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Research Prominence

Queen’s ranks first in Canada and fifth in the world in global impact rankings

Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings illustrate Queen’s role in advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

Queen's ranks first in Canada and fifth in the world in global impact rankings

Today, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings revealed that Queen’s University has placed first in Canada and fifth in the world in its global ranking of universities that are advancing the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) within and beyond their local communities. The rankings measured more than 1,200 post-secondary institutions and focused on the impact made in 17 categories measuring sustainability.

Established in 2019, THE Impact Rankings assess a university’s societal impact based on the UN’s SDGs, a set of goals outlining a universal call to action to protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere. Using carefully calibrated indicators across four broad areas – research, outreach, teaching, and stewardship – THE Impact Rankings are a recognition of those who are working today to build a better tomorrow.

“At Queen’s we believe our community – our people – will help solve the world’s most significant and urgent challenges through our intellectual curiosity, passion to achieve, and commitment to collaboration,” says Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor. “We are humbled to be recognized in this way for the impact we’re having in our local and global communities, but we recognize how much still needs to be done. We are, however, pleased to know we are on the right track, and have our eyes set even more firmly on the future.”

Queen's University’s community of students, researchers, staff, and alumni all contribute to making a positive impact as measured by the UN’s 17 SDG criteria. THE Impact Rankings acknowledged Queen’s as:

  • 1st worldwide for SDG 1 ‘No Poverty,’ and SDG 16 ‘Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions’. This was exemplified by Promise Scholars, a program designed to reduce financial barriers and increase access to Queen’s for local, first-generation students. The university also helps the next generation of policy makers through programs and research led by the School of Policy Studies, in addition to significant collaboration with all levels of government.
  • A leader in advancing programs that promote equal access, equity, and diversity, because of initiatives like: the Queen’s Equity Locator App, a map of accessible and gender neutral spaces, and specialized pathway programs for Indigenous and Black students.
  • Queen’s supports air, land and water ecosystems through initiatives such as Queen’s Climate Action Plan, which is committed to climate neutrality by 2040;  the Queen’s University Biological Station, one of Canada’s premier scientific field stations; and the Beaty Water Research Centre, which fosters interdisciplinary research and outreach in water governance, sustainability, and protection.

Queen’s scored highly across a number of SDGs, including in SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 11 (Sustainable Cities), and SDG 15 (Life on Land), where Queen’s placed in the top 10 worldwide. For both SDG 1 (No Poverty) and SDG 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions), Queen's ranks first in the world.

These impressive results reflect the cross-university collaboration and partnership of over 70 units across faculties, portfolios, and departments that contributed to or were represented in the evidence.

“Canada’s universities are actively demonstrating the fundamental role they will play in helping solve some of the world’s greatest challenges as outlined in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals,” says Phil Baty, Chief Knowledge Officer, Times Higher Education. “In a year that has seen record levels of participation in the Impact Rankings, with 1,240 universities from 98 countries and regions, it is wonderful to see the success of Queen’s University in helping to ensure a sustainable future for global society.”

Other highlights from the more than 600 pieces of evidence submitted illustrate Queen’s contributions to an inclusive, diverse, and sustainable future, including:

“Building on this track record of sustainability, while accelerating development and partnerships at home and abroad, Queen’s will stay focused on developing the leaders of tomorrow to advance global initiatives and make a lasting imprint on our communities,” says Principal Deane, who wrote on how the SDGs can help inform and shape the future of the global academy.

Transforming the global academy

Principal Patrick Deane on how the SDGs are helping break down silos, provoke dialogue, and unite us all in a common global purpose.

[Photo of Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane]
Patrick Deane, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Queen's University

As a member of the international group tasked with updating the Magna Charta Universitatum – the declaration of university freedoms and principles that was first signed in Bologna in 1988 – I am struck by the extent to which the intervening three decades have altered the global consensus about the nature and function of universities. Where the original document spoke eloquently to the fundamental values of the academy, the new Magna Charta Universitatum 2020 reaffirms those values but also expands upon their social function and utility. I would summarise the shift this way: we have moved from an understanding of universities as defined primarily by their ability to transcend historical contingency to a more complicated view, which asserts that timeless principles such as academic freedom and institutional autonomy are the platform from which the academy must engage with history.

If the situation in Europe and around the world in 1988 made it important to speak up for the freedoms without which teaching and research would be impoverished, by 2020 it had become equally important to speak of the responsibilities incumbent on institutions by virtue of the privileges accorded to them. The reality of rapid climate change has brought urgency and authority to this new view of universities, as have parallel trends in the social, cultural, and political climate, and “education for sustainable development” has emerged as the increasingly dominant model for global higher education – one which fuses the concerns of environment, society, and economy.  

Recent columns in Times Higher Education have admirably described the diverse ways in which the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been intrinsic to this reorientation of the global academy: as a rallying point for students and staff, as an accountability framework, and as a global language for political action, for example. Here at Queen’s University, the SDGs have been an important frame for our current planning process, and in all of those ways have influenced the manner in which we understand and wish to articulate our mission.

At one point in the process, an influential and valued friend of the university expressed some irritation to me about the way in which the SDGs had come to dominate and disrupt the university’s normally untroubled and inwardly-focused dialogue with itself about mission and values. “And in any case,” came the throwaway dismissal, “there’s nothing original or new about aligning with the SDGs.” Of course, that is true in 2021, but is it relevant? If a university is able to maximise its global impact, does the inherent originality or novelty of its planning parameters matter? In such exchanges – still occurring, I’m certain, on campuses everywhere – we can see that the changing consensus about which I wrote at the start is not yet complete.

It seems to me, in fact, that much of the value of the SDGs as an organising framework for universities resides in their not being proprietary or “original” to one institution, or to an exclusive group of institutions. It has often been pointed out that they now provide a shared language which helps universities in diverse geographical, political, and socio-economic locations understand and build upon the commonality of their work in both teaching and research. Adoption of the SDGs, however variously that is done from institution to institution, is turning the “global academy” from a rhetorical to a real construct, and I can’t imagine why it would be in the interests of any university to hold itself aloof from that transformation. Having watched our planning process unfold at Queen’s over the last two years, I can confirm that what the SDGs do at the global level, they do also at the level of the individual institution, providing a common language that provokes and sustains dialogue – not only between disciplines, but between the academic and non-academic parts of the operation.

I want to end by commenting on the excitement generated when siloes are broken open and when people and units understand how they are united with others in a common purpose and in service to the greater good. To cultivate that understanding has been the primary objective of planning at Queen’s for the last two years, and preparing our first submission to the Impact Rankings has been an intrinsic part of that process of learning and self-discovery. Naturally, we are delighted and excited by where we find ourselves in the rankings, but we are energised in a more profound way by the knowledge of what synergies and collaborations exist or appear possible both within our university and in the global academy.

The first 16 SDGs point to the areas in which we want to have impact. The 17th tells us what the whole project is really all about: acting in community for the communal good.

This op-ed was originally published in the Times Higher Education supplement.  

Queen’s community comes together to illustrate social impact

THE Impact Rankings submission measures the university’s overall contribution to global sustainability.

[Graphic image with a "Q" of the Queen's community]

Times Higher Education (THE), the organization best known for its World University Rankings, sees universities as representing the greatest hope of solving the most urgent global challenges. In 2019, they moved to create the Impact Rankings – an inclusive evaluation of post-secondary institutions’ commitments to positive social and economic impact measured against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year, out of more than 1,200 participating institutions worldwide, Queen’s placed first in Canada and fifth globally in the 2021 Impact Rankings. It is the first time Queen’s has participated in this ranking exercise, and our performance is a result of the campus community’s united effort to create a comprehensive submission package for Impact Rankings adjudicators.

THE Impact Rankings

While many traditional ranking processes are designed with research-intensive universities in mind, the Impact Rankings are open to any institution teaching at the undergraduate or post-graduate level. Using the SDGs as a means of gauging a university’s performance, THE developed a methodology involving 105 metrics and 220 measurements, carefully calibrated to provide comprehensive and balanced comparisons between institutions across four broad areas: research, stewardship, outreach, and teaching.

“The Impact Rankings are unlike any other ranking. They offer a global platform to acknowledge and celebrate the partnerships integral to advancing international initiatives, developing the leaders of tomorrow, and working towards an inclusive, diverse, and sustainable future,” says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations) and co-chair of the Queen’s Impact Rankings Steering Committee. “On behalf of the Steering Committee, thank you to the community for your support and collaboration in advancing this initiative.”

In their submissions, universities must demonstrate progress toward meeting at least three SDGs, as well as toward SDG 17: Partnerships for the Goals. THE evaluates each institution’s submission, drawing on the quantitative and qualitative data provided, as well as bibliometric research datasets provided by Elsevier, a data and analytics company.

The Queen’s Submission – A Community Effort

“Participating in the Impact Rankings requires self-reflection. We are asked to contemplate our current impact and think about what we want to achieve for the future,” says Sandra den Otter, Vice-Provost (International) and co-chair of the Queen's Impact Rankings Steering Committee. “These results testify to the work we have done together. I hope this is a moment for recognizing the progress we have made, and to furthering our aspirations as a university and as members of a global community committed to change.”

To lead its submission process, Queen’s established a Steering Committee, Project Team, and Working Group, comprised of leadership, staff, and faculty from across the university. This team set about gathering over 600 unique pieces of evidence, representing the efforts of over 70 departments and portfolios. Queen’s chose to submit evidence in support of all 17 SDGs – a decision that led to top-100 rankings in 14 of 17 SDGs, including top-10 in three categories (Zero Hunger, Sustainable Cities, and Life on Land) and being ranked first – globally – for SDG 1: No Poverty and SDG 16: Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions. 

Metrics and measurements were unique for each SDG, with each goal requiring a specific combination of quantitative and qualitative data. The quantitative evidence integrated research bibliometric data and key words that measured number of publications, co-authors, and field-weighted citations. Other quantitative measurements looked at water consumption per capita, energy and food waste measurements, university expenditure on arts and culture, the number of first-generation university students, and number of employees from equity-seeking groups.

Qualitative evidence spanned institutional policies and individual courses, to the missions of research centres and institutes, community volunteer initiatives, and strategic plans, all demonstrating how we are advancing the SDGs. Metrics often required evidence of local, national, and global-reaching initiatives to illustrate full impact.

More than 400 internal links pointing to Queen’s websites were supplied as publicly accessible evidence of Queen’s research, outreach, teaching, and stewardship efforts. Additionally, nearly 100 external links were included in the submission, each reflecting the university’s extensive partnerships: internally with student-led clubs, locally with Sustainable Kingston and United Way KFL&A, nationally with the Government of Canada, and globally with the Matariki Network of Universities.

Learn more about Queen’s performance in the Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings.

What are the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals?

Universities draw upon global framework to boost social impact of learning, research, and outreach.

[Graphic image: "Q" Sustainable Development Goals]

For universities, research and teaching excellence have traditionally been the key measures of success, however the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings provide a new and complementary opportunity to look at the social impacts post-secondary institutions are creating locally and abroad. At the heart of these rankings are the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs are a set of 17 wide-ranging goals adopted in 2015 by UN member states – including Canada – as central to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. They cover an array of objectives including, but not limited to, eradicating poverty and hunger, increasing health and wellbeing, achieving gender equality, advancing climate action and clean energy, stimulating economic growth and innovation, and improving education. While distinct, the goals are interdependent. True progress requires committed action on each and every one.

In reflection of its UN commitment, Canada has asked every segment of society to contribute to advancing the SDGs, calling for leadership, engagement, accountability, and investment on all fronts. The country’s post-secondary institutions are uniquely positioned to help accelerate this progress in all categories.

The THE Impact Rankings measure a school’s performance against the SDGs. This year, Queen’s, in its first-ever submission to THE Impact Rankings, demonstrated notable progress on all 17 SDGs, including on the eradication of poverty and hunger, improvement of local urban sustainability and ecosystems, and promotion of peace and inclusivity. Queen’s placed first in Canada and fifth in the world in these global rankings.

More broadly, a concerted, strategic approach to advancing the SDGs aligns all participating universities in Canada and abroad toward a common vision. As Queen’s Principal Patrick Deane writes: “[The SDGs] provide a shared language which helps universities in diverse geographical, political, and socio-economic locations understand and build upon the commonality of their work in both teaching and research.”

The SDGs also align with Queen’s emerging strategic framework which, through Principal Deane’s ongoing consultations with the university community, underscores Queen’s efforts to champion equity, diversity, inclusivity, and Indigeneity, as well as grow local, national, and international partnerships that increase the impact of its education, research, and social contributions.

Visit the United Nations website to learn more about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals and read about Queen’s stand-out performance in the Times Higher Education 2021 Impact Rankings.

Science Rendezvous Kingston – At home

Science Rendezvous Kingston has gone virtual this year, inspiring STEM curiosity and discovery from the nature around us to the far-reaches of outer space.

[Promotion graphic - Science Rendezvous Kingston May 1 - 16, 2021 - Virtual Expo @STEMYGK]

Science Rendezvous Kingston is celebrating a milestone anniversary this year and marking it with the largest event to date.

For nine years, Science Rendezvous Kingston has been an exceedingly popular community event, drawing about 17,000 people from across the region to engage with local STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) experts and Queen’s researchers. While the 2020 event was cancelled due to COVID-19, organizers set their sights on developing the first virtual Science Rendezvous Kingston to mark its return. The enthusiastic response from the STEM community and Queen’s researchers has turned the 10th anniversary event into the largest program offering yet, with live virtual activities from May 1-16, 2021.

“We are very proud of the Science Rendezvous Kingston virtual venue and are excited to know that our activities will have a wider reach than ever because there are no geographical limitations to participation,” says co-coordinator Lynda Colgan (Education). “We expect to have visitors from around the city, province, country, and world joining us — learning and loving it!”

Inspired by the theme of “STEAM Green,” integrating science, technology, engineering, arts, and math with stewardship for the flora, fauna and water systems of our planet, this family-friendly event will combine online experiences with outdoor and “kitchen-table” activities for at-home learning. All programs will be housed on the Science Rendezvous Kingston website where visitors will find both a huge selection of content and special events rolled out during the two-week period. Some of the programs available will be a virtual tour through the Museum of Nature’s Canadian Wildlife Photography of the Year exhibit, demonstrations from Queen’s researchers, STEM@Home learning activities, and the Exploratorium, an online STEM gaming environment designed to take users out of this world. Some additional activities added throughout the event will be videos featuring women STEM innovators and influencers, and STEM challenges, such as the Canada-wide Science Chase scavenger hunt and the Million Tree Project.

Organizers have also planned virtual live Q&A sessions meant to further Science Rendezvous Kingston’s mission to inspire curiosity in STEM among students and provide opportunities for them to engage with researchers as role models. Queen’s researchers participating in the live sessions include John Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, and Connor Stone, PhD candidate in astrophysics and co-coordinator of the Queen’s Observatory. Keynotes will also be delivered by James Raffan, famous Canadian explorer, Jasveen Brar, conservationist and STEM literacy advocate, and Lindsey Carmichael, award-winning author and Faculty of Education’s Science Literacy Week Author-in-Residence.

Science Rendezvous Kingston is part of NSERC’s Science Odyssey’s national program, supporting free science outreach events across the country. Kingston’s last event in 2019 was honoured with the national STEAM Big! Award and co-coordinator Dr. Colgan was awarded the 2020 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s Science Promotion Award, in part, for Science Rendezvous Kingston’s success in promoting STEM among the community.

To learn more about the schedule of events and how to participate, visit the Science Rendezvous Kingston website.

After COVID-19, Canadians need better financial literacy and teachers can help

Teaching financial literacy requires more than adding financial literacy to kids' school curriculum. It also means offering teachers professional development to ensure they're equipped.

A pair of eye-glasses on top of a stack of three books.
How quickly people recover financially from the COVID-19 crisis, or lose the gains they made, may depend on their level of financial literacy. (Shutterstock)

As Canadians await their first federal budget since the pandemic, people across the country may be paying more attention than usual to their personal finances. Some, especially young people and precarious workers, are struggling with ongoing unemployment, lost income and rising debt. But those fortunate enough to have uninterrupted sources of income and jobs have likely seen their savings increase.

The Conversation Canada How quickly people recover financially from the crisis — or lose the gains they made — may depend on their level of financial literacy.

Financial literacy includes awareness and understanding of concepts related to personal finances, such as compound interest, and the skill and confidence to apply them in making personal financial decisions. Saving for both long-term goals and unforeseen emergencies is part of being financially literate.

We surveyed 157 Ontario elementary school teachers on their perceptions, attitudes and practices with respect to financial literacy education in the 2017-18 school year. We found they overwhelmingly favour teaching financial literacy in elementary school. Teachers who responded to the survey identified several benefits of financial literacy education, including learning to budget and plan for the future. But they also identified barriers to teaching financial literacy.

Since we completed our research in June 2020, Ontario announced a new math curriculum that includes grades 1 to 8 mandatory financial learning. The province now mandates financial literacy education and provides resources to support teaching this.

But based on our findings, we believe that teachers need professional development to support their efforts to teach financial literacy, whether in Ontario or elsewhere.

Financial literacy across Canada

Five years ago, the federal government launched the National Strategy for Financial Literacy, which is currently under review. The strategy’s goals are to empower Canadians to manage money and debt wisely and plan and save for the future.

One way to promote financial literacy is to teach it in school. A benefit of this approach is that it provides everyone the opportunity to develop financial literacy, regardless of their families’ current income or wealth.

Experts agree that to change spending and saving habits, financial literacy education must start early — preferably in elementary school.

Prior to introducing the new math curriculum, Ontario elementary teachers were expected to make connections to financial literacy in all subjects starting in Grade 4, but how to do so was mostly left up to the teacher.

Child with coin stacks.
A goal of Canada’s National Strategy for Financial Literacy is to empower Canadians to manage money and debt wisely. (Shutterstock)

Sponsored financial literacy materials

For course materials, the teachers in our study were relying heavily on free, online resources, many of which are made or paid for by banks or other financial institutions.

In our study of financial literacy resources aimed at elementary students and teachers, we found that the content of financial literacy teaching materials does not vary significantly based on who made or paid for them.

But materials made or paid for by financial institutions are more likely to focus on individual responsibility over social circumstances, like a pandemic. Focusing on individual responsibility without discussing social factors is likely to undermine the value of these lessons for students whose circumstances make it harder for their family to save money and avoid debt.

Ontario’s financial literacy curriculum mentions the importance of acknowledging social factors that can affect personal finances, and the province provides resources for teachers in this area.

But how teachers implement curriculum expectations and the resources used are ultimately up to the classroom teacher. Often teachers adapt resources they find to their classroom context.

Give teachers professional development

For this reason, we believe government investment in teachers’ professional development in financial literacy may be necessary to improve their comfort and capacities with financial literacy education.

Our research found that teachers expressed a strong desire for professional development related to teaching financial literacy. Our concern is that without more detailed guidance and professional development, teachers may continue to rely on the materials they can access freely online whether or not they’re recommended by the Ministry of Education, possibly to the detriment of financially vulnerable students.

Teaching financial literacy in elementary school can help all students, regardless of their current circumstances, to develop the knowledge, skills and confidence to manage their money as adults.

But achieving this goal requires more than adding financial literacy to the mandatory school curriculum. It also requires providing teachers with the right supports. These include access to professional development to make teachers comfortable teaching financial concepts. This will help ensure all students have the level of financial literacy necessary to manage, as best they can, the next crisis.The Conversation


Gail Henderson, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law, Queen's University and Pamela Beach, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, Queen's University.

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

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Indigenous women, transgender and Two-Spirit people need support when leaving prison

To release anyone, particularly Indigenous women, transgender and Two-Spirit individuals without a plan is irresponsible and dangerous and does not demonstrate a commitment to reconciliation.

A teepee outside the women’s unit of the Saskatchewan Penitentiary in Prince Albert, Sask., January 2001. (CP PHOTO/Thomas Porter)

We’re all aware of how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our health and wellness — but why isn’t more attention being paid to the relationship between COVID-19 and the criminal justice system, specifically how it’s impacting Indigenous women, transgender and Two-Spirit people.

The ConversationThe start of the pandemic came with the release of more than 2,300 people from jails across Ontario. Since then, numerous front-line workers and community organizations have called upon the Ontario government to ensure that the people being released have co-ordinated plans and supports in place.

Unfortunately, the government continues to neglect those calls, inadvertently placing all released inmates at risk of COVID-19 infection, exploitation and even death.

Kevin Walby, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Winnipeg, said it’s like the provincial government just “gave up” when it comes to protecting the health of inmates and the broader population.

A failure to follow through

We have witnessed how the Ontario government has failed to follow through on their promises to end violence against Indigenous people.

As a doctoral student who has volunteered with women and youth in and out of prisons, and an Anishinaabe midwife and assistant professor, we have heard first-hand how dire this crisis is. Staff at Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society have told us that they’ve waited more than eight hours for women scheduled to be released from the Vanier Centre for Women in Milton, Ont., and that some were released as late as 10:30 p.m. with no access to transportation or accommodation.

The 2019 National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) highlighted how Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA people leaving prison can become entrapped in a cycle of incarceration. They are often victimized by traffickers who use the prison system to target, lure and exploit those who don’t have access to housing or transportation.

Despite the province’s 2020 commitment to respond to the national inquiry’s Calls for Justice, it continues to release Indigenous women into precarious situations without resources for a safe passage to their families or communities.

To release anyone, particularly Indigenous women, transgender, and Two-Spirit individuals this way is irresponsible, dangerous and does not demonstrate a commitment to reconciliation.

Doing nothing has consequences

One tragic example of the consequences of these systemic failures is the death of Kimberly Squirrel. On Jan. 23, 2021, Squirrel was found frozen to death in Saskatoon just three days after being released from a provincial correctional facility; no one in her family was notified of her release and her death was entirely preventable.

Indigenous transgender and Two-Spirit people have long experienced sexist, transphobic and racist discrimination at the hands of the Canadian prison system. The disproportionate social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on transgender and Two-Spirit communities further highlights the importance of providing supports upon release.

It is only a matter of time before someone else is harmed — or even killed — as a direct result of the provincial government’s inefficiency and disregard for implementing appropriate measures for the safe release of Indigenous women, transgender and Two-Spirit people.

Enough is enough

The urgency of these issues is further underscored by COVID-19 and its disproportionate impact on Indigenous communities. Without re-entry plans, adequate safety measures and communication in place, individuals are released into precarious circumstances. Without access to accommodation or transportation, they may be unable to safely self-isolate to prevent the spread of the virus.

In an open letter to the Ministry of the Solicitor General, we — as part of a collective of community members, Elders, Healers, front-line workers, researchers, educators and students who advocate for the rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Canadian criminal justice system — have called upon the Ontario government to:

  1. Develop and release re-entry plans for all inmates, including provisions for adequate financial and transitional supports.
  2. Publicly release current policies and measures in place for the safe release of all — including Indigenous women, transgender and Two-Spirit people.
  3. Publicly release COVID-19 safety measures for individuals prior to and upon release from correctional institutions.

Against the advice of public health experts and advocates, Ontario continues to incarcerate people at an alarming rate. Provincial and federal governments must be held accountable for the harms that their inaction and blatant maleficence has caused.

Indigenous women, transgender and Two-Spirit people deserve to be treated with respect — both inside and outside of prison.

We offer our most sincere condolences to the family and friends of Kimberly Squirrel.The Conversation


Tenzin Butsang, PhD Student, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto and Karen Lawford, Assistant Professor, Department of Gender Studies, Queen's University

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

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

Battling ‘fake news’ and misinformation with The Conversation

Queen’s researchers reach millions of readers via the online fact-based, news platform.

Scott White speaks to Queen's researchers about The Conversation during a workshop in 2019.
Scott White speaks to Queen's researchers about The Conversation during a workshop in February 2019. (University Communications File Photo)

In the era of “fake news” and rampant misinformation, global citizens are searching for fact-based media they can trust. With a winning combination of academic and journalistic rigor, The Conversation, an online independent news and publication, has become a trusted source to mobilize knowledge to the general public.

Since the launch of the Canadian affiliate site in 2017, Queen’s researchers have been leading contributors to The Conversation Canada. In 2020, as the world turned to university experts for trusted information about COVID-19, The Conversation became an increasingly important vehicle for our academics and researchers to share their knowledge to a broader audience. In 2020 alone, Queen’s articles reached over 1.9 million readers worldwide.

Queen’s engagement with The Conversation in 2020
• 85 articles published
• 1.9 million reads (+18% audience growth from 2019)
• 79 authors (+27% increase in authors from 2019)
• 75% of Queen’s readers are international
• 45/85 articles in 2020 provided research analysis of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on our health, economy, environment and wellbeing
• 51% of 2020 authors identify as female
• 21% of articles were written or co-written by graduate students

Recently, the Gazette spoke to Scott White, CEO and Editor-in-Chief of The Conversation Canada, about the importance of public trust in media, what made 2020 a landmark year for the platform, and the impact of the partnership with Queen’s.

What differentiates The Conversation from other media outlets?

The Conversation is a new model that combines academic and journalism expertise. All of our authors are academics and researchers from Canadian universities, and they work directly with a team of experienced newsroom editors. The result is a unique form of explanatory journalism that is read by millions of people every year.

How is The Conversation important in establishing public trust? Why is this important in the current media landscape?

The “fake news” phenomenon has become a toxic element of today’s society. The term is wielded by politicians who don’t like stories that expose problems with their leadership or policies. But there is also actual “fake news” spread mostly through social platforms that is intended to deceive. The public needs a place to turn for trusted, fact-based articles to inform them on some of the most important aspects of their lives – be it health, science, technology or social issues. Our authors are experts in their field and our stories contain hyperlinks to academic journals that demonstrate research on the subject of the article.

Why do you think 2020 was The Conversation Canada’s most successful year-to-date?

Two main reasons: People were desperate for trusted information from experts regarding the pandemic. Not only did they want the latest on research, but they needed practical advice – are two cloth masks better than one for preventing the spread of COVID-19? How often should I wash my mask? The other main reason for the large increase in our readership related to the U.S. political crisis. The polarized politics of the United States was a worldwide phenomenon and many of our political articles were among the most-read stories of 2020.

You often refer to the “duplication” effect of writing for The Conversation. How does this work?

Everything we publish is under Creative Commons license. That means any publication – from CNN to a local community newspaper – can (and does) republish our stories free of charge. About one third of our views in 2020 came from republishers. But beyond that, about 60 per cent of our authors report that they have been contacted by other media outlets as a result of the article they wrote for The Conversation. That may result in being interviewed by newspapers, radio or TV or even being contacted by policy makers and government partners.

Queen’s is a founding member of The Conversation Canada and has leveraged the platform for research promotion. What is Queen’s doing that is unique from what you see at other institutions?

About three quarters of the stories we publish are based on ideas submitted to us by academics and researchers. (The rest come from our newsroom, where we seek out an expert to write on a specific topic.) We get so many great “pitches” from Queen’s academics who are supported by the communications team.

Queen’s was an “early adopter” in terms of promoting our platform to their researchers. We’ve done a number of workshops with Queen’s academics to explain our publishing platform and to encourage story pitches. It seems to us that The Conversation has become an ingrained part of Queen’s knowledge mobilization and research promotion strategies and, looking at the numbers and engagement, it is clearly working.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles or find out more information about the platform can contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

International leadership in cancer recognized with 2021 Gairdner Award

Queen’s researcher Elizabeth Eisenhauer has received the 2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman award for outstanding leadership in medicine and medical science.

[Photo of Elizabeth Eisenhauer]
Elizabeth Eisenhauer, Professor Emerita, Departments of Oncology and Medicine

A Queen’s researcher has been awarded Canada’s top medical research prize. Elizabeth Eisenhauer, Professor Emerita, Departments of Oncology and Medicine, has been presented with the 2021 Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, for her dedication to transforming the fields of cancer clinical trials and cancer drug delivery.

The prestigious award recognizes a Canadian health researcher who has demonstrated extraordinary leadership paired with exceptional science. Successful nominees demonstrate research excellence in the health sciences at an international level as well as superior leadership among their peers, with local, national, and international impact. Since 1959, when the first awards were granted, 394 scientists have received a Canada Gairdner Award and 92 to date have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize in Medicine.

Eisenhauer, who is also a clinician scientist at Kingston Health Sciences Centre, joins the ranks of medical pioneers such as Anthony Fauci (John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award 2016) and Janet Rossant (Canada Gairdner Wightman Award 2015; Current President and Scientific Director of the Gairdner Foundation). T. Geoffrey Flynn, who received the Canada Gairdner Award in 1986, is the only other Queen’s faculty to receive a foundation honour.

 "I am incredibly honoured to receive this recognition," says Dr. Eisenhauer. "Importantly, I want to acknowledge that the work I did was only made possible by the truly incredible team of colleagues in the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG) at Queen’s, collaborators and scientists across Canada, and, especially, the countless patients who volunteered to participate in clinical trials, often with the altruistic hope of helping future cancer sufferers. The Canadian Cancer Society’s support of CCTG since 1980 also permitted us to evaluate the ideas we developed and turn them into trials. Moving forward, this type of support for 'academic' clinical trials such as that done by the CCTG is critical to continue to improve cancer outcomes."

Dr. Eisenhauer’s research has established new standards of cancer treatment that have impacted patients around the world. She has contributed to the clinical evaluation of new anti-cancer agents, as well as cancer research strategy, and clinical trials development. Her insight has been key to the creation of new treatments for ovarian cancer, malignant melanoma, and brain tumours. She is credited with developing new methodologies for the delivery of Taxol, one of the most important cancer drugs in the world. This work expanded the understanding of therapeutic interventions and has led to new standards of cancer treatment for patients in Canada and around the world.

She has also held national and international leadership roles, including as the lead of the Investigational New Drug Program (IND) of the National Cancer Institute of Canada Clinical Trials Group, now the Canadian Cancer Trials Group. She also led the creation of the first collaborative cancer research strategy for Canada in her role as co-chair of the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance, convened the first summit to create a Tobacco Endgame for Canada  and was the first expert lead for Research in the Canadian Partnership against Cancer.

"On behalf of the entire Queen’s community, my sincere congratulations to Dr. Eisenhauer on this well-deserved recognition of her national and international contributions to cancer clinical trials and cancer treatment," says Jane Philpott, Dean, Faculty of Health Sciences. “Not only has her research had an impact on cancer patients in Canada and around the world, she is a role model and mentor for women in health research."

The Gairdner Foundation was established in 1957 by Toronto stockbroker James Gairdner to award annual prizes to scientists whose discoveries have had major impact on scientific progress and on human health. Each year, seven awards valued at $100,000 are given: five Canada Gairdner International Awards for biomedical research, the John Dirks Canada Gairdner Global Health Award, specifically for impact on global health issues, and the Canada Gairdner Wightman Award, reserved for a Canadian scientist showcasing scientific excellence and leadership.

For more information on the Gairdner Awards, please visit their website.

Showcasing undergraduate research

Inquiry@Queen’s, Canada’s longest-running multidisciplinary undergraduate conference, offers students the chance to present, discuss, and analyze their research projects.

[I@Q Inquiry@Queen's - Make an Impact]

For undergraduate students, research can be an exciting opportunity to explore a new area of interest and expand their resume for post-graduate studies or employment. Recently, students had the chance to showcase their research skills and projects at Inquiry@Queen’s, the longest-running multidisciplinary undergraduate conference in Canada. For 15 years, Inquiry@Queen's has encouraged undergraduates across disciplines to present and share their research with the wider community. It has also been an opportunity to foster interdisciplinary discussions, build presentation skills, and bring students together from not only Queen’s but other universities for an enriching co-curricular initiative.

Conference co-chairs, Vicki Remenda, Professor of Geological Sciences & Geological Engineering and Cory Laverty, Research Librarian, see the motivation behind a conference for undergraduates as a natural extension of Queen’s research mission.

The main goal of the conference is to give students a chance to share their interests and passions in a public forum and bring their learning to an audience of peers and supporters, Dr. Remenda says. It’s a natural extension of a university that prides itself on the quality of undergraduate education and its scholarship and research.

The co-chairs believe that a focus on curiosity based-learning and research at all levels is key to addressing global issues and societal challenges.

Inquiry can be viewed as an inclusive approach to learning when it opens the door to individual interests, experiences, and backgrounds, Dr. Laverty says. Students are interrogating issues that are currently under scrutiny in Canada and around the world, including a focus on equity, diversity, and inclusion that crosses all disciplines.

CFRC's The Scoop

Participant Hailey Scott, presenter of Psychological Trauma’s in Participatory Theatre, joined CFRC radio station on March 29 to discuss her experience at the conference and her research project. Listen here.

This year’s conference featured 10 interdisciplinary sessions covering topics from health to community and reducing inequality. Held virtually for the first time due to COVID-19, the conference spanned two days in March and featured both paper and poster presentations via Zoom to an audience of 220 attendees. A new feature of this year’s conference was the opportunity for top-scored presenters to be featured as part of a podcast series, The Scoop, hosted by CFRC Queen’s campus radio station.

Other Queen’s collaborations came from staff and faculty across the university through facilitation, session moderation, and research sponsorship. Jennifer Kennedy, Professor of Art History & Art Conservation, delivered the keynote presentation titled Past Pedagogies and the Post-Pandemic Future: What Can We Learn from Learning this Year?, and Principal Patrick Deane offered closing remarks that reflected on how inquiry sparks our inner passions and can lead to a lifetime of learning.

With the success of this year’s online format, in addition to in-person presentations, a virtual component may be incorporated in future conferences to expand reach and participation and to be more inclusive of international viewers, students from other universities, and family members watching from afar.

Dr. Remenda and Dr. Laverty believe that Inquiry@Queen’s remains one of the most important undergraduate conferences because of the spotlight it places on research within the community.

Profiling undergraduate research is crucial for a 21st-century education where knowledge is constantly changing, and critical thinking skills are needed to assess currency, relevance, authority, and purpose, she says.

To learn more about this year’s conference and other Inquiry initiatives, visit the Inquiry@Queen’s website.


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