Funding will help create productive partnerships

(Edmonton) Those indispensable multicoloured squares that have taken the guesswork out of remembering, known as Post-It notes, may never have come to be were it not for one researcher’s failed superglue experiment and another’s big idea for an adhesive that doesn’t bind.

Looking to remove that element of chance and find ways of bringing researchers closer together, Rob Shields and his team have received a $200,000 Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council to figure out how communities can develop partnerships around high-tech or novel technologies that are being developed in their midst.

Specifically, Shields, a researcher in the Faculty of Extension, and his colleagues Kevin Jones and Nils Petersen, are looking at ways to better integrate Edmonton’s nanotechnology network.

“Take the National Institute for Nanotechnology—we want to find out what a city or region can do to make the most of the innovations that are happening in this kind of institute,” said Shields. “People say that it is extremely useful to know somebody might be throwing out a raw material that they might be importing, or that someone a few doors down might have a solution to a certain problem, but all they knew about nanotech was that there were groups working on it in Phoenix.”

Shields says science is actually a partnership activity that relies on a whole range of people, rather than one person doing it.

“It isn’t like the image we have of the mad scientist producing a Frankenstein in his castle,” said Shields. “What is important is the whole chain of activities that allows that scientist to exist. The scientist is still in his castle, but we want to make it so there is more access from the public, policymakers, entrepreneurs and students—the people that make innovations economical, even if the innovation was originally a failure.”

Partnership Development Grants designed to strengthen ties between the academic and private sector have also been awarded to Gordon Gow, also a researcher in the Faculty of Extension, and Mary Ingraham, a researcher in the Department of Music.

Gow, whose team includes Mary Beckie of extension and Naomi Krogman, a professor in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology, as well as colleagues at the University of Guelph and in Sri Lanka, will receive $190,000 over three years to examine how academic institutions, government agencies and international organizations can better link Sri Lankan farmers with knowledge of sustainable farming practices using low-cost communication technologies, such as mobile phones and community radio broadcasting.

Gow says his team is also interested in those communities of practice that involve farm women and young farmers, with evidence suggesting that these groups may be influential adopters of new communication technologies.

“The emerging partnership represents an interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research initiative with the broad goal of enhancing capacity for local innovation in the digital economy,” said Gow. “Given that the U of A and Guelph, for example, have two of the strongest agricultural faculties in Canada, this is a rich opportunity to build fruitful partnerships with the oldest and most influential agricultural university in Sri Lanka.

Ingraham, whose project is entitled The Social Efficacy of Art Music Partnerships in Canada, received $180,000 over three years. She will lead a group of national researchers in documenting and assessing the successes and challenges of partnerships between classical-music organizations and community partners.

“By examining such partnerships, we intend to develop resources for composers, art music organizations and community partners interested in developing collaborative projects with communities,” said Ingraham. “Outcomes of this project will contribute to the conversations about how cultural partnerships can address complex cultural and social issues, will inform Canadians on the role academic scholarship plays in community activities, and will inform policy-makers on ways in which partnerships can be leveraged through interdisciplinary performance practices for social good.”

More SSHRC funding

The following U of A researchers were named as collaborators on SSHRC Partnership Development Grants.

Rauno Parrila
Partnership for student success: Identifying and supporting at-risk university students

Lawrence Aronsen
Reclaiming the New Westminster waterfront

The following U of A researchers were named as collaborators on SSHRC Partnership Grants, which are designed to support new and existing formal research and/or knowledge mobilization partnerships.

Jacqueline Leighton
Learning environments across disciplines (LEADS): Supporting technology rich learning across disciplines

Christian Andersen
Urban Aboriginal knowledge network research for a better life

Alison Taylor, Karen Hughes, Sara Dorow
On the move: Employment-related geographical mobility in the Canadian context

Marc Arnal, Anna Kirova, Gina Higginbottom, Linda Ogilvie, Marilyn Abbott, Mary Richards, Miriam Stewart, Paul Dubé, Paulin Mulatris, Tracey Derwing
Pathways to prosperity: New policy directions and innovative local practices for newcomer integration and attraction

Wiktor Adamowicz
Water economics, policy and governance network

Lars Hallstrom (co-applicant), Jorge Sousa, Mary Becky, Debra Davidson, Bob McKeon and Karsten Mundel
Social Economy, Community Resilience and the Transition to Sustainability