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University admissions tests under scrutiny especially in the age of COVID-19

Students writing an exam.
Many people are beginning to question the appropriateness of testing for equitable admissions decisions, particularly now in the COVID-19 era. (Shutterstock)

Many Grade 12 high school students are now looking ahead to post-secondary studies next fall. Those wishing to attend universities in the United States will see that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated the growing shift to test-optional university admissions policies — or scrapping entrance tests altogether.

Due to COVID-19, many U.S. universities, including Yale, Cornell, Columbia and the University of Pennsylvania have announced they won’t require applicants for fall 2021 to write either the SAT or ACT.

But even before the pandemic, entrance examinations were under scrutiny. The University of California voted in May to phase out both the SAT and the ACT as requirements for university admissions, largely due to concerns over racial and cultural bias. Other universities have made similar pronouncements.

Many people are wondering if the COVID-19 pandemic will spell the end of university admission testing altogether, and what the implications are for Canadian universities and the approximately 25,000 Canadian students that attend post-secondary institutions in the United States each year.

History of admissions testing

In England, some universities first adopted examinations as the basis for admission in the 1800s. It was not long until university admission testing spread to other parts of the world. A large number of countries now use some form of testing for admission to undergraduate education.

In the United Kingdom, A-level exams across subjects are administered by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations. In New Zealand, the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) uses internal and external assessments to determine students’ achievement of standards, and subsequent admission to post-secondary education and employment.

In Canada, several provinces including Alberta and British Columbia have used senior level subject exams as indicators for university entrance, and often in conjunction with teacher grades. In Australia, universities may ask some applicants to write the STAT, a scholastic aptitude test. However, many people are beginning to question the appropriateness of testing for equitable admissions decisions, particularly now in the COVID-19 era.

A common metric?

Advocates of admissions testing say there is a need to compare students using a common metric. Their chief rationale for using a common benchmark to make admittance decisions is wanting reliable and valid assessments, rather than depending on the idiosyncratic nature of classroom teachers’ assessment practices.

Supporters of admissions testing argue that these external examinations provide an objective metric that may help disadvantaged pupils.

Well before the pandemic, some argued that admissions testing at some of Canada’s universities would help ensure students have the necessary abilities for post-secondary success in their targeted programs.

Digital companies are beginning to take a vested interested in testing — particularly in light of COVID-19, which has forced several assessments into remote proctored environments. Some companies have advanced new technologies that enable responsive test questions, secure online test distribution and administration. Some are currently integrating virtual and alternative digital realities to create more authentic testing environments.

What opponents say

Opponents of admissions testing argue that using external exams for high-stakes decisions creates pressure to raise test scores and degrades rather than improves instruction and learning in schools.

Although this criticism is most often made in relation to high-stakes secondary school testing, the pressure to teach to the test also applies when governments track students’ admissions testing performance from year to year.

Last year’s college admissions scandal in the U.S. highlighted how high-stakes admissions exams can lead to improper and even illegal actions that impact the legitimacy of testing.

Critics have also suggested tests have racial, gender and economic biases as different groups may interact with specific test items in different ways, putting them at an unfair disadvantage. Allegations of bias have sparked legal action against some testing organizations.

As with any high-stakes tests, admissions testing can provoke anxiety, worry and concern in students, leading to significant well-being and wellness challenges. Admission tests reflect broad skills, competencies and aptitudes for higher education, yet are not directly aligned to standards where student applicants may be studying. Hence students may have different levels of preparation for such tests.

Similarly, coaching and preparatory courses can help boost performance for people who can afford such services.

Collectively, these points underscore critical equity concerns related to admission testing and suggest an unequal playing field.

Levelling the field

Testing organizations have increasingly focused their efforts on methods to account for social and economic background characteristics (known as an adversity score) to address bias.

The SAT adversity score includes 15 variables in three different areas: family environment, neighbourhood environment and secondary school environment. Characterized as a poor fix, the adversity score has been criticized for not accounting for unique student circumstances.

Moving tests into online platforms has enabled more responsive question formats, additional accommodations for students with disabilities and, most recently, remote invigilation practices.

In the absence of external admissions exams, universities are turning towards alternative metrics. Some universities look at test results students have written throughout their formal schooling. There have been calls for professional development to ensure teacher grades lead to reliable and valid information about students’ achievement, and many American colleges and universities are exploring ways to develop their own admissions tests.

Perhaps the ultimate arbitrator of the use of admission tests is whether students’ test performances actually predict student success. Unfortunately, the research about this is somewhat mixed and suggests students’ first-year university grades may be both over- and under-predicted by test scores.

Regardless of whether or not universities rely on entrance exams, admissions decisions are supplemented by students’ activities, such as completion of specific programs like the International Baccalaureate. At least one Canadian university has adjusted student grades depending on the high school students attended.

The fact that some students will access more “enriched” secondary opportunities will do little to address concerns of cultural bias and the fact that COVID-19 may have further exacerbated school-based inequities.

With more and more institutions phasing out admission testing, there will be an increasing need to rely on teachers’ judgements to make university admissions decisions.

Accordingly, it will become even more important that teachers have sound assessment skills to provide valid judgements of their students’ achievement of learning. With the increasing shift to online learning environments, teachers will need expanded competencies in assessing students. Teachers’ assessment literacy is key and must be a critical focus of what teachers need to learn in their university education and in professional development.

_____________________________________________________________The Conversation

Christopher DeLuca, Associate Dean, School of Graduate Studies & Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Queen's UniversityLouis Volante, Professor of Education, Brock University; and Don A. Klinger, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Te Kura Toi Tangata Division of Education; Professor of Measurement, Assessment and Evaluation, University of Waikato

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The impact of delayed cancer treatments

New research shows minimizing treatment delays could improve cancer survival rates.

Tim Hanna
Timothy Hanna (Oncology) of the Cancer Research Institute at Queen's University teamed up with Will King (Public Health Services) and King's College London's Ajay Aggarwal, for a study on impact on a person’s mortality if their cancer treatment is delayed by at least one month. (Supplied Photo) 

A new international study led by researchers from Queen’s University and King’s College London has found there is a significant impact on a person’s mortality if their cancer treatment is delayed by even one month. The study published Nov. 6 in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found in many cases, patients have a six to 13 per cent higher risk of dying from cancer if their treatment is delayed by four weeks. The risk keeps rising the longer their treatment does not begin. The study was led by Timothy Hanna, Associate Professor (Oncology) at the Cancer Research Institute at Queen’s University, as well as Will King (Public Health Sciences) and Ajay Aggarwal (King’s College London).

Researchers embarked on the study because most countries have experienced deferrals of elective cancer surgery and radiotherapy as well as reductions in the use of systemic therapies because of COVI-19. Health systems have also redirected resources to preparing for the pandemic.

The researchers carried out a review and analysis of relevant studies into the subject published between January 2000 and April 2020. 

These studies had data on surgical interventions, systemic therapy (such as chemotherapy), or radiotherapy for seven forms of cancer – bladder, breast, colon, rectum, lung, cervix, and head and neck – that together, represent 44 per cent of all incident cancers globally.

They found 34 suitable studies for 17 types of conditions that needed to be treated (indications). These studies collectively involved more than 1.2 million patients. The association between delay and increased mortality was significant for 13 of these 17 indications.

In addition, the researchers calculated that delays of up to eight weeks and 12 weeks further increased the risk of death and used the example of an eight-week delay in breast cancer surgery which would increase the risk of death by 17 per cent, and a 12-week delay that would increase the risk by 26 per cent. 

“As we move towards the second COVID-19 wave in many countries, the results emphasize the need to prioritize cancer services including surgery, drug treatments and radiotherapy as even a four-week delay can significantly increase the risk of cancer death” says Dr. Aggarwal. 

The authors acknowledged that their study had limitations such as the fact that it was based on data from observational research which cannot establish cause, and it was possible that patients with longer treatment delays were destined to have inferior outcomes for reasons of having multiple illnesses or treatment morbidity.

The analysis was based on a large amount of data and researchers ensured that they only included high quality studies that accurately measured what they were investigating.

“A four-week delay in treatment is associated with an increase in mortality across all common forms of cancer treatment, with longer delays being increasingly detrimental” says Dr. Hanna. “In light of these results, policies focused on minimizing system level delays in cancer treatment initiation could improve population level survival outcomes.”

The research is now available online in The BMJ.

Medical education, artificial intelligence and augmented reality

Queen’s University researchers receive funding to develop a next generation medical simulation platform.

A multidisciplinary group of faculty and post-doctoral researchers, in partnership with Queen’s University’s Ingenuity Labs Research Institute, recently received a grant from the Department of National Defence's IDEaS fund to advance the development of intelligently adaptive augmented reality and virtual reality medical simulations. 

As a teaching strategy, simulation-based training has been around a long time. From aviation and space flight to the military, from law to policing, simulation has been used to create learning environments that reflect the real world, without putting the learner or other participants at risk. 

A multidisciplinary group of faculty and post-doctoral researchers from the faculties of Engineering and Applied Science, Health Sciences, Arts and Science, and Education, in partnership with Queen’s University’s Ingenuity Labs Research Institute, has received a $850,000 grant from the Department of National Defence's IDEaS fund to advance the development of intelligently adaptive augmented reality (overlaying virtual images, audio or entire scenes within a real world context) and virtual reality (a completely constructed virtual space) simulations. 

The group’s goal is to create a next generation medical simulation platform that creates intelligent, compelling, life-like, and adaptive simulation environments that can respond to each individual learner. 

“Medical simulation is becoming a critical part of our teaching toolbox,” explains Daniel Howes, Professor, Critical Care Medicine and director of the Clinical Simulation Centre (CSC) at Queen’s University. “Still, we’re behind other disciplines in using simulation to help close the gap between clinical knowledge and clinical practice. In aviation, for example, 80 per cent of their training is simulation based, but in medicine, it’s currently about 20 per cent.” 

Research like this is why the CSC, Canada’s first virtual reality medical training facility, was created. But the ability to make simulation more lifelike and accessible is only part of the objective of the grant.  

“Research shows that to be effective, the complexity of the simulation must match the learner’s level of expertise and cognitive capacity or load, and right now, most simulations are not designed that way,” says Adam Szulewski, Associate Professor, Emergency Medicine. “We know that, to maximize learning, we have to hit the sweet spot for a given learner in terms of simulation complexity. The holy grail is a system that can adapt to the learner on the fly.” 

Traditionally, learner performance in a simulation was observed by experts who could then decide about their performance against standard benchmarks. Previously, there was no way to investigate the mind of the learner to really understand how they were reacting to the challenges in the simulation. 

All of that has changed with the availability of real-time, wearable sensors such as electrocardiograms (ECG), electroencephalograms (EEG), and eye-trackers, in combination with artificial intelligence. The data these generate can be used by deep neural networks and machine learning to accurately identify the learner’s expertise, cognitive load, emotional state, and level of engagement with the simulation. 

“We have the chance to completely redefine the simulation learning paradigm,” says Paul Hungler, Assistant Professor, Chemical Engineering. “From a static relationship based on simple behaviours to a dynamic partnership, in which the simulation platform can identify and immediately respond to a learner by changing the complexity of the simulation. That’s revolutionary.” 

The proposed platform demands expertise in engineering and software to realize the augmented / virtual reality and AI / deep learning components of the project, while the medical simulation design requires medical, cognitive and educational expertise. 

“As a research institute with a mandate specifically seeking to explore and integrate artificial intelligence, robotics and human-machine interaction, the Ingenuity Lab is perfectly positioned to support this type of deeply interdisciplinary project,” states Ramzi Asfour, Associate Director. 

The research team has formed SIMIAN (Simulation and Intelligent Adaptivity Network) to support the advancement of this type of dynamic simulation-based learning technology. 

"With augmented and virtual reality, we can significantly reduce the cost of simulation while simultaneously increasing its realism and accessibility,” says Dr. Howes. “We’re really excited about the potential of this technology.” 

Promoting Research@Queen’s

Looking back on some of the most compelling stories of the Discover Research@Queen’s promotional campaign.

In February, the university launched an institutional campaign, Discover Research@Queen’s, to showcase the impactful research happening at Queen’s and to build engagement with the new Research@Queen’s website.

  • [Photo of compacted plastics]
    Diving into microplastics: Addressing our "wicked" waste problem: Microplastics – They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we consume, and we are still learning about what this means for our health, the health of our environment, and our future. How do we tackle this “wicked” problem? Queen’s researcher Myra Hird believes the answer is in our own consumption habits.
  • [Photo of a woman touching her forehead]
    Strange physical symptoms? Blame the chronic stress of life during the COVID-19 pandemic: Itchy skin? More aches and pains? Unusual rash? Headaches? Pimples? If you've been experiencing unusual physical symptoms recently, Queen's researcher Kate Harkness explains it may be due to living with chronic stress for The Conversation Canada.
  • [Photo of Samuel Dahan and Xiaodan Zhu by Bernard Clark]
    Championing AI for social justice: Queen's University researchers Samuel Dahan and Xiaodan Zhu are using AI to level the legal playing field for Canadians, including those affected by COVID-19 unemployment.
  • [Art of Research Photo by Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin of a market in Adelabu]
    Capturing the Art of Research: Celebrating the 2020 prize recipients: The Queen’s Art of Research photo contest celebrates its fifth year, with the selection of ten stunning winning images.
  • [Illustration of a bar graph and tree by Gary Neill]
    Fixing financial fairy tales – The rise of sustainable finance in Canada: The Institute for Sustainable Finance based at Queen's Smith School of Business is dedicated to exploring how the many different ways in which we spend money might be adapted to reflect the principles of sustainability.

However, much like the rest of the world, the campaign had to take stock and respond to the urgent concerns of the pandemic. As a consequence, the campaign was paused between March and May. During this period many Queen’s researchers pivoted their efforts to focus on pandemic relief and research, sharing their expertise and advice with the public as the crisis unfolded. In April, the campaign was reimagined to reflect these activities culminating in a new virtual events series with Advancement, Conversations Confronting COVID-19, where Queen’s researchers and alumni were able to discuss their research, provide comment, and take questions. These Conversations have reached more than 1,000 people and featured topics such as innovation and aging during the pandemic.

“The original goal of the campaign was to help our audiences discover the critical and impactful research happening at Queen’s,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). “While COVID-19 forced us to rethink our approach to a degree, the success of these efforts illustrate how eager our audiences are to understand how the work being done by Queen’s researchers can make a difference.”

Overall, the campaign has doubled traffic to the Research@Queen’s website and helped drive significant awareness of the research happening at Queen’s. As we wrap up the campaign, the last phase features some of the most well-received stories featured over the last 10 months.

Discover Research@Queen’s Stories and Features

Diving into microplastics: Addressing our "wicked" waste problem: Microplastics – They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, and the water we consume, and we are still learning about what this means for our health, the health of our environment, and our future. How do we tackle this “wicked” problem? Queen’s researcher Myra Hird believes the answer is in our own consumption habits.

Strange physical symptoms? Blame the chronic stress of life during the COVID-19 pandemic: Itchy skin? More aches and pains? Unusual rash? Headaches? Pimples? If you've been experiencing unusual physical symptoms recently, Queen's researcher Kate Harkness explains it may be due to living with chronic stress for The Conversation Canada.

Championing AI for social justice: Queen's University researchers Samuel Dahan and Xiaodan Zhu are using AI to level the legal playing field for Canadians, including those affected by COVID-19 unemployment.

Capturing the Art of Research: Celebrating the 2020 prize recipients: The Queen’s Art of Research photo contest celebrates its fifth year, with the selection of 10 stunning winning images.

Fixing financial fairy tales – The rise of sustainable finance in Canada: The Institute for Sustainable Finance, based at Queen's Smith School of Business, is dedicated to exploring how the many different ways in which we spend money might be adapted to reflect the principles of sustainability.

For more information, visit the Research@Queen’s website or contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives.

5 failings of the Great Barrington Declaration

Some women wear a mask while other do not while waiting for a traffic light
Facing the threat of COVID-19, we have never been in more need of coherent and consistent messaging from the medical professionals, scientists, public health agencies and the government. (Unsplash / Kate Trifo)

Good science and sound public health policy are needed to guide us through a pandemic that will likely continue throughout 2021. Public buy-in is essential for long-term adherence to effective public health measures such as wearing masks in indoor spaces, hand washing, maintaining physical distancing and staying home when sick.

These measures can control case spread but, let’s face it, they are no fun. Even harder to weather are the intermittent closures of businesses and schools in response to local pandemic spikes.

We have never been in more need of coherent and consistent messaging from the medical professionals, scientists, public health agencies and the government. Unfortunately, reckless messaging by some doctors and scientists is feeding mistrust of public health policies.

Infectious bad ideas called cognogens readily spread in our stressed pandemic environment. One such cognogen, the Great Barrington Declaration , is causing harm. The declaration takes its name from Great Barrington, a Massachusetts resort town. This declaration, signed by 12,000 people, is sponsored by the American Institute for Economic Research, a libertarian think-tank.

The declaration begins with the false premise that governments intend to lock down society, and cherry-picks facts (for example, that COVID-19 infections are mild in healthy people). It states:

“Those who are not vulnerable should immediately be allowed to resume life as normal. The most compassionate approach that balances the risks and benefits of reaching herd immunity, is to allow those who are at minimal risk of death to live their lives normally to build up immunity to the virus through natural infection, while better protecting those who are at highest risk.”

The 5 flaws

1. It creates a false dichotomy. The declaration rhetoric offers a false choice between a wholesale return to our pre-pandemic lives (which is objectively dangerous) versus a total lockdown (which no one advocates). Across Canada, schools, daycares and businesses are open and we are providing health care for patients who suffer from non-COVID-19 diseases. Timothy Caulfield, Canada Research Chair in health law and policy, notes that it’s not a binary choice between the Barrington perspective and full lockdown, and that governments are striving to balance public health with economic recovery.

This is true in Ontario where, after the first COVID-19 peak, the province reopened in three stages, guided by epidemiology.

2. The Barrington declaration gives oxygen to fringe groups. The signatories did not intend to support such fringe groups, but their rhetoric invalidates public health policy and feeds the 19 per cent of North Americans who don’t trust public health officials.

When physicians and scientists sign on to the declaration they support the fears of an increasingly anxious public and fuel conspiracy theories. This is even more dangerous in America with a president that many people view as divisive, and fringe groups such as the paramilitary Oath Keepers and QAnon.

3. The Barrington declaration puts individual preference far above public good. The declaration advocates that, “individual people, based upon their own perception of their risk of dying from COVID-19 and other personal circumstances, personally choose the risks, activities and restrictions they prefer.”

If these views were applied to traffic safety, chaos would ensue as we each chose our own speed limit and which side of the road to drive on. Public health matters, and the approach of the declaration to place ideology over facts helps fuel the pandemic.

4. The declaration misunderstands herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when a large enough proportion of the population has immunity, usually more than 70 per cent. Viral spread is then slowed because the virus largely encounters immune people. Herd immunity can be safely achieved by vaccines, but in order to “naturally” develop herd immunity, people must first survive the infection.

Despite more than 9 million cases in the United States, less than 10 per cent of Americans have COVID-19 antibodies. Even if true caseloads were 10-fold greater than recognized, 94 per cent of people remain susceptible and, if rapidly infected, would swamp the health-care system and lead to many avoidable deaths.

The declaration’s approach amounts to a global chickenpox party, a historical means of generating immunity to the varicella-zoster virus that causes chickenpox. Healthy children were put in close contact with an infected child so that all became infected with chickenpox.

Unfortunately, even some healthy children suffered severe complications and unintended people were often infected. At least with chickenpox there was no risk of epidemic spread because society had herd immunity (which we lack for COVID-19).

5. The declaration offers no details on how it would protect the vulnerable. In Ontario, more than 60 per cent of COVID-19 deaths have occurred in residents of nursing homes and long-term care (LTC) facilities. COVID-19 is imported into LTCs from the community by relatives and health-care workers, so we must prevent viral spread in the community to keep these vulnerable people safe.

A pair of men, wearing masks, take a break during an outdoor workout (Unsplash / Kate Trifo)

The experts have spoken: Experts view the Barrington declaration as wrong-minded and dangerous. Dr. Anthony Fauci dismissed the idea, calling it dangerous.

The declaration is also rebutted by the 6,400 vetted signatories of the John Snow Memorandum, named for the 19th-century pioneer of epidemiology.

The Snow memorandum cites clear evidence that the virus is highly contagious, several times more lethal than influenza and can have lasting consequences, even in healthy people. It affirms that COVID-19 can be constrained by good public health measures, and warns that herd immunity may be hard to achieve. It concludes:

“… controlling community spread of COVID-19 is the best way to protect our societies and economies until safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics arrive within the coming months.”

The Infectious Diseases Society of America’s 12,000 front-line infectious diseases scientists, physicians and public health experts strongly denounce the Barrington declaration.

Finally, Wisconsin’s epidemic exemplifies the failure of Barrington declaration’s ideology. Its Republican-controlled legislature has supported legal challenges to the governor’s mask mandate even as the state’s rate of positive COVID-19 tests spiked to nearly 30 per cent and hospitalizations skyrocketed.

The Great Barrington Declaration, supported by U.S. President Donald Trump, is naive and dangerous. Physicians and scientists must be responsible in our pronouncements and not sow mistrust of effective public health measures.The Conversation

_____________________________________________________________

Stephen Archer, Professor, Head of Department of Medicine, Queen's University, Ontario

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

A different view of COVID-19

Queen’s University researcher Mona Kanso develops new way of looking at novel coronavirus that could help uncover treatments

Queen’s University researcher Mona Kanso has developed a new and unique way of looking at viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. By sculpting the coronavirus particle from tiny beads, and then applying the laws of fluid physics to each and every bead, Kanso calculates the properties of the coronavirus from its shape. While the full potential of this new method is still being realized, researchers expect it will accelerate the path to developing a treatment and, eventually, finding a cure. 

“We know of no other way to calculate the transport properties of a virus from its shape,” Kanso says. 

SARS-CoV-2 is a spherical shell covered with spikes called peplomers, which the virus uses to attach itself to the cells it infects. Since the virus cannot move itself, it relies on the random thermal motion of its fluid surroundings, to rotate, to align its spikes with its target on a cell. Once attached, the virus can infect the cell and then spread. 

“Think of it like a jittery spaceship docking with a space station,” explains Kanso, (PhD chemical engineering candidate, Vanier Canada Research Scholar). “The jittery virus must align two of its adjacent spikes, just so, with the binding sites so it can attach to the cell. It relies on kinetic molecular energy from the fluid to rotate itself into position.” 

This research opens the door to understanding drugs that might prevent cell binding by interfering with virus rotational diffusion. It also deepens scientists’ understanding of viral cellular infection. 

Kanso collaborated with her Queen’s summer trainee, Jourdain Piette, along with their Queen’s advisor, Professor Jeffrey Giacomin, sheltered in place on his sabbatical leave on the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno, and with Dr. Giacomin’s UNR host, Professor James Hanna. 

“In this work, we uncover a better way of looking at viruses,” says Kanso. “Like any engineering problem, trying to solve it without understanding it, takes forever. This coronavirus is spiked for more than one reason. There is the obvious mechanical function of target attachment. But its spikes are also controlling its own jitter, by receiving energy from the fluid, to help it dock with its targets. This coronavirus is a far more formidable adversary than it looks.” 

The next step is to explore how the triangular bulb on the tip of each coronavirus spike affects infection. Also, under the microscope, not all of the coronaviruses are spherical. Called pleomorphism, no one knows how this affects the alignment and attachment probability.  

The research is published, and freely available, in Physics of Fluids

Recognizing research and scholarship at Queen’s

The Prizes for Excellence in Research are Queen’s highest internal research award.

Prizes for Excellence in Research
Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and Yan-Fei Liu (Engineering) are the 2020 recipients of the Prizes for Excellence in Research.

Three Queen’s researchers have earned the institution’s top recognition for research excellence. The researchers, Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering), Gabor Fichtinger (Computing), and Yan-Fei Liu (Engineering), are committed to advancing knowledge in a variety of fields, including polymer chemistry and green engineering, developing technologies for computer-integrated surgery and advancing power conversion systems.

The Prizes for Excellence in Research have been the signature internal research prize since 1980 and represent an important investment by Queen’s in recognizing research and scholarship across the faculties. This year, the awards are going to three recipients, with each being awarded a prize of $20,000, allocated for research and accessible through a special research account. Also new this year was a consideration of overall research impact and efforts in knowledge mobilization through collaborations and partnerships, and in sharing research beyond the academy.  

“My sincere congratulations to this year’s recipients of the Prizes,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). “Nominated by their peers, Drs. Cunningham, Fichtinger, and Liu represent scholars who have successfully combined research excellence and knowledge translation – a winning combination.”

Michael Cunningham (Chemical Engineering): Dr. Cunningham’s research achievements in polymer chemistry and green engineering have attracted the attention of academics and numerous companies worldwide. He has spent 30 years studying how to reduce the environmental and health-related impacts of processes used to make materials that are essential for a modern society. His research group has pioneered major innovations in developing new water-based processes that eliminate the use of harmful chemicals in manufacturing processes, developed new materials that may replace solvent based products and offer new ways to purify drinking water, and more recently established new protocols for making renewably-sourced materials.

Gabor Fichtinger (School of Computing)Dr. Fichtinger is being recognized for seminal contributions to the development, clinical translation and global dissemination of novel technologies for computational imaging guidance in surgery and medical interventions. He is particularly respected for his ground-breaking work in image-guided interventional robotics. Dr. Fichtinger has also made worldwide impact by championing the development and dissemination of free open source software resources for computer-assisted cancer diagnosis and treatment, particularly targeting countries with limited technological resources. His Laboratory for Percutaneous Surgery is the world leader in this movement; their software offerings have been downloaded over 1 million times, contributing to healthcare, research and commercial development on a global scale.

Yan-Fei Liu (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Dr. Liu is a professor of electrical and computer engineering in the field of power electronics – a scientific field to which he has made numerous original and substantial contributions. His most significant work is concerned with the advancement of high frequency power conversion technology for its use in the telecommunications, computer and lighting industries. He is inventor of over 50 US Patents and has authored more than 90 journal papers. His work has been cited by more than 7,000 independent references and is widely used in industry worldwide.

Traditionally, the prizes are presented to recipients at convocation, and recipients also deliver a public presentation about their research. Given the current COVID-19 restrictions, the university is exploring options to celebrate this year’s recipients and to help them share their research findings with the community.

For further information, or to learn more about previous prize winners, visit the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research) website .

Indian day school survivors are seeking truth and justice

In January 2020, Canada began accepting claims emerging from a billion-dollar settlement with survivors of the Indian day schools. This landmark settlement has been embroiled by legal battles as well as additional lawsuits. In the meantime, survivors and the public have yet to learn how the $200 million, earmarked for education, healing and commemoration, will be used.

An estimated 200,000 Indigenous children were forced to attend Indian day schools that operated on First Nations reserves in every Canadian province from the mid-1800s until 2000. While the government of Canada funded the schools, the daily operations were run by the Roman Catholic, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist churches and, later, the United Church of Canada.

We have collaborated on a new historical biography, Spirit of the Grassroots People: Seeking Justice for Indigenous Survivors of Canada’s Colonial Education System. The perspectives we bring are as an Indian day school survivor and activist (Raymond), author of this book, a mixed settler-Anishinaabe historian (Jackson) and a white settler scholar of education (Theodore), the book’s editors.

As historians of education, we believe that Canada must continue to come to grips with the full extent of its past. Schools and curricula are a part of this past, as well as the present and the future. They also laid the historical foundation of inequality for Indigenous students.

Attendance in Indian Day Schools vs Residential Schools in Ontario, 1871-1961. (Library and Archives Canada, Indian Affairs Annual Reports, 1864-1990)

Forced attendance, abuse

Since the official submission date for claims opened in January 2020, survivors have been navigating the confusing and lengthy written application of documenting their trauma and abuse.

While the settlement covers the costs for survivors to file a claim with the designated legal counsel, only recently have survivors been able to hire their own lawyers, who they themselves must pay. In June of this year, survivors also learned that they cannot change the level of claim they previously submitted.

Survivors who submit an application are entitled to a minimum of $10,000 for “harms associated with attendance” at one of the 699 recognized schools.

A man smiling.
Survivor Garry McLean attended the day school at Dog Creek First Nation. When McLean passed away in February 2019, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs noted that McLean recollected getting the strap because he didn’t know how to say ‘good morning’ in English. (Raymond Mason), Author provided

This does not include the approximately 700 Indian day schools that the federal government excluded from the settlement. Former students who were physically or sexually abused could receive between $50,000 to $200,000 based on “severity of the abuses suffered.”

This federal settlement was reached after extensive advocacy work by survivors.

Survivor Garry McLean, with Raymond, approached lawyers in 2016 after spending the previous seven years building a network of survivors and submitting a claim within the Manitoba court system. After extensive negotiations with the federal government, there was an announcement of an agreement in principle on Parliament Hill in December 2018. After additional negotiations, the final settlement worth $1.47 billion was announced in August 2019.

Survivors’ work has opened up processes of legal acknowledgement of wrongdoing and thus made possible a form of justice and compensation. As of Sept. 30, 2020, the settlement had received 84,427 claims and paid 27,690 survivors with another 56,737 applications still under review.

National inquiry into day schools

It has been over five years since the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) presented their findings in a report and in Calls to Action. Since that time, ongoing injustices towards Indigenous people have led some to debate whether reconciliation is already dead. Yet the truth that was uncovered through oral testimony and historical research as part of the TRC has provided valuable knowledge to those who are listening.

Numerous departments in universities, colleges and public schools have begun incorporating the history of Indian residential schools into their curricula.

This process of seeking the truth is unfortunately not happening for Indian day schools survivors, despite an estimated 2,000 individuals who are passing away every year. It is time for a national inquiry into the history of Indian day schools and their ongoing legacy for the education of Indigenous students in Canada.

Helen Raptis, who has studied the history of Indian day schools in British Columbia, has argued that our understanding of Indigenous education “has been hampered by historians’ almost singular focus on residential schooling.” This is despite the fact that more students attended an Indian day school than a residential school in Canada.

Abuse, forced to abandon language

When the federal government, plaintiffs and lawyers announced the day schools agreement in principle in December 2018, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Carolyn Bennett, acknowledged:

“As a result of the harmful and discriminatory government policies at the time, students who attended these schools were subject to sexual, physical and psychological abuse and forced to abandon their language and culture. Survivors across this country continue to suffer from the abuse and horrific experiences they were subjected to, which were perpetuated by the very people charged with educating them as children.”

Since this announcement, neither the government nor any of the religious organizations involved, have launched a national inquiry or issued a formal apology. If the federal government and church organizations are unwilling to support an investigation into the full extent of survivors’ accounts of abuse, then historians and the general public must make it a priority to learn this history.

Book cover for Spirit of the Grassroots People
“Spirit of the Grassroots People: Seeking Justice for Indigenous Survivors of Canada’s Colonial Education System” (McGill-Queen's University Press)

Indian day school survivors and their descendants have already begun sharing their schooling experiences. Through organizing and sharing information about their claims and experiences on a growing Facebook group and articles by journalists such as Ka’nhehsí:io Deer, their stories are slowly becoming heard. The nearly 20,000-strong Facebook group offers mentors, guidance and a supportive community for survivors. This virtual place has become a primary source of information for claimants.

Mapping Indian day schools

From the perspective of survivors, such private forums are critical. However, they cannot replace the need for publicly accessible records, including digital records, for future generations of survivors’ descendants, historians and the general public.

In research at Queen’s University, we are now working towards a map-making project that will provide an online resource that visualizes the location of all Indian day schools and describes what archival files are available.

In addition to this, we invite Indian day school survivors to participate in a study that seeks to learn about their experiences through questions such as: What did you experience in Ontario’s Indian day school? How did these experiences impact you later in life? What would you like to be remembered about the Indian day schools?

These questions are only small steps towards a wider goal of providing an option for Indian day school survivors to tell their history without the interference of the government, lawyers or a claims administrator. The oral history from survivors will play an essential role in the memory of these events as evidenced from the testimonies of survivors of residential schools.

Click here for more articles in our ongoing series about the TRC Calls to Action.

Urgent response required

There is an urgent need to document history related to the day schools, and also to commit to holding Canada accountable for systemic injustices that continue to harm Indigenous lives and communities today.

Sen. Murray Sinclair, who chaired the TRC, has criticized the way the federal government has handled records related to residential schools’ survivors’ accounts. In June, he noted:

The disappearance [of records] is actually tragic because it means the information around the full and complete story of the residential school experiences … is not going to be told.”

This is despite the TRC’s call for a national review of archival policies. An ongoing battle over the records of residential school survivors stories and missing files is still an issue more than a decade later.

We believe that all Canadians must join with survivors in demanding transparent processes in the Indian day school settlement. This would involve funds being available to the legacy fund for the support of healing and education.

Seeking truth in history should begin with study of our educational systems. These embed our values and beliefs. The Indian day schools are a part of Canada’s history and directly affect every Canadian, not only those who survived them.The Conversation

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Jackson Pind, PhD Candidate, Indigenous education, Queen's University; Raymond Mason, Community research partner, Peguis First Nation, and Theodore Christou, Professor, Social Studies and History Education, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Investing in a healthy future

Queen’s University to partner with Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners through recently announced funding from FedDev Ontario

The HonourableMélanie Joly, Minister of Economic Development and Official Languages and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), has announced funding for Toronto Innovation Acceleration Partners (TIAP). FedDev Ontario has committed $6.5 million, through the Regional Innovation Ecosystem stream, for TIAP’s Venture Builder Program. Queen’s University is collaborator under TIAP’s FedDev program. Queens will contribute to venture creation in therapeutics, medical devicesand health science AI by working with TIAP to accelerate the commercialization of Queen’s health science discoveries. 

The FedDev Ontario funding will be matched by Queen’s University and will leverage TIAP’s expertise in technology evaluation, access management talent for health science ventures, and support the growth of health science companies into anchor companies in Southern Ontario. 

“Queen’s University is delighted to collaborate with TIAP and its academic members in the recently launched Venture Builder Program,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal Research. “Partnerships like these are critically important in ensuring that scientific breakthroughs are transformed into positive outcomes for human health.” 

In addition to gaining access to TIAP’s expertise, networks and resources, Queen’s will receive funding over four years through TIAP’s FedDev Ontario funding award, which is expected to be invested in a number of companies selected by TIAP and Queen’s, with the remainder allocated to support specialized services delivered through Queen’s. 

TIAP is tremendously pleased that FedDev Ontario has recognized the importance of the health science innovation community. We look forward to working more closely with Queen’s University to expand current venture development programs and facilitate the path forward for new discoveries," says Parimal Nathwani, President and CEO of TIAP. 

“Queen’s has an active portfolio of early-stage assets that will benefit from the Venture Builder Program,” says Jim Banting, Assistant Vice-Principal, Partnerships and Innovation.

For more information, visit www.tiap.ca 

Putting a stamp on the season

Queen’s University professor Gauvin Alexander Bailey consulted on this year’s Christmas stamp for the United States Postal Service.

Over Christmas, millions of letters and packages are delivered all over the world, affixed with special stamps for the season. But how are the images for the stamps selected? 

Queen’s University art expert Gauvin Alexander Bailey acted as a consultant for the selection of artwork for this year’s United States Post Service (USPS) Christmas stamp. This year’s version of the stamp features a detail of Our Lady of Guápulo. Painted by an unknown artist, likely an Amerindian working in Cuzco, Peru, the 18th-century oil painting depicts the Virgin Mary looking down at a richly dressed Christ Child. 

As an acknowledgment of the importance of Latinx culture in the United States, the USPS wanted a Christmas image that reflected this community and the rich cultural heritage of Spanish America in general. They contacted Dr. Bailey (Art History and Art Conservation) who is an expert in Southern European and Latin American Baroque Art to review the selection. 

“I was approached in 2017 by PhotoAssist, a Maryland-based image fact-checking company contracted by the United States Postal Service because the USPS wanted to make a Christmas stamp with a Latin American image. One of my specialties is colonial Latin American painting,” explains Dr. Bailey. “As a consultant I reviewed art, text, and subject matter to make sure the painting and its historical significance are represented accurately.” 

Dr. Bailey says normally the Madonna and Child images chosen for Christmas are European in origin – in the past many have been from the Italian Renaissance, from U.S. museums (e.g. a Florentine Renaissance one for the 2016 Christmas stamp, from the National Gallery of Art). Our Lady of Guápulo is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

This oil painting depicts a pilgrimage image of the Virgin and Child (a dressed sculpture) named the Virgin of the Rosary of Guápulo in present-day Ecuador. She herself is a 1584 copy of a Spanish sculpture called the Virgin of Guadalupe. In fact, “Guápulo” was a local Quito mispronunciation of “Guadalupe.” Toward the end of the 17th century paintings of the sculpture began to proliferate as a way of raising funds for the original shrine and the Virgin’s cult spread throughout the Andes. 

“The painting on the USPS Christmas stamp represents the apex of colonial painting in South America and is painted with extreme delicacy and attention to detail, particularly of the costume,” says Dr. Bailey, Bader Chair in Southern Baroque Art. “What makes it interesting is that it is not just a copy of the original but reflects Peruvian taste in the lavishness of its costume and golden crowns, and in the prominence of the floral bouquet.” 

For more information, view the stamp here

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