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Commitment to the future: Laurier’s Community of Research

Strategic Research Plan 2014-2019

commitment We are committed to a future in which the value of Laurier’s investment in research is optimized, and as a result, new social and economic benefits are created for Laurier and for Canada. As a consequence, there is broad recognition of the value of Laurier as a community of research.

We are committed to a future in which Laurier researchers from all disciplines and across all campuses have wide access to research support enabling them to conduct leading-edge research in Canada and to participate actively in international research endeavours.

We are committed to a future in which Laurier researchers, in partnership with communities, industry, practitioners, government, NGOs, and the public, are able to collaborate to produce research for commercial, governmental, and societal benefit.

In order to achieve this vision, we have developed a coordinated and strategic plan to grow, support, and sustain research at Laurier.

A message from the Vice President: Research I am pleased to present Commitment to the Future: Laurier’s Community of Research, The Wilfrid Laurier University Strategic Research Plan, 2014-2019. The Plan was developed during 12 months of extensive consultations and planning within the university community, as well as with a wide variety of external research partners. Our objective was to engage our community in a discussion about our research goals, challenges, and strengths as a means to shape our vision for Laurier research in the years to come. In total, more than 300 stakeholders participated in the consultation process, the largest strategic research planning initiative at the university to date. The Plan’s development marks a significant step in the growth of Laurier as a comprehensive and research-intensive institution. The Plan is not only an aspirational vision for strengthening the research enterprise at Laurier, but also an opportunity to showcase our research accomplishments and triumphs. Part One of the Plan, Laurier’s Research Strength, describes what makes Laurier research unique: our distinctive interdisciplinary collaborations, our longstanding history of engagement with our communities, and five thematic clusters of excellence. Part Two, Strategy for Growth and Improvement, outlines key research goals and recommendations that will act as a roadmap for expanding research excellence within our targeted areas of strength. I thank the members of the Strategic Research Plan Taskforce and all who contributed their expertise towards this important initiative. I encourage your comments and urge you to explore and engage in Laurier’s exciting community of research. Abby Goodrum Vice-President: Research Wilfrid Laurier University

Context Universities have a complex mission centered in teaching and research. Wilfrid Laurier University’s strong reputation for teaching is well established and well deserved. Over the past several years, many changes have transformed Laurier from a primarily undergraduate university to a comprehensive university with increased research activity and graduate programs. To guide the continued growth and evolution of research and performance/creation at Laurier, a strategic vision is required that can build on our strengths in basic and applied research and in both undergraduate and graduate student research training, primarily in areas where a critical mass of faculty and students is already engaged. The Laurier research environment comprises hundreds of researchers in a broad range of faculties across multiple campuses that are housed within a highly interactive and interdisciplinary academic community. Our research and innovation enterprise intersects with a wide range of stakeholders, and there is increasing engagement with the community to help advance research in new directions that are targeted, strategic, collaborative, and transformative.




Laurier’s Research Strengths In this section, we outline five broad thematic clusters. Within and across these clusters, we identify the interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement that are unique strengths of Laurier’s research eco-system. In addition to supporting the requirements of external funding agencies such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the Canada Research Chairs program (CRC), identifying our interdisciplinary and collaborative clusters provides a message to the outside world about where our strengths lie and the primary research opportunities we are pursuing for increased excellence. The critical analysis of Laurier’s research production, impact, and recognition over the past five years reveals a complex and highly interconnected landscape of research and dissemination endeavour. Much of the research at Laurier is interdisciplinary and is conducted within research teams that span faculties and institutions.

ic at s em ter Th lus C

What follows, then, must be read with the understanding that it is not intended as a full description of all of the research that is produced at Laurier. Nor is it a prescriptive model for defining research that is valuable. It is, instead, a way of seeing the patterns of research focus and research practice which have coalesced over time at Laurier and that have the potential to differentiate us from other universities and generate unique excellence.

Unique strengths of research eco-system

Int Co erd lla isci bo pli rat na ion ry s

Methodologies for the clustering and labeling of areas of research often overlook the valuable contributions made by theoretical, artistic, creative, basic, or fundamental researchers such as some mathematicians, musicians, artists, or humanities scholars whose work does not easily lend itself to this type of analysis.

Engagement with our Communities



Laurier’s Research Strength

Interdisciplinary Collaborations

Individual scholarship continues to make important contributions to research excellence. At the same time, we also recognize the enormous potential of interdisciplinary teams working collaboratively and the value of partnerships to address the complex and diverse problems faced by society today. Interdisciplinary research is emerging as a major emphasis throughout Laurier to approach substantive issues. A prime goal of our past research strategy in this area has been the creation of interdisciplinary university research centres to support synergies among researchers in fields that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries. This is not intended to undermine traditional disciplines. Instead, our overriding objective is to build on existing strengths in basic and applied research and to spearhead the development of research in emerging areas where the university believes it can develop future strengths. We recognize, however, that strong interdisciplinary developments are based on strengths in the basic disciplines underlying those collaborations. Laurier’s thematic research clusters are self-consciously interdisciplinary in character, given Laurier’s current research objective to create synergies across disciplines and departments. Individual departments, faculties, and research teams may have researchers in more than one cluster. Evidence of this can be seen in the interdisciplinarity exhibited by many of our research centres, research chairs, and graduate programs.

Laurier’s current research objective is to create synergies across disciplines and departments.



Laurier’s Research Strength

Engagement with our Communities

For research to have its maximum impact, we must connect and collaborate outside of the university. By connecting research and researchers with people and organizations seeking to develop sustainable solutions to social, environmental, economic, and cultural challenges, we turn research into knowledge, and we demonstrate the value of society’s investment in higher education. There has long been a strong collaborative and community-focused tradition at Laurier, and much of Laurier’s research activity has an applied character, a community base, a policy or action orientation, and a strong emphasis on knowledge mobilization. This reflects our strong links with a number of stakeholder communities, including Aboriginal peoples, business and industry, government, not-for-profit and arts organizations, and the public sector. Innovative and large-scale research in all academic domains is embedded within both formal and informal networks of scholars that transcend individuals, departments, faculties, and institutions. Many faculty members at Laurier already belong to inter-institutional networks and research teams, and a number of our graduate programs are offered in collaboration with neighbouring universities. Knowledge mobilization and dissemination are aspects of engagement that connect university research with knowledge receptor communities across Canada to ensure that research is employed by policy-makers and community groups to develop more effective, efficient, and responsive public policies and social programs.

Knowledge mobilization and dissemination are aspects of engagement that connect university research with knowledge receptor communities


Laurier’s Research Strength



Laurier’s Research Strength

Thematic Clusters

The following five thematic clusters reflect, in broad measure, the existing and emerging contours of research strengths, interests, and objectives within the Laurier community. In addition to highlighting areas of research focus, the clusters also provide a lens through which interdisciplinary and community collaboration comes into sharper focus. The brief overviews of each cluster describe some of their specific focus areas and examples of collaborative efforts. Each cluster of thematic research excellence is supported by a number of affiliated research chairs, research centres, and graduate programs. Environment The Environment is a research area for members of multiple Laurier faculties who examine the interaction of environmental factors and human populations and conditions, the management of the environment, and related policy issues. This is also an area that is strongly supported by Laurier social scientists whose work on sustainability and resilience spans across all five of our thematic clusters. Although the environment is an area of research specialization for many universities, Laurier’s particular focus on climate change, cold regions, and water research is unique in its interdisciplinary approach as well as the extensive external collaborations that contribute to it. Researchers in this cluster apply a holistic, interdisciplinary, and ecosystem approach based on watersheds, responding to urgent and serious concerns about environmental hazards, flows, and storage processes and the effects of nutrients and contaminants on freshwater as well as the development and demonstration of water technologies in the context of an urbanizing watershed. Researchers are also studying citizen engagement in environmental science. Laurier environmental researchers focus on mountain, boreal, and northern cold regions, covering such areas as hydrology, climatology, glaciology, resource management, parks planning, and biogeochemistry. Further, research in this cluster

focuses on both Canadian and global water issues, including the effects of climate change, the sustainability of healthy aquatic and coastal ecosystems, and the development of regulations and policy related to water use.

Existing and emerging contours of research strengths, interests, and objectives

Governance and Policy Governance and Policy, particularly from a global perspective, is an area in which Laurier has a singular opportunity to gain international prominence. The public policy challenges confronting twenty-first century society remain problematic and include a range of issues relating to international, political, economic, and developmental relations. Interdisciplinary research, spanning the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, seeks to understand these challenges and to increase our capacity to deal with them. Issues in these topic-areas include war and peace; global migration; food security, human rights, justice, and equality; social activism, social welfare, and community development; advocacy and policy making of all kinds. Our relationships with the Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) and the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) offer the potential for numerous synergies and needed materiel resources. There is also a strong focus on international trade within the Economics, Markets, and Management thematic cluster that overlaps with the Governance and Policy cluster.


Laurier’s Research Strength


Laurier’s Research Strength

Health and Well-Being

Culture and Society

The range and variety of Canadian health research initiatives, including those of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, demonstrate the social importance and vitality of this area. The scope of needed research ranges from the scientific and clinical to the social and organizational. Many Laurier researchers are active in this cluster.

Our understanding of what it is to be human and how humans function individually and collectively has evolved over the past few decades. The challenge of understanding “human experience� has cultural, scientific, artistic, and humanistic dimensions, requiring a range of integrated skills and approaches reflected in a variety of research endeavours across the disciplines and across all faculties and campuses.

Faculty members in arts, social work, and science investigate a range of public health issues, including mental health, health promotion, coping with cancer, the geography of health, and the social determinants of health. The music therapy program uses an interdisciplinary approach to working with people with mental and physical disabilities. Science faculty are active in the area of cognitive and behavioral neuroscience and in psychology. Education faculty are engaged in research related to the enhancement of learning through technology, enriching learning in special populations and early mathematical conceptual development, leading to increased opportunities for successful lifelong learning within Canadian and global societies. In the natural sciences, recent acquisition of instrumentation strengthens an already-strong nucleus for research in proteomics and biotechnology. Researchers in the department of kinesiology & physical education carry out a wide range of health related research including movement disorders and physical impacts on autistic, geriatric, pediatric and clinical populations as well as health policy and demographic initiatives.

Research in this cluster ranges from the ethical and religious dimensions of community and identity to the impacts of modern, imperial, and post-colonial experiences on contemporary societies, the role of education in both international and socio-cultural contexts, the role of gender, class, and cultural dimensions in human experience, and approaches to aesthetics and criticism. Faculty in this cluster also contribute through scholarly and creative outputs in music, film, and literature. A nascent but rapidly expanding area of research in this cluster focuses on the roles and impacts of technology and new media on all aspects of society. This includes research into educational technology, games culture, and gamification, as well as the impact of constant connectivity and surveillance on society and social relationships. Researchers in this cluster also explore the design and control of the human experience in online and virtual worlds. Economics, Markets, and Management Economics, Markets, and Management is a broad endeavour at Laurier with researchers overlapping with several other clusters including Governance and

Policy, and Culture and Society. Researchers in this area are not limited to faculty from the School of Business and Economics and include faculty from arts and from mathematics, as well as the Balsillie School of International Affairs (BSIA) and the Centre for International Governance and Innovation (CIGI). Research is done in key areas including macroeconomics, business infrastructure, corporate and fiscal policy, financial markets and financial performance, organizational behaviour, marketing, and accountability in the public and not-for-profit sectors. A strong focus on modeling and quantitative analysis includes researchers who are pursuing issues in supply chain management, finance, and accounting. As well, there are faculty within the School of Business and Economics who focus on econometric modeling, and researchers in mathematics who contribute to the systematic study of mathematical models and their analysis as they apply to problems in financial risk management. Within this cluster, entrepreneurship research is multi-disciplinary, including inter-disciplinary programs such as global studies, and focuses broadly on factors related to economic, social, environmental, and community based activities that create wealth, innovation, and social benefit. Key issues include the development of entrepreneurial cultures, entrepreneurial and new ventures, innovation and creativity, creative spaces and places, commercialization of products, and the increasing importance of business networks.




Strategy for growth & improvement To achieve our overarching vision of recognition as a research-intensive comprehensive university with areas of targeted research excellence, we need to initiate a series of strategic actions aimed at fostering and strengthening the research culture, communicating our successes, restructuring research support, supporting growth in interdisciplinary and collaborative research, supporting complementary graduate and postdoctoral involvement, strengthening innovation, commercialization, and industrial co-operation, and providing leadership in research development. While not mutually exclusive, these recommendations fall within four key goals for advancing the support mechanisms, structures, and resources that are essential for Laurier’s continued research growth and success.

Four key goals: Enhance Research Culture Enrich Graduate and Postdoctoral Support Expand External Research Funding Extend Research Infrastructure 13

strategy for growth & improvement


Enhance the Culture of Research Value within the University Research is a critical element in the core vision of this University, and research values should be a guiding principle when making decisions. Enhanced focus on research and a commitment to enhancing our research culture are essential in Laurier’s pursuit of excellence. To reach this goal, we will work towards increasing the visibility of Laurier researchers locally, nationally, and globally as well as increasing recognition and rewards for research excellence internally at the university.


Enrich Graduate and Postdoctoral Support Research excellence both attracts and is reinforced by a strong and diverse graduate student body. Outstanding graduate students are attracted to strong programs that have both the intellectual and material resources to nurture their careers. A prime objective is to strengthen and further develop graduate programs in those areas that have the capacity to support them. In this sense, capacity refers to a critical mass of research-active faculty members and adequate resources through grant and infrastructure support. We are dedicated to enhancing the recruitment of and level of support for both Canadian and international graduate students as well as postdoctoral fellows.


strategy for growth & improvement


Expand External Research Funding In the past decade, Laurier has grown dramatically from a primarily undergraduate institution to a dynamic comprehensive university. As such, a primary goal is to increase our level of external funding, including applying for more large-scale funding opportunities. In order to increase our research funding profile and attract and retain excellent scholars, the Office of Research Services will ensure that high-level grant and award review processes are in place and that it continuously improves a variety of systems and functions, including expanding support within departments and faculties for grant application.


Extend Research Infrastructure In order to strengthen research, the infrastructure and support necessary to conduct high-quality and cutting-edge research will need to be enhanced. Such supports include addressing gaps in basic research infrastructure, enhancing conference support services, increasing administrative support for grants management, as well as expanding support for collaborative activities and visiting scholars. The essential linkages between the Office of Research Services and University Development will also be enhanced in order to increase fundraising efforts for research purposes.



Going forward The scope and impact of research at Laurier has increased significantly in recent years, reflecting its central and growing role in the life of the University. Over the past decade, externally funded research has more than doubled to more than $21 million in research funds held annually. Laurier is building its research and innovation capacity within its areas of unique strength: targeted areas of research excellence coupled with a strong tradition of interdisciplinarity and community engagement. The success of our strategic research planning is a tribute to the efforts of many devoted students, faculty, administrators, staff, and research partners whose hard work has guided and inspired this vision. Growth brings challenges as well as opportunities, and the strategic research planning process asks each of us to identify our priorities, our commitments, our strengths, and our weaknesses. It is critical that thinking and acting strategically about research become a regular part of our culture and that they are incorporated into all aspects of the University as we go forward.

Laurier is building its research and innovation capacity within its areas of unique strength: targeted areas of research excellence coupled with a strong tradition of interdisciplinarity and community engagement.



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Laurier's Community of Research - Strategic Plan