This week, the Globe & Mail's 2010 Campus Research report has focused on several of York's researchers and research-related programs.
On March 9, the Globe published an article on the impact social sciences and humanities research has on economic growth. The story was part of its special report on university research and also appeared in the Report on Business section:
The study of literature is rarely associated with economic growth, yet that is precisely the argument made by Impact Group co-founder Ron Freedman: "The Stratford Festival generates huge economic benefit for the local community. What's its core technology? Old English."
According to Mr. Freedman, who authored a report on the economic role of social sciences and humanities research, this type of research doesn't get its fair share of credit for its contributions to the Canadian economy and society.
Discussions about the role of research in economic growth are usually dominated by the so-called "hard sciences," biomedical and technology in particular, and the Conservative government's recent Speech from the Throne was no exception, with its promises to continue investing in the Science and Technology Strategy, create a digital economy strategy and support advanced research in space-based technologies.
But many in the research community believe that focusing funding primarily on science and technology to strengthen the economy is a mistake. "The humanities and social sciences are moving to centre stage," said SSHRC president Chad Gaffield recently in a speech.
Two projects lead by York professors were mentioned in the coverage:
There are thousands of groups across the country trying to end homelessness. Yet, often being under-resourced, they lack funds to research whether their programs are effective. Enter Professor Stephen Gaetz of York University’s Faculty of Education and nursing Professor Bernie Pauly of the University of Victoria who teamed up with community partners to help them evaluate their programs and share their great ideas with other communities.
Megan Davies, a professor in the Department of Social Science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, had long wanted to share the wealth of knowledge she had accumulated about the history of mental health in Canada with young people, wrote the Globe. So, together with Anne Marshall, director of the Centre for Youth & Society at the University of Victoria, she developed high-school material that teaches students to understand their own mental health and be compassionate toward others with mental illness and made it available to teachers online at the Web site CaringMinds.ca.
On March 8, the Globe also published an article on commercializing university research that included York's Knowledge Mobilization program, which partners researchers with community organizations and government policymakers to produce mutually-beneficial research.
“The future lies in exchanging all forms of research not just with industry but with government and with the community at large as well,” says David Phipps, director of the Office of Research Services at York University. “In past, the focus has been on technology. Now we are extending it to business, law, the social sciences and the humanities.”
At York, Mr. Phipps has two full-time staff working on what he calls knowledge mobilization. To date, they work with the United Way of York Region and The Human Services Planning Coalition of York Region, which represents 15 different social services agencies.
Representatives from those agencies meet regularly with York researchers for what he calls KM in the AM — a knowledge management breakfast — where the agencies get to pick what area of research they want to hear about and a York professor specializing in that area delivers a presentation.
"After that we leave it to the agencies and the professors to follow up," he says.
On March 10, Professor Joe Baker in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health was profiled as one of several researchers working in new and emerging research fields. It highlighted his research on the benefits of exercise and competitive sport to older people.
“We’re finding that a lot of things that we used to attribute to getting older, like decreases in cognitive functioning, depression and increased substance abuse, are really more a symptom of disuse rather than aging,” says Baker, a member of York’s Alliance in Graceful Aging, a multidisciplinary research team.
He also examines how society’s negative stereotypes about aging influence people’s behaviours as they grow older. “We are very much a culture that values youth and devalues the older person,” he says.
His findings so far suggest people’s expectations about aging play a significant role in their declining physical and cognitive abilities. “We’re just starting to get a handle on how big an influence these negative social stereotypes are on overall health,” he says.
Posted by Elizabeth Monier-Williams, research communications officer, with files courtesy of The Globe & Mail.