Research & reputation
By Kathryn Warden
"Universities [are being pushed] to rethink their role in
society. They cannot be 'ivory towers,' disengaged from their community
or the knowledge economy. They are called upon to be at the heart of both."
You may have noticed over the last few weeks that 700-word commentaries by a wide range of U of S faculty have begun to appear on the opinion/editorial pages of The StarPhoenix.
This is the result of a new partnership between the The SP and the U of S Research Communications Office. The goal is to provide an opportunity for researchers to contribute to public debate on issues of current public interest.
“There’s a huge resource at the U of S and we want to do whatever we can to give researchers access to the public,” says SP Op/Ed Editor Gerry Klein.
This initiative fits well with new directions of the federal granting councils. For instance, SSHRC now tells applicants that it wants them to show how the grant will “assist the communication of research results both within and beyond the academic community.” It also informs applicants that one of the assessment criteria is the “importance and relevance of dissemination of research results directed to non-academic audiences.”
CIHR scientific director John Frank told the National Post last week that the medical research community has been put on notice that they won’t get grants unless they show how they will share both the research process and the resulting findings with users.
“Instead of going away and publishing papers in medical journals and then expecting somebody to automatically find that useful and interesting, they’re thinking ahead of time, Well maybe one of the products should be ... plain English and French summaries of what they found,” he said.
The main criteria for selection of SP commentaries are timeliness and readability.
A good example is a recent piece by commerce professor Colin Boyd. Applying concepts of business ethics and organizational management to the crisis in Saskatoon’s police force over the Stonechild inquiry, he concluded that disbanding the police force may need to be considered.
“This is a hot topic and his piece has clearly promoted debate in the community and even in the national news media,” said Klein.
Others who’ve shared their research expertise in SP commentaries include historian Bill Waiser, SPHERU’s Ron Labonte, and sociologist Michael Mehta.
If you’re interested in contributing, contact Research Communications at 966-2506 or Gerry Klein at 657-6238.
Though the U of S has dropped one spot to 10th place in the annual Maclean’s rankings, the good news is that our “reputation” ranking leapt two spots to 9th place and we made major gains in the Best Overall, Highest Quality and Most Innovative categories. Moreover, we’ve made it to the Top 10 “Leaders of Tomorrow”.
And the survey was done before the lead-up to the synchrotron opening which put U of S on the national news.
The reputation ranking involves surveys of more than 11,000 high school principals, guidance counsellors, CEOs, corporate recruiters, heads of organizations, and university officials across Canada. The ranking can have an influence on student and faculty recruitment, as well as fundraising.
Another encouraging sign was that our SSHRC grant performance rose one place to 12th spot. Our NSERC/CIHR performance (Maclean’s combines medical and science grants in one indicator) remained at 15th place. Here is the number of additional grants and dollars needed to reach the 2004 mean:
Tri-council funding remains the ‘gold standard’ for research performance across Canada. It’s the basis for awarding Canada Research Chairs and it leverages funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation, indirect costs program, and other sources.
As for “national awards” for faculty, the U of S dropped one place to 13th spot, even though we increased our number of awards by 35 per cent. We’d need another 23 awards per year over five years to reach the mean.
But there’s help on the way – a new initiative by the Office of the VP Research to boost the number of nominees for national awards. A search is currently underway to hire an awards facilitator who will promote award opportunities and identify appropriate nominators.
Over the long term, this initiative will also enhance the University’s reputation.
Kathryn Warden is Director of Research Communications