In this blog Professor Dean talks about the university joining the Canadian Research Impact Network.
Last week, I was in Canada with a couple of colleagues visiting a number of universities and attending the annual meeting of the ‘ResearchImpact-RéseauImpactRecherche (RIR) network. RIR is a pan-Canadian network of universities committed to maximizing the impact of academic research for the social, economic, environmental and health benefits of Canadians. RIR members achieve this mandate by investing in knowledge mobilisation, supporting collaboration for research and learning and connecting research beyond the bounds of academia. The network was set up in 2006 and it draws together the unique strength of its 15 members. We are the first institution outside of Canada who has joined this network. Leadership of the RIR rotates amongst the members and resides with York University till 2020. The Canadian universities in this network are: University of Montreal, University of Saskatchewan, University of Western Ontario, University of New Brunswick, McMaster University, York University, University of Victoria, University of British Columbia, University of Guelph, University of Quebec at Montreal, Kwantlen Polytechnic University, Memorial University and Carleton University.
Prior to the annual meeting, we were invited to visit the York University at Toronto to discuss potential research collaborations. We have three academic staff with connections there already: Prof. Marco Morengo was, in fact, at York just before our visit on a 2 month sabbatical; Dr Helen Kennedy has been collaborating with one of their researchers for some time; and Dr Wrighton has spent time working at York University in the past.
York University (http://openyourmind.yorku.ca/) is a large university, with around 50,000 students and 2,300 academic staff. It is home to Canada’s largest liberal arts programme, the only Space Engineering programme in the country, a new Global Health programme and a unique cross-discipline Digital Media programme. They have 26 Research Centres, 34 Canada Research Chairs and 24 distinguished research Professors and are leading on frontier knowledge and innovation across a multitude of fields. They were ranked by the THE as one of the top 100 universities in the world for arts, humanities and social sciences. We (Sue Baxter and I) were hosted by Dr Phipps, who is the Executive Director for Research and Innovation Services. It was excellent to see how they organise their support services, their criteria for Research Centres, their Research Centres Charter and how they evaluate their Centres. We also had a very fruitful meeting with Professor Hatche, the Vice President Research, where we discussed the consultation on their new Strategic Plan for research and his thoughts on their priorities. We agreed that we will map our COREs against their Research Centres to identify areas of synergy and complementarity exists and then connect our researchers together. We are currently doing this and, looking at their list of Centres, (http://research.info.yorku.ca/organized-research-units/), I can immediately spot potential collaborations with their Centre for Feminist Research, Centre for Automotive Research, Centre for Refugee Studies, Centre for Research on Biomolecular Interactions, Centre for Digital Arts and Technology and Centre for Ageing Research and Education. In fact, whilst we were there, we also met Professor Pat Armstrong who is one of their distinguished Research Professor in Sociology and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Focusing on the fields of social policy, of women, work and the health and social services, she has published widely and has been author, co-author, or editor of over 25 books. Her 2013 book, Troubling Care: Critical Perspectives on Research and Practices, has been highly influential in shaping care policies. She spoke of her current project, funded by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, which includes a team of international collaborators, including academics from the University of Bristol. I spoke about some of the work in her area that our researchers are involved in. She was very happy to collaborate and I have already put one of our researchers in touch with her.
The second half of the visit involved attending the annual meeting of the RIR in Montreal. Canada is a vast country and travelling between provinces usually involves a plane but, for me, there is nothing quite like a train journey! So, the 6 hour journey from Toronto to Montreal was a real highlight, passing some beautiful lakes with a fantastic wifi connection and very comfortable seats, all for a mere £50!!
The first part of the meeting was a closed session of the RIR Governance Committee, which highlighted the scope of the work behind the network, the working groups, reporting structure and the priorities for the coming year. RIR have been working on an Impact Toolkit which is due to be launched in 2018. It will be really good for us as we gear up our preparations towards REF2021. I must admit I did not expect to meet a Mancunian at the meeting!! It was really good to meet Prof. Helen Burt, originally from Manchester, who is the Ass. Vice President for Research and Innovation at UBC. Prof. Burt trained as a pharmacist at the University of Bath, before joining UBC to do her PhD and has been there ever since. She is an expert in the development of polymer-based drug delivery systems for controlled and localised drug delivery and a fairly frequent visitor to UK. I am hoping that she will be able to visit us in 2018 and meet some of the researchers at PABS.
The annual meeting kicked off on 20th September and David Wolff, Director of CUPP, joined me for the meeting. The presentations at the meeting were varied and interesting and we presented the University, its ambitions and achievements and, most importantly, what we expect to get out of the network and what we can contribute. As it is with all meetings of this nature, an important aspect is meeting other people in the same position as yourself but working in different university settings, looking around different universities and making connections.
Having lived on an Isle of Wight, I was particularly interested to find out about the Memorial University of Newfoundland. I enjoyed the discussion I had with Jen Adams, the University’s lead for strategic development and hearing about the advantages and challenges of a University on an Island and how they engage with their community on the Island. They are well known and quite exemplary when it comes to public engagement (http://www.mun.ca/publicengagement/memorial/). I learned a lot in a very short space of time. Jen also introduced me to Clamato juice (a drink which needs to be avoided by all those allergic to shellfish!).
This was my first trip to Canada. Our VC had told me that Canada is a nation that really values education and research. Having spent just a few days, there I could not agree more!