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Panel 210 - Skills-Building and Impact In the Social Sciences and Humanities

Conference Day: 
Day 3 - November 9th 2018
Takeaways and recommendations: 

Skills-building and impact in the social sciences and humanities

Organized by: Research Impact Canada, the Conference Board and The Collaboration, SSHRC

Speakers: Dr. Sandra Lapointe, Associate Professor, Philosophy, McMaster University; Dr. David Phipps, Executive Director, Research & Innovation Services, York University and Network Director, Research Impact Canada

Takeaways and recommendations

  • Knowledge mobilization (KM) is about relationships, interactions and engagement.

  • Skilled knowledge brokers help to achieve effective and useful KM.

  • Knowledge brokers, which could include the researchers, need excellent communication and partnership relationship skills, including the ability to listen and recognize the expertise of others.

  • Increase the capacity of institutions to help their researchers do KM.

New ways of thinking about KM and scholarly impact

  • KM is not about bridging a gap; rather, it is closing a loop bringing people together in a shared collaborative space.

  • Scholarly impacts are not limited to traditional benchmarks like publications and citations.

  • It can be difficult for social science and humanities (SSH) academics, especially those in the humanities, to translate their knowledge under the current impact models of innovation and economic growth (e.g., an academic who specialists in 16th century novelists). More thought is needed on how these academics can mobilize their broader SSH knowledge as opposed to their specific expertise.

  • Institutions need to create more opportunities for SSH academics to engage meaningfully in building a better society.

  • Institutions are developing KM capacity to support engaged scholarship and research impact as exemplified by members of Research Impact Canada.

How to maximize scholarly impacts

  • Make the research process open and accessible, and bring in a wide range of collaborators, including youth and elders.

  • Communities should be allowed to hold research grants and/or to award funding within existing grants.

  • Research offices look for opportunities to connect both internal and external talent to industry and other stakeholders.

  • Outreach is important. Know your audience and to understand their language and the framework in which they will be using the knowledge.

  • To maximize potential for knowledge uptake, scholars should work with knowledge users to facilitate the adoption of new knowledge. (e.g., in addition to writing a policy brief, co-facilitate a session explaining the brief to policymakers).

  • Some of the most impactful work will only affect collaborators and won’t have any public visibility.

  • Research impacts can begin well before a project officially ends.

  • Scholars need to get out of their comfort zone and have conversations with individuals other than their peers (e.g., giving talks at libraries or community centres). Institutions can play a role in supporting more of these public engagement opportunities.

  • Institutions need incentive and promotion systems that recognize and reward faculty and students for all forms of impact, including multiple forms of engagement. (e.g., the University of British Columbia’s dissertation scholarship includes engagement activities).

  • SSHRC grants could articulate more clearly what impact and KM mean, and create more models to support it.

  • Increase public awareness of the importance of SSH research.

Future skills are SSH skills

  • Employers want employees who can problem solve, do research and be creative.

  • SSH skills make it more likely that technology or knowledge will be accepted and adopted.

  • Students need to be trained for jobs in industry and society, not only academia, by providing them with skills that are transferable and allow them to learn on the job.

The Collaborative creates real connections

  • The Collaborative digital platform acts as a gateway to a real-life community of practice where K-12 educators can find support and collaborative opportunities with academics in their communities.

  • It provides opportunities for creative KM while enhancing student learning experiences and creating synergies between K-12 and postsecondary as well as across sectors.

  • A successful community of practice is one in which K-12 educators and postsecondary academics are seen as peers who leverage each other’s interests and strengths.

  • Connections in a community of practice are made by trained facilitators (i.e., not a computer matching program).

  • The facilitator training program is designed to ensure that graduate students acquire skills that are more broadly marketable and versatile for employability.

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