Supporting international collaborations
I completely agree with Chris Houser that there are benefits
to faculty, too, from high-impact international learning
experiences (“Study abroad experiences are not just for the
students,” June-July issue). The tough part is funding these
opportunities, especially long-term; most university grants
aimed at increasing international collaborations are for
one-time, start-up type programs. I continue to bring my
students on international trips, but I feel like I need to
pull together all my nickels and dimes to do so every time.
Nonetheless, thanks for getting this conversation going.
Dr. Koper is a professor and conservation biologist at the Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba.
Why research matters
wise words, martha, and kudos to you and the
other members of the panel on Canada’s Fundamental Science Review in producing such a
substantive and well-designed report (“Making
the case for discovery research,” From the
Administrator’s Chair column, by Martha Crago,
June-July issue). We are already seeing “
management of expectations” from the government
and it is indeed up to the research community
to make a compelling case for support of the
What your panel did not do is imagine a Canada where research stagnated. It’s perhaps too
depressing to contemplate, but it would certainly
not take much neglect to seriously impact many
aspects of Canadian science. There is also the
more immediate impact on young students who
have choices. If they see a lack of investment and
seriousness in government support, they’ll follow other opportunities. So, we need to be optimistic and to do our bit to explain our own stories about why research matters. It is part of our
national and global obligation.
Dr. Woodgett is a professor in the department of medical biophysics at the University of Toronto and director of research at the
Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute.
Of blue skies and discovery research
though one can understand that the expression “discovery grant” refers to a grant that could
help make a “discovery,” one is hard-pressed to
understand what the expression “discovery
research” could mean if not a kind of tautology!
For research is certainly done in order to make
discoveries. What else? (“Making the case for discovery research,” June-July issue.)
In our world of bureaucratic buzzwords, we
should at least try to make them less ridiculous.
It reminds me of the curious “blue sky research.”
Why blue sky? What is that supposed to mean?
Buzzwords cannot replace clear thinking and
Dr. Gingras holds the Canada Research Chair in History and Sociology of Science, and is a professor in the history department, at
Université du Québec à Montréal.
Let university libraries take the lead
re. “academic publishing at a crossroads,” by
Marc Couture, at universityaffairs.ca, July 12. It
is clear that making progress in this area hinges
on finding an effective way to transform aca-
demic culture in ways that enable researchers
to break free from the addiction of chasing after
journal impact factors. And this is where uni-
versity libraries can take the lead by becoming
the principal publishers of peer-reviewed aca-
Accredited universities are already positioned to be motivated by dissemination of new
discoveries (the mission of academics), with no
need to be motivated by the generation of profit
(the mission of commercial publishers, who
sell the impact factor to addicted researchers).
Accredited universities also have, and are guaranteed to retain, the branding needed to give
confidence that anything they publish will be of
high quality and free from the deceptive practices of scamming predatory journals.
I think most researchers are interested in
doing the right thing for the progress of science
and scholarship, and hence for society itself.
They just need to be given the tools and support
to break free from the grips of elitism fueled
by the impact-factor mania indoctrinated by
most traditional, established publishers. A consortium of university libraries could easily provide that support.
Dr. Aarssen is a professor in the biology department at Queen’s
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Des conseils de carrière
Don’t forget the faculty
Study abroad experiences are
not just for students
by Chris Houser
or a decade now, I have been committed
have a study abroad experience. In that
time, I have taken almost 400 undergraduate students on trips abroad, including
more than 30 visits to Costa Rica.
Study abroad, undergraduate research, service learning, internships and other high-impact
experiences are recognized as effective practices
to help students develop critical thinking and
communication skills, personal and social responsibility, and an openness to lifelong learning.
They have become a focus for universities as
part of a commitment to provide undergraduates with career-relevant knowledge and skills,
and to make them productive citizens in a rapidly changing world.Specifically, there is an
increasing need for graduates who can learn
quickly and deeply, adapt to change, and create
new opportunities for themselves and others.
High-impact experiences have a demonstrated
effect on student performance and engagement,
increase retention, encourage transition to graduate studies and improve career placement.
While the drive to improve teaching and
learning through high-impact learning experiences fulfills an important obligation of a university, I believe too much emphasis is placed on the
benefits to the student alone. Little consideration
is given to the professional and personal benefits
to the participating faculty members. Without
consideration and promotion of those benefits, it
can be difficult to create sustainable and scalable
experiences that benefit the student.
“ Study abroad opened
new avenues for me. In
fact, it was the catalyst
to my career.”
As a former administrator at Texas A&M University and now at the University of Windsor, I
have been able to help other faculty develop and
commit to high-impact learning experiences by
emphasizing that these experiences are not just
for the students. I do this by telling them my personal story of how study abroad impacted me professionally and personally as a faculty member.
While I have had many memorable experiences during study abroad trips, my favourite is
from an unexpected stay in Punta Gorda, Belize.
A group of students and I had been staying on
Lime Caye along the Mesoamerican Reef, about
35 kilometres offshore. Midway through our trip,
Hurricane Ernesto developed in the Caribbean
and we were evacuated by the Belizean navy to
the small town of Punta Gorda near the border
of Guatemala. I borrowed a bicycle to get around
the town and stopped at Gomiers Vegan Vegetarian and Seafood Restaurant; by that evening I was
working as their sous chef. The chef taught me
how to make callaloo in coconut milk with ginger
and lime, prepare snapper in coconut fish, and
make a spicy Mayan hot chocolate.
Hurricane Ernesto created for me an amazing and unexpected opportunity for personal
gro wth. It was in that moment that I realized
that study abroad is not just an opportunity for
Beyond expanding my cooking abilities, my
study abroad trips have resulted in more than
$1.5 million in external research grants directly
related to the data collected on those trips,
numerous publications (in addition to my main
Fresearch)ontheperceivedandrealizedbenefits ofhigh-impactexperiences,privatedonations byformerstudentsandotherfriendsoftheinsti- tution,andmyrepatriationbacktoCanada. Studyabroadalsoopenednewavenuesfor
me as a coastal geomorphologist. The proof-of-concept data collected by students on a study
abroad trip in 2014 resulted in a new research
collaboration with scientists at the Universidad
Nacional de Costa Rica on rip currents.This work
is being used to inform legislation to establish a
lifesaving association and fund lifeguards on the
major tourist beaches in the country. Contrary to
what some may believe, study abroad and a commitment to other high-impact experiences did
not come at the expense of my research produc-tivity,nor did it pose a problem for tenure and
promotion. In fact, it was the catalyst to my career.
It will be difficult for many institutions to
increase the number and diversity of authentic
high-impact experiences for students if the conversation is limited to the benefits to students and
the faculty member is forgotten. By including the
benefits to faculty in discussions on the importance of high-impact experiences, we will help to
bridge the increasing disconnect and conflict that
many professors feel in terms of their competing
duties to teaching, research and service.And if
we succeed in convincing more faculty members
of these benefits, we will be in a position to provide more students with high-impact learning
opportunities. This is the message that I have now
brought to the faculty of science as we seek to
enhance the student experience.
Chris Houser is dean of
the faculty of science at the
University of Windsor.
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