Research stars

What is science worth for us?

Jack Spaapen, senior policy advisor, Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences

Since the 1990s, policy makers progressively became interested in assessing scientific research not only on its merits for the scientific community, but also for society at large. However, we still do not have a widely accepted, systematic way to assess scientific impact. So why is it so difficult to assess impact of research?

The main reason is that there are so many different kinds of impact, depending on the societal context. Clearly, this goes for researchers working in, say, medical fields compared to those working in agriculture or ICT. But it goes a fortiori for researchers working in the broad array of humanities and social science (HSS) fields. Researchers who work in language departments and want to have an impact on the language curriculum of high schools have to deal with legal and governmental departments, with school boards, with student...

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Time to Take Peer Review of Humanities and Social Sciences Research Seriously at CIHR

Matthew Herder, Associate Professor, Health Law Institute, Faculties of Medicine and Law, Dalhousie University @cmrherder

In September 2016, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) launched an International Peer Review Expert Panel under the Chairmanship of Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Scientific Advisor to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, to assess the design and implementation of CIHR’s new grants adjudication processes. Nominated by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Matthew Herder presented his testimony to the International Peer Review Expert Panel on January 17, 2017. You can read Herder’s full testimony here as well as his blog below, originally posted on Impact Ethics blog.  


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Binging on Netflix or philosophizing?


Molly Lewis, University of British Columbia 

“There is nothing in philosophy which could not be said in everyday language,” once said the twentieth-century French philosopher Henri Bergson.

In other words, what makes philosophy attractive is that it expresses what we instinctively believe to be true, but perhaps never put into words before. Philosophy makes sense of how the world works. It makes tangible what is intangible: the nature of our thoughts, feelings, and experiences. It articulates what often goes unarticulated. But philosophy does not only happen in treatises and classrooms. Television, too, can urge us to see images of our world in a thought-provoking manner. The way in which contemporary...

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Not really a philosopher

Chris Eliasmith, University of Waterloo

Chris Eliasmith, Canada Research Chair in Theoretical Neuroscience, is professor with a joint appointment in Philosophy and Systems Design Engineering and cross-appointment to Computer Science at the University of Waterloo. He is Director of the Centre for Theoretical Neuroscience. He was awarded the NSERC John C. Polanyi Award for his work developing a computer model of the human brain. We have invited Professor Eliasmith to share his thoughts on interdisciplinary approaches to research. Here is what he wrote:

Not really a philosopher.

And not really an engineer... or a neuroscientist, computer scientist, or psychologist.  Instead, I am someone really interested in how the brain works—all of it, at all levels of description.  Brain function is tackled by many disciplines, and there is no good reason to think that only one discipline has all the answers.  So, to me, disciplines...

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What’s the big idea? – Micah Anshan’s new role for drug users

Christine McKenna Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

In 1956, William S. Burroughs sent a letter to the British Journal of Addiction with an article enclosed, which described his experiences using a broad collection of drugs and the symptoms of withdrawal from each. Of the common tendency to use the word addiction “to indicate anything one is used to or wants,” he suggests that “so misapplied, the term loses any useful precision of meaning.” Burroughs, a seminal figure of the 1950s Beat movement, appears in this letter to call for an understanding of “real addiction” as experienced by a “real addict”.

According to...

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Productivity and the Atlantic Provinces: 2012 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Highlights

Milena Stanoeva Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

“Productivity” is a word that gets thrown around a lot, especially in times of economic uncertainty.  Governments, financial institutions and media commentators are all concerned with measuring, increasing and stimulating Canada’s productivity. But what does the concept of productivity actually mean beyond a gross domestic product (GDP)? Karen Foster, one of this year’s Banting Postdoctoral Fellows, will tackle this question during her research at Saint Mary’s University. The title of her post-doctoral research project is “Beyond the numbers:  the meaning and measure of productivity in Canada.”

An east-coast native, Foster will specifically look at “moments of government intervention in working and earning in Atlantic Canada,” which has historically been...

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Crossing borders in North America and Europe: 2012 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship Highlights

Milena Stanoeva Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Over the past decade, border crossing has become a national security concern of growing importance, with states increasingly turning to surveillance technologies, databases and smart IDs to control migration flows. Criticism about the increased securitization of borders is generally levelled at states, which, according to 2012 Banting Postdoctoral Fellow Martin Geiger, ignores a major player in migration management – industry.

Geiger will be carrying out his research project, titled “Smart new border world: Information technologies and security industries in the management of human cross-border mobility in North America and Europe,” at Carleton University, where he was a visiting scholar last year. Geiger was born in Germany...

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La construction de martyrs au Moyen-Orient: Bourses postdoctorales Banting 2012

Daniel Drolet Journaliste indépendant

Laure Guirguis, née d’une mère française et d’un père égyptien chrétien, parle l’arabe et a régulièrement séjourné en Égypte depuis son enfance.

Titulaire d’un DEA (Master 2) en philosophie, elle n’avait pas songé à concentrer ses efforts sur le problème copte lorsqu’elle a commencé son doctorat sur les transformations de la scène politique égyptienne. Son directeur de recherche lui a signalé l’actualité de ce sujet pour sa thèse de doctorat en études politiques à l’École des hautes études en sciences sociales à Paris.

Elle a vécu en Égypte de 2005 à 2010,  et a donc pu observer de près la fin du régime de Hosni Moubarak. Aujourd’hui elle est installée à Montréal. Récipiendaire d’une Bourse Banting du gouvernement canadien pour des études postdoctorales, elle mettra à...

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Canada and the transnational human egg trade: 2012 Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship highlights

Milena Stanoeva Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

Heather WalmsleyWith innovations like babies with three genetic parents, what is reality in the field of reproductive technology today seems like it would have been science fiction mere decades ago. And while reproductive technology has helped thousands of couples with reproductive issues, same sex couples and single parents start families, policy and research around the field is lagging. One area of concern that remains largely unaddressed is the international human egg trade and its implications for women on both sides of the transaction.

This issue will be the subject of Heather Walmsley’s research, entitled “Canada and the transnational human egg trade:  implications for women's agency and global social...

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