastava

“Writing for The Conversation has been a wonderful opportunity to reach a wider audience and to comment on current events as they are happening,” says Dr. Srivastava. “Their editor was extremely skilled in working with me to write in a more journalistic style, while maintaining scholarly content. Within days of my article’s publication, I was invited to speak at an upcoming symposium on the same topic.”

Once the articles are posted to The Conversation’s website, they are shared with a large network of Canadian and international media organizations through a “Republish” feature and posting via The Canadian Press Wire service. The work of Queen’s academics has gone on to be featured in major North American newspapers such as The Washington Post, CNN, CBS News and The National Post, magazines like Scientific American, and national dailies as far away as Australia, where The Conversation was originally founded.

“In our first three months of publication, content from The Conversation Canada has been viewed almost two million times. Combining academic expertise with journalistic storytelling means we are reaching a wide audience across Canada and around the world at a time when the public is thirsting for reliable, fact-based information,” says Scott White, editor-in-chief of The Conversation Canada. “We're very pleased that Queen's has been with us from the very beginning, including a Day One story, as well as important articles on the country's health care system and the beauty of song lyrics, to name just a few.”

The Conversation is regularly seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca

Investing in research

QROF supports cancer research 
Last year, 20 Queen’s faculty members received QROF grants, including Parvin Mousavi (School of Computing) whose project is advancing multi-parametric imaging for augmenting the diagnosis and management of prostate cancer. A recipient of the International Fund, Dr. Mousavi is working within the Advanced Multimodal Image-guided Operating (AMIGO) suite at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), Harvard Medical School.
According to the American and Canadian Cancer Societies, 262,000 new cases of prostate cancer are diagnosed annually and these numbers are expected to double by 2025 when the baby boomer generation reaches the age of peak prevalence. Dr. Mousavi’s research will contribute to better diagnoses and risk stratification of prostate cancer, and help decrease its mortality and morbidity.

Letters of intent are being requested for two funding competitions open to researchers and scholars at Queen’s University – the 2017-2018 Queen’s Research Opportunities Funds (QROF) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Institutional Grant (SIG) competitions.

The QROF provides researchers and scholars financial support to accelerate their programs and research goals, and offers opportunities to leverage external funding to build on areas of institutional research strength. Through a federal government block grant provided to Queen’s by SSHRC, the recently-redesigned SIG competition supports social sciences and humanities researchers with funding for research project development, pilot study work, or to attend or run knowledge-mobilization activities like workshops, seminars or scholarly conferences.

“Championing research and scholarly excellence is a cornerstone of our mission at Queen’s University,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “The QROF competition allows us to make our largest internal investment in research, scholarship and innovation by supporting researchers striving to take their work to the next level. With SSHRC's recent redesign of the allotment of funding from the SIG, we are poised to reinvigorate research in the social sciences and humanities, further strengthening scholarship in the SSHRC disciplines."

The QROF competition consists of four funds:

  • The Research Leaders’ Fund – for strategic institutional commitments to aspirational research in support of the university’s research strengths and priorities
  • The International Fund – to assist in augmenting the university’s international reputation through increased global engagement
  • The Arts Fund – designed to support artists and their contributions to the scholarly community and to advancing Queen’s University
  • The Post-Doctoral Fund – to both attract outstanding post-doctoral fellows to Queen’s and to support their contributions to research and to the university

The SIG competition provides funding through two granting programs:

  • SSHRC Explore Grants – support social sciences and humanities researchers at any career stage with funds to allow for small-scale research project development or pilot work, or to allow for participation of students in research projects
  • SSHRC Exchange Grants – support the organization of small-scale knowledge mobilization activities in order to encourage collaboration and dissemination of research results both within and beyond the academic community, as well as allow researchers to attend or present research at scholarly conferences and other venues to advance their careers and promote the exchange of ideas

The Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) has issued calls for letters of intent, and successful candidates will be invited to submit a full application. Information on each of the funds and the application processes can be found on the on the website of the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research). For more information, email ferrism@queensu.ca.

CFI invests in dark matter and optical science

Two Queen's University physicists awarded $4.8 million in funding.

Queen's University physics researchers Stephen Hughes and Anthony Noble, and their Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) collaborators, were awarded a combined $4.8 million in funding from the CFI Innovation Fund.

Dr. Noble’s team is building a next generation detector, PICO 500L, that will search for dark matter while Dr. Hughes and his CFI collaborators, including co-lead James Fraser, will establish a Queen’s Nanophotonics Research Centre to explore the behaviour of light and light-matter interactions on the nanometre scale.

The funding was announced by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science, as part of a CFI investment of more than $554 million in 117 new infrastructure projects at 61 universities, colleges, and research hospitals across Canada.

Anthony Noble (l) and Stephen Hughes have been awarded $4.8 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

“This funding is critical to ensuring Queen’s researchers are competitive on the global stage and have the tools necessary to continue their innovative research and technology development,” says John Fisher, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). “As one of the top-ranked research-intensive universities in Canada where physics is an area of institutional research strength, Queen’s will benefit greatly from this investment.”

According to Dr. Hughes, photonics is the science of generating, controlling, and detecting the fundamental particles of light (photons), and is now poised to be a key technological driver of the 21st century in much the same way that electronics were for the 20th century.

“However, as devices and optical structures continue to shrink, we have started to enter a new realm of optical technology termed 'nanophotonics,' wherein the behaviour of light on the nanometre scale, and of the interaction of nanometre-scale objects with light, is substantially different,” explains Dr. Hughes. “We propose to explore and exploit the optical science that will underpin next-generation nano and quantum optical technologies, while unlocking entirely new regimes of light-matter interaction.”

The PICO 500L detector will be located at the SNOLAB facility for astroparticle physics, located two kilometres underground in Sudbury.

“Building on prior success, the international PICO collaboration has embarked on a program to build a next generation detector,” says Dr. Noble, who is also director of the Canada Particle Astrophysics Research Centre. “This detector, PICO 500L, will employ a unique technology that will give it world-leading sensitivity in the search for the mysterious dark matter, which is known to pervade the Universe but has yet to be observed unambiguously on earth.”

For information on the Innovation Fund visit the website.

World-class cardiopulmonary research facility opens

Queen's CardioPulmonary Unit to conduct heart, lung, blood and vascular research.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Ministry of Research, Innovation and Science have jointly awarded $7.7 million in funding to establish a new, state-of-the art facility, the Queen’s CardioPulmonary Unit (QCPU) which opened its doors to the public for the first time on Friday, Oct. 6.

"Stephen Archer speaks during the launch event for the Queen’s CardioPulmonary Unit"
Stephen L. Archer, Head of Medicine at Queen’s University, speaks during the launch event for the Queen’s CardioPulmonary Unit on Friday, Oct. 6, at the Biosciences Complex.

The new QCPU, housed within the Queen’s Biosciences Complex, allows the team to conduct world-class, transformative heart, lung, blood and vascular research to identify novel therapeutic targets and evaluate them in preclinical studies. The QCPU team will then translate these preclinical discoveries to humans through investigator-initiated clinical trials located in Kingston, Ottawa, Edmonton, Chicago, Minneapolis, Salt Lake City, and Sao Paulo, Brazil.

QCPU is the brainchild of Stephen L. Archer, Head of Medicine at Queen’s University and recipient of a prestigious Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Mitochondrial Dynamics and Translational Medicine. QCPU is a catalyst that accelerates research and discovery.

“Unique aspects of QCPU include the assembly of potent research teams and the provision of state-of-the-art tools that exist in very few centres in Canada or indeed globally,” says Dr. Archer.

QCPU is integrated with Kingston Health Sciences Centre, designated as a hospital satellite, and offers a state-of-the-art cardiac ultrasound facility and cardiopulmonary testing facility to explore why patients with heart and lung diseases are short of breath. In addition, there are exam rooms for patients in clinical trials.

On the basic science side, QCPU has a two-photon confocal intra vital microscope, allowing scientists to peer inside organs, blood vessels and cells. There is also a micro-PET-SPECT-CT to study preclinical models of human disease, says Dr. Archer. Finally, QCPU has advanced facilities for cell culture, protein chemistry and a NexGen sequencer to assess the role of the human genome and epigenome in disease.

“QCPU also supports patients who are participating in clinical trials, and connects them with scientists who study disease mechanisms and clinician investigators who are inventing new more effective treatments. The air that investigators and students breathe in QCPU is perfumed with creativity and a sense of discovery that focuses them on the identification of cures for heart, lung, blood, and vascular diseases. They are inspired and informed by the patients who pass through our center,” says Dr. Archer.

The network will also patent and commercialize its discoveries through partnerships with PARTEQ Innovations, Queen’s technology transfer group.

"QCPU will introduce a novel structure in which scientists who pursue the fundamental secrets of cells align with clinician investigators. This holds great promise for drug development and new therapies. Based on a model of research that is at its heart translational in nature, development will be directed by this unique interaction at the interstices of biomedical research,” says John Fisher, interim Vice-Principal (Research). “Due to the comprehensive ‘bench to bedside’ scope of QCPU research, its investigators have profound control over the discovery-therapy pipeline, so that novel approaches and targets identified in preclinical studies can be moved into multicenter, investigator-initiated trials throughout North and South America.”


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