U of G Professors Receive Funding for Canada Research Chairs

June 2, 2022

Capture - Canada Research ChairsPhoto Courtsey of U of G

 

Collaboration, experimentation and transdisciplinary research for scholarly and public benefit underscore two University of Guelph Canada Research Chairs (CRC) —one new, the other renewed— recently funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.

The funding is part of a $102-million federal investment announced today by the Honorable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, for 119 new and renewed chairs at 35 research institutions across Canada.

Dr. Leah LevacDepartment of Political Science, will hold a new Tier 2 chair in Critical Community Engagement and Public Policy. An existing Tier 1 chair in Collaborative Digital Scholarship was renewed for Dr. Susan BrownSchool of English and Theatre Studies.

The CRC program attracts and retains outstanding researchers in various fields, assisting Canadian postsecondary institutions to foster excellence in research and training.

Tier 1 chairs are international leaders in their fields and receive $200,000 a year for seven years. Tier 2 chairs award $120,000 annually for five years to exceptional emerging researchers.

“We are grateful for the richly deserved recognition the prestigious Canada Research Chairs program has given two of the University of Guelph’s many exceptional researchers,” said Dr. Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research).

“These Canada Research Chairs will accelerate our research capacity and strengthen our research excellence by supporting talented faculty like Dr. Levac and Dr. Brown as they advance the frontiers of multidisciplinary research to improve life for Canadian communities and beyond.”

Lloyd Longfield, MP for Guelph, added, “I am very pleased to be part of the ongoing investments at the University of Guelph, building on our local capacity to contribute to our understanding of democracy and global challenges. This is good for Guelph, for Canada, and the world as we enable discovery that leads to collaborative problem solving.”

Dr. Leah Levac

Dr. Leah Levac - Photo Courtsey of U of G

 

Levac aims to reimagine government and institutional policy-making processes in ways that ensure just and democratic decisions for all the people those decisions affect.

“In many respects, our lives are governed by public policy,” she said. “Too often, policies and the ideas and ideals that shape them mark certain communities as undeserving or invisible, and so they perpetuate cycles of exclusion and inequity. This CRC is about imagining a more inclusive and equitable policy-making process.”

The project considers how a critical community-engaged scholarship (CES) approach, in which researchers and community members collaborate to address community-identified concerns, with the aim of advancing social justice, might transform contemporary policymaking.

Levac and her team will begin by adapting critical CES to better reflect the knowledge and experience of historically marginalized communities. They will then apply what they’ve learned to collaborations with government and community partners to evaluate and reimagine existing policymaking processes.

The CRC will also support the creation of the Critical Community-Engaged Policy Institute, a resource and training hub that will bring researchers and community practitioners together to advance policy justice.

“The funding the CRC provides will allow me to focus explicitly on the barriers to political participation,” Levac said, “but it also gives a name, a presence, to this interdisciplinary work that invites researchers, students and community together into new and productive conversations.”

Dr. Susan Brown

Dr. Susan Brown - Photo Courtsey of U of G

 

Brown is a trailblazer in digital humanities (DH), a field that brings together cultural research and new technologies. For more than 25 years, she has investigated and developed modes of online knowledge production to grapple better with the ever-increasing volume of cultural data, scattered in disparate locations online where it is stored in various and sometimes obsolete formats.

“Most scholars interact with cultural data only through reading,” she said. “With datasets on cultural identities and heritage, we can use algorithmic processes to deepen our research with more of the knowledge that’s out there and—the holy grail—put that knowledge together to enable new and unexpected insights.”

With her renewed CRC, Brown and her collaborators will continue to experiment with converting and interlinking cultural resources into datasets that can be understood by both humans and machines. The research will benefit not only universities but also other cultural institutions such as public libraries, museums and galleries.

They will also continue to critically question the values embedded in seemingly neutral technologies and cyberinfrastructures. For example, how might classification structures reflect, rather than erase, cultural complexity, diversity and difference?

“This work matters because it is about helping people create digital knowledge in ways that are ethically responsible. It’s about trying to make the web better and smarter,” she said.