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Telling the Research Story

By Devin Kreuger

You’re probably already aware that the Federal government is the largest funder of research activities in Canada. Most of the governments’ research funding to academics flows through what are commonly referred to as the Tri-Councils: Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and the Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

Yet while tremendous research is underway across Canada, most taxpayers—who are actually footing the bill—are unaware of how that research eventually translates into impacts outside of the academic community.

While it can be relatively easy to point to the positive effects of health or engineering research, it is typically much harder to demonstrate the positive impact of research in the humanities and social sciences to the average Canadian citizen. SSHRC-supported research can enhance society’s understanding of modern social, cultural, technological, environmental, economic and wellness issues, and can raise profound questions…

  •  “What does it mean to be human?”
  • “How is technology affecting our culture, norms, and perspectives?”
  • “How do humans learn, relate, and adapt, in complex times?”

That all sounds pretty impressive, but Canada’s social scientists and humanists have traditionally struggled to communicate their world-class research beyond academic circles. “It has never been more important to communicate the value of social sciences and humanities research, and its contribution to Canadians’ well-being,” said Ted Hewitt, president of SSHRC.

 To help spur scholar’s attention into making their research stories accessible, SSHRC has launched an annual competition called “The Storytellers”. This competition challenges university students to showcase how social sciences and humanities research affects the lives of Canadians and changes the world for the better. What makes this competition extra-tricky is that the story must be told in three minutes (or 300 words) or less.

In the 2015 competition, eight of the top twenty-five finalists came from institutions across the GTA: University of Toronto, York University, OCAD University, and Ryerson University, were all represented. But as residents of Mississauga, we can be particularly proud that one of the top five national finalists is from the University of Toronto Mississauga.

Naveen Devasagayam, a graduate student in the Biomedical Communications program at UTM, submitted “Visualizing Biological Data” (below) to the competition, and was selected to present before a panel of communication experts and a live audience of academics on June 1st. Shortly thereafter, he was further short-listed to the top five.

 

 

Will Naveen win? The final five candidates will be presenting their stories at the SSHRC Impact Awards Ceremony this fall, so we’ll have to wait until then to find out.

(Photo Credit: Robert Lancefield, MScBMC Class of 2015)

Devin Kreuger is Director of the Office of the Vice-Principal Research at the University of Toronto Mississauga. He can be contacted at [email protected] Visit www.utm.utoronto.ca/research

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