Queen's Gazette | Queen's University

Search form

Research Prominence

How will COVID-19 impact business in Canada?

More Confronting COVID-19 Stories

In a coronavirus world, cash will be king, wearing a mask might not be so bad, and economic recovery will (hopefully) be quick.


Economics of coronavirus

Coronavirus is like a storm about to hit. No one knows how bad it’s going to get — or not. For now, coronavirus looks like a problem that could last months. Across Canada, governments are enacting emergency measures as they prepare for a virus that has so far sickened more than 200,000 worldwide and killed more than 8,000.

As the number of Canadian cases ticks up, businesses and schools are closing and people are hunkering down at home, having cleaned out stores of hand sanitizers, medical masks and soap. Streets are emptying.

On March 20, join Smith Business Insight and Queen’s Executive Education for a free 45-minute webinar offering an in-depth look at the immediate and long-term impacts of coronavirus on Canada. Featuring Smith finance professor Wei Wang, strategy and governance professor Scott Carson, and organizational behaviour professor Kate Rowbotham.
Register now to learn:
• What steps companies need to take to adapt over the next few months
• The biggest risks that businesses will face
• The long-term implications of coronavirus on the economy
• How government can help firms right now
• How to work with employees and keep them engaged
• Strategic opportunities that may be available to businesses coming out of the crisis
• Whether we can expect a quick recovery (or not)
Following the presentation, we’ll have time for Q&A with our speakers

Coronavirus will create a number of challenges for businesses. What are they? And how can companies best handle them? We asked five Smith School of Business professors to weigh in: marketing professors Laurence Ashworth and Monica LaBarge; finance professors Wei Wang and Louis Gagnon; and strategy and governance professor Scott Carson.

Here, they answer our pressing questions:

What impact do you see on Canadian companies in the weeks ahead with coronavirus?

Laurence Ashworth: The most significant will be a change in consumption habits. Consumers are likely to cancel or reduce travel, delay large expenditures and stockpile essentials. They are also likely to avoid business settings that involves groups, such as exercise classes, bars, restaurants and supermarkets. We will likely see more online shopping, and possibly increased consumption of in-home entertainment. In short, people are likely to engage in what they view as “protective behaviours”.

The extent to which people engage in these behaviours will depend, in part, on their perceptions of the likelihood of catching the disease and the perceived severity of it. These perceptions will not always be accurate. One factor I suspect may play a role in these perceptions will be knowing of someone who has contracted the disease, such as a friend or a friend of a friend. Anecdotal information of this kind is extremely powerful and will have a disproportionate impact on people’s perceptions of the coronavirus risk and exacerbate their protective behaviour.

What are some issues businesses will have to deal with?

Monica LaBarge: From both the customer and an employer/employee side, nobody wants to come in contact with someone who may have the virus. So there is likely to be both reduced demand as well as a reduced ability to provide services if people aren’t wanting to come into work. This may include social service agencies, such as food banks and mental health services, which provide really important services to vulnerable members of our communities. The need for such services doesn’t stop just because there is a virus; in fact, they may become even more important since those populations may not have the ability to either stockpile resources or a safe location to self-quarantine. 

What’s the No. 1 hurdle companies will have to overcome?

Wei Wang: The single biggest issue for firms will be a shock to their cash flows as consumers stop or delay buying. For businesses right now, cash is king. The more short-term liquidity a company has the better it will be able to survive the bad situation. So, companies should start securing lines of credit as soon as possible. Ideally they’ll need a runway that will last two quarters or even longer. Coronavirus will be a lot different than the last crisis because for companies it will be about taking a sudden hit to their cash flows. The longer this situation lasts, the more business failures we are going to see. 

How can businesses prepare themselves?

LaBarge: From a staffing perspective, they have to figure out how they’re going to handle the potential need to close—either because they think it’s the least risky move or if there’s a quarantine. Are they going to pay their workers via their sick leave? Or allow draw-downs on vacation? Or temporarily lay staff off and and potentially allow them to access employment insurance?—if that even will be allowed by government.

From a demand side, it may be a good time to run sales—which could be made available online—so people can buy now and pick up later, so as to maintain some sort of cash flow. For businesses like restaurants, I would suggest they keep one eye on the emergence of cases and another eye on their perishable inventory, so that if they do have to close temporarily they don’t experience significant losses on that front.

What can businesses and government do to ease people’s fears?

Ashworth: Businesses can offer consumers alternative methods of conducting business that don’t involve person-to-person contact. After all, this is the main thing consumers will be trying to avoid. More generally, business and government need to consider how to keep people acting normally—in other words, how to stop people feeling like they need to protect themselves so much, given that most people probably have inflated views of the risk. Information that helps people form accurate impressions is critical.

Contrary to what a good deal of health practitioners have been advising, it may be useful to allow consumers to practise even minimally effective protective behaviour, such as wearing face masks, because such activities will increase perceptions of protection, causing people to act more normally. Obviously we’d like people to practise effective protection too, such as hand washing and self-isolation when necessary, but, at the same time, a good deal of what we need to do is persuade people not to engage in drastic behaviours.

How can government help businesses overcome the economic downturn that coronavirus may cause?

Wang: Governments really need to take three steps to help businesses. First, both here in Canada and in the U.S., they need to contain the virus. If that means shutting down the country, then that’s what they need to do. So far, we’ve seen some businesses closing and others have remained open. If the virus continues to spread, this approach may not work, and more drastic measures will be required. One reason investors in America were so concerned at first was that the U.S. administration did not seem to be taking coronavirus seriously. That, of course, has now changed.

The next thing government needs to do is increase testing for coronavirus. Until we can find out for sure the number of cases, we won’t be able to get the virus under control. So the government should really fund more testing—bring back retired medical staff and set up temporary testing stations. The hospitals already have enough patients with other conditions to deal with.

The third step is financial support for businesses. Governments should be offering tax cuts and giving direct loans to small businesses to help them. We are starting to see fiscal stimulus packages from both countries but up until now what we saw was the Fed in the U.S. and the Bank of Canada cut interest rates. The problem with that strategy is it doesn’t really directly help many businesses. The biggest problem with coronavirus for most companies will be taking a hit on cash flow and a longer cash conversion cycle. Companies will have difficulty paying overheads, paying suppliers and perhaps making payments on their loans. So more direct support for businesses is what is required. If we have these three measures in place, we might be able to get over the worst of coronavirus in two months.

Can we expect a long or short economic recovery from coronavirus? 

Scott Carson: To give some strategic perspective, consider the fundamental structure of business relationships at the industry level. The basic competitive relationships among rival companies within industries are unchanged by the current situation. Businesses still compete on price, differentiation and the strategic use of resources.

What is being harmfully impacted is at the firm level. First, buyer behaviour is highly volatile, largely because of declining consumer confidence. Second, coronavirus is causing havoc with both production and transportation supply chains, requiring adjustments to current-period business plans. 

But these economic shocks are not permanent. They don’t represent structural changes to industries or a major rethinking of long-range corporate strategies. As with pandemics in the past, such as SARS in 2002-03, avian flu in 2006 and H1N1 in 2009, the duration is usually not much longer than a fiscal quarter, and the economic recovery is V-shaped—precipitously down, then rapidly back up. So, we should be confident that business activity will pick up and the economy will recover.

What will be some of the more long-term effects on businesses from coronavirus?

Louis Gagnon: If anything, the coronavirus should be reminding industry captains, such as Apple Inc.’s Tim Cook, that it is simply too dangerous to put all our eggs in one basket and tie our supply chains too closely to any specific country or region halfway across the world. Money managers have known for a long time that diversification across many stocks and sectors makes portfolios less vulnerable and pays off in the long run. This is a lesson which business leaders in other sectors of the economy need to learn as well, especially those who have chosen to export their manufacturing capacity to other countries to drive down their costs. This is basic risk management. 








Making hockey more inclusive and accountable

New policy paper from Queen’s University researchers outlines seven calls to action.

Hockey net on an outdoor rink
The recently released Policy Paper for Anti-Racism in Canadian Hockey calls on hockey organizations and governments to enact policy changes to highlight the importance of anti-racism and to promote strategies for making hockey culture safer and more inclusive. (Unsplash / Chris Liverani)

Queen’s University researchers Sam McKegney and Courtney Szto are calling on hockey organizations and governments to enact policy changes to invigorate the need for re-education of coaches, parents, players, and officials on the importance of anti-racism, and to promote strategies for making hockey culture safer, more inclusive, and more accountable for its practices.

Together with Michael Auksi (PhD student, McGill University) and Bob Dawson (Senior Sportswriter, Boxscore World Sportswire) they have authored a Policy Paper for Anti-Racism in Canadian Hockey. The paper was developed during a Roundtable on Racism in Hockey hosted at Queen’s with support from the National Hockey League.

“Racist incidents occur time and time again, and the hockey community is righteously appalled — but then attention fades and it’s back to business as usual, with no substantive structural or systemic change,” says Dr. McKegney (English Language and Literature). “We’re advocating for practical, actionable changes we believe will not only make hockey more inclusive but will help unlock the game’s potential as an instrument of positive social change.”

The calls to action include:

  • All levels of government and hockey administrative bodies to publicly adopt and enforce Calls to Action 87 to 91 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada
  • Implementing modules addressing intercultural competency, conflict resolution, and anti-racism in sport to be included in certification for coaches, administrators, billets, and officials
  • Hockey Canada instituting a “duty to report” with relation to all incidents of suspected racism and track those incidents over time to establish objectives with regards to the elimination of such incidents
  • The Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities creating an external oversight body which sole purpose is to receive and investigate claims of racial, sexual, homonegative, and gendered abuse/discrimination, and to advocate for claimants.
  • Improving hiring policies, including instituting a blind review process
  • Calling upon Hockey Canada to implement a system to collect numbers on the participation of racialized groups in hockey in order to monitor demographic changes and trends
  • Hockey Canada and the Minister of Sport and Persons with Disabilities subsidizing high school hockey programs and asking sporting goods retailers to create hockey equipment libraries to help mitigate costs
  • Asking Hockey Canada to allocate a percentage of the budget to support Indigenous hockey in Canada
  • Calling on the members of the media to work to illustrate the pattern of racism experienced by racialized players, rather than treating examples of racism as isolated incidents.

“Hockey can be a joyous game under the right conditions, but the reality is that ‘Canada’s game’ offers no professional opportunities for women in Canada today, there is no openly gay NHL player, and racism at the rink remains consistent,” says Dr. Szto (Kinesiology and Health Studies). “Our hope is that these calls to action bring the game one step closer to living the ideal of hockey being for everyone.”

Team Canada approach to research

New NSERC president Alejandro Adem says funding organizations and researchers across all sciences need to work together.

Alejandro Adem, the newly-minted president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) recently visited Queens University where he met with students and NSERC-funded researchers to discover how NSERC funding is helping to advance research at the university. He also sat down with the Queen's Gazette to talk about the Canadian research funding landscape, research promotion, and future priorities for research in Canada.

New NSERC president, Alejandro Adem, spoke to the Queen's Gazette during his March 2020 visit to campus.

Q: As the new president, what do you see as the biggest opportunities for NSERC over the next five years?

A: The biggest opportunity is a specific focus on getting young people, early career researchers, and post docs excited about science and engineering, and making sure we fund the best and the most impactful projects.

Q: What do you think Canada needs to do to improve its international research competitiveness and reputation?

A: Different organizations that fund science and research must work much more closely together. The whole idea of Team Canada” when it comes to science and engineering research, and, in fact, across all sciences, is extremely important. There have been some steps in that direction, including the Canada Research Coordinating Committee assembled by the government over the last three years. We should be working together because the kinds of investments that each specific agency can make do not compare with the worldwide competition. So, being able to work together and leverage against each other will give the Canadian research ecosystem much more impact and scope.

Q: NSERC is leading the Dimensions EDI program, and leading the way for equity, diversity, and inclusivity in the research environment broadly. Collectively, what are we, as a national research community, doing well? How can we continue to grow and learn?

A: Our research community is very open to understanding that things must change, and that we cannot be doing business as usual. They’ve been very receptive around the idea of diversity and inclusion as fundamental aspects of how we evaluate science, how we do science, how universities operate, and how grants are adjudicated and dispersed. What we need to do more of is figuring out how to achieve the goals and aspirations the Dimensions EDI program charter postulates. People need practical advice, coaching, and support, so we have created communities of learners working on that; working to create a system designed to develop best practices. In the future, that knowledge can be shared and built into the system.

Q: On your visit to Queen’s University you met with several different researcher groups representing different fields – from the creative arts and humanities to the health sciences and engineering. What does the future look like for interdisciplinary research in Canada?

A: The future is very bright because we have very strong disciplinary research in Canada, and that’s very important. You really want to have a depth of knowledge to start with. At the same time, we have universities and funding systems that have realized they have to create incentives and mechanisms for interdisciplinary connections. One of NSERC’s goals will be to provide new funding opportunities that can support interdisciplinary research from its inception.

Q: What did you learn about the research happening at Queens? How does it align with the future vision of NSERC?

A: I learned that you have an extremely dynamic group of researchers in a variety of areas that are important to NSERC. Its clear to me there is a strong expertise here, a very high level in science and engineering. I also had the opportunity to meet with a group of students – a very dynamic, diverse, and engaged group. The level of engagement at Queens is phenomenal.

Q: Final thoughts?

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

A: I had the opportunity to attend an award event for Science Rendezvous Kingston where coordinators Lynda Colgan and Kim Garrett received recognition as the best Science Rendezvous event in the country. Its outstanding work that team has done.

Promoting science is one of our top priorities and we need the public to understand science and engineering. This will translate into what the decision makers understand about science. I take back with me that Queens is engaged on the research side, in training, working with students, and also the research promotion side. This is rare to see.

Why cancer care isn’t ‘one-size-fits-all’ from one country to another

Dr. Fabio Ynoe de Moraes

Six years ago, when Dr. Fabio Ynoe de Moraes was a resident in radiation oncology in São Paulo, he began to ask questions about cancer patients’ access to radiation in Brazil. How many LINAC systems (linear accelerator radiation machines) were there in the country? Where were they?

His mentor agreed that he could devote time to researching this question. He spent almost a year developing a map of every machine in Brazil, a country of more than 212 million people that’s geographically almost as large as the United States. And then he studied statistics about cancer rates.

“We calculated that only 45 to 47 per cent of those who would need radiation in their lifetime had access, and that 53 per cent of cancer patients die without access to basic treatment,” he says. 

When Dr. Ynoe de Moraes published his findings, they caught the attention of the country’s Ministry of Health, and the government fostered the development of a plan to increase capacity and access to radiation treatment. The government is now implementing, over five years, a program to purchase 100 machines so that 95 per cent of cancer patients will have access to radiotherapy. The plan includes training people to use and maintain the machines.

 “One of the biggest challenges is we do research but it rarely has an immediate impact on populations,” Dr. Ynoe de Moraes says. “I started to understand more about policy and got really excited. When you do policy and population research, you can improve care for thousands or more people.”

Dr. Ynoe de Moraes, who joined the Department of Oncology at Queen’s last year, now divides his time between clinical work and research/policy work and this year he is defending his PhD on Innovation in Health Care in Brazil. A former tennis pro, he applies the discipline and focus from that experience. Before heading to his clinical work at Queen’s, he spends his early morning hours doing policy work and global oncology research.

A major endeavour has been his international work completing a checklist for National Cancer Control Plans (NCCPs) with colleagues on the Union for International Cancer Control, Australia and World Health Organization. The biggest challenge in developing the list was “the amount of information and finding consensus among peers,” he says.

Dr. Ynoe de Moraes was a co-lead author of a policy review of this research that was published in Lancet Oncology last November.

The checklist, which consists of more than 100 core elements of a plan, builds on previous work by the World Health Organization. Most countries already have a national non-communicable disease plans, and a large proportion of those also have NCCPs. But these plans don’t always have common elements and most have not been implemented or even assessed for its quality.

Dr. Ynoe de Moraes and his colleagues discovered that a large number of previous plans did not specifically acknowledge childhood cancer – a major cause of mortality in lower income countries – nor the need for sustainable plans for machine maintenance. This new developed checklist takes both of those, and other factors, into account.

Similarly, strategies to actively encourage access to care for underserved populations had not been stressed. Dr. Ynoe de Moraes contributed to research that promoted this approach after establishing that a high proportion of men in Nigeria, a country with a high rate of prostate cancer mortality, believe they are immune to cancer.

“Some believed breast cancer was the only cancer possible,” he says. “Or that cancer only happens to women.”

The checklist is designed to allow countries to establish a baseline of existing cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment resources. They can then implement a plan that is based on the resources that they have, and measure progress towards reducing the burden of cancer and improving the quality of life of patients. Dr. Ynoe de Moraes hopes to see more and more countries taking this kind of action.

With regional leaders at the helm, he believes that we will see real progress towards improving cancer control, and a reduction in the gaps in cancer care – the very gaps that first caught his attention when he was completing his residency in Brazil.

This article was first published through the Dean On Campus blog.

The house call: 5 lessons I have learned as a doctor

The Conversation: From preventing emergency visits to understanding the context of a patient's health issues, house calls have value in a modern medical practice.

Stethoscope and blood pressure kit
The house call remains a fundamental medical service in 2020. (Unsplash / Marcelo Leal)

In the past year, I have done half a dozen house calls. Seeing a person in their home highlights both their unique humanity and the reality in which any proposed intervention must occur.

This sense of the whole person is diminished in a doctor’s office or the busy hospital environment, where gowns replace clothing and people become patients in numbered rooms. In a home, rooms have names, patients are people and the doctor is a guest — a very different dynamic.

The Conversation Canada logoI went on my first house call as a teenager in Hampton, N.B., when I asked Dr. Robb, my family physician, if I could accompany him. This experience was formative. I remember (in a disembodied way) a visit to an elderly patient in a modest, poorly lit, home. The smells and general disorder stuck.

I didn’t know about social determinants of health then, but I sensed that any medical intervention would be difficult. Dr. Robb didn’t overtly state the impact of poverty on this patient’s care; he led me to the stage and my eyes were opened. He knew well William Osler’s aphorism, “The good physician treats the disease. The great physician treats the patient who has the disease.”

I am a house call rookie. I run a busy department of medicine and don’t routinely do house calls. That said, I have a well-stocked doctor’s bag.

When I do house calls, it is usually when the person lives nearby, I know the family or, increasingly, because they lack a family physician. Those experiences have shown me the value of house calls in modern medical practice.

Here are five lessons I’ve learned from doing house calls:

1. House calls bring calm to chaos

A common reason for house calls is loss of consciousness, usually due to fainting — medically known as vasovagal syncope. While syncope is benign, the patient and their family don’t know this and their call for help is urgent.

One house call began with a frantic phone call — someone had collapsed! Another involved pounding on the door at night because a loved one was unresponsive. While syncope (fainting) is the number one cause of losing consciousness, other causes — heart attack, strokes and arrhythmias — are dangerous. A doctor must quickly separate the horses from the zebras.

I follow Samuel Shem’s dictum from his novel The House of God, which advises physicians, “when at a cardiac arrest, the first procedure is to take your own pulse.”

Bringing calm into the room allows therapy to begin. I ensure the patient is breathing, has a pulse and blood pressure and is lying on their back with legs elevated. Then I learn how the episode began: was it was preceded by a sense of impending collapse, abdominal pain, exposure to an emotional stress, bleeding or prolonged standing?

I then examine the person, who is likely sweaty and pale, with low blood pressure and a slow pulse. In a few minutes, blood pressure and heart rate increase and the person recovers. I advise them to rehydrate, remind them about fainting risk factors, instruct them on preventive measures and first aid (lie down, with feet higher than head).

Forty per cent of people have experienced fainting, and the house call is often the only intervention required.

2. Sometimes the problem is obvious

I once did a house call where the problem was leg swelling in a patient with known heart disease. The family’s question was whether this was heart failure.

As I entered the house I saw the patient in a chair, swollen feet dangling on the floor. Immobilized by a recent orthopedic injury, he had been sleeping there for two weeks!

The physical exam was normal with no signs of heart failure. It was obvious to me that the swelling was a result of gravity, a condition medically known as dependent edema. It was clearly caused by sleeping in a chair, and made worse by poor circulation.

I found a fix for the patient’s orthopedic problem, which allowed him to become mobile and sleep in his bed. The leg swelling disappeared within a week.

3. More than just a medical expert

In Kingston, Ont., where I practise, the South East Community Care Access Centre provides advice and services related to care in the home, and access to long-term care facilities.

One house call I made was for a family that was floundering, after the death of a spouse, to access these services for the surviving partner. I’m not an expert in accessing the centre; however, my role during that visit was to figure it out.

I called and the centre staff helpfully arranged an occupational therapy consultation and a home assessment. Services provided during a house call, though often not heroic, are nonetheless of great value. The two hours spent connecting the centre and the members of a far-flung family helped avoid a trip to the emergency department.

4. There is vulnerability in making a house call

I have done house calls to officially register the death of someone in the home, or to visit patients as they near the end of life. These visits are powerful and avoid futile hospital visits.

With no white coat to shield me and no computer to hide behind, it is raw to share with the patient an immutable reality. Tears shed and hugs offered can be simultaneously draining and rewarding.

This is the ultimate in patient-centred care. My colleagues in palliative care do this frequently.

5. House calls require family physicians

Dabblers like me aren’t going to revive house calls. Kingston is currently experiencing a shortage of family physicians.

More than six per cent of all our patients who have a specialist lack a general practitioner. These orphaned patients have used government websites like Health Care Connect, without timely results.

They have no family doctor because theirs retired or transitioned to part-time work, they are new to Kingston or they are deemed “difficult.” I can’t offer them the access a family doctor could; I’m just the best of their bad options.

The house call remains a fundamental medical service and is no less necessary in 2020 than it was when I accompanied Dr. Robb on that formative visit as a teenager in Hampton.The Conversation


Stephen Archer is a professor and head of the Department of Medicine at Queen's University.

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

Discover Research@Queen’s

New promotional campaign highlights the impact of Queen's research.

[Discover Research@Queen's]

Every day, cutting-edge and impactful research is being conducted at Queen’s, and the university wants everyone to know about it.

Enter Discover Research@Queen’s, a new multi-faceted promotional campaign aimed at celebrating the groundbreaking work of the university’s researchers. The initiative builds engagement with the Research@Queen’s website, a new digital platform that highlights Queen’s research strengths and priorities as well as the tangible impact of this research on people around the world.

During its six-month duration, Discover Research@Queen’s will be featured across LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. It will also be showcased on the Queen’s homepage, in the Gazette, in the pole pennants along University Avenue, posters across campus, and through a number of profile-building events in the community and Ottawa.

Through this campaign we are bringing the stories of our researchers and the impact their work is having on the world to digital platforms like LinkedIn where audiences can easily 'click' to discover more, says Michael Fraser, Vice-Principal (University Relations). By leveraging the content on the Research@Queen's website, the hope is that this campaign will build awareness of the critical research happening at the university and have a positive impact on our research reputation overall.

  • [Pole pennants on University Ave]
    With the campaign messaging and call-to-action featured prominently on the University Avenue pole pennants, the Queen’s community and visitors to campus will be encouraged to Discover Research@Queen’s. (University Communications / Bernard Clark)
  • [Pole pennants on University Ave]
    With the campaign messaging and call-to-action featured prominently on the University Avenue pole pennants, the Queen’s community and visitors to campus will be encouraged to Discover Research@Queen’s. (University Communications / Bernard Clark)
  • [Pole pennants on University Ave]
    With the campaign messaging and call-to-action featured prominently on the University Avenue pole pennants, the Queen’s community and visitors to campus will be encouraged to Discover Research@Queen’s. (University Communications / Bernard Clark)
  • [Pole pennants on University Ave]
    With the campaign messaging and call-to-action featured prominently on the University Avenue pole pennants, the Queen’s community and visitors to campus will be encouraged to Discover Research@Queen’s. (University Communications / Bernard Clark)

The campaign will highlight feature stories from the website that centre around the university’s research strengths, issues dominating national dialogues, and matters of policy importance. The first research feature (now being promoted until the end of March) looks at the “wicked” issue of waste and, in particular, the emerging challenge of microplastics. Microplastics are in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we consume and will have an impact on our health, our environment, and our future. Queen’s researcher Myra Hird (School of Environmental Studies), Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and Queen’s National Scholar, believes the solution may lie in our production and consumption habits.

“Research is core to the foundation of Queen’s as an institution, yet much of the work takes place where it isn’t easily accessible to the public – in labs, archives, and in the field,” says Kent Novakowski, Acting Vice-Principal (Research). “The goal of this campaign is to showcase the breadth and impact of our research to target audiences – our funders, our alumni, to potential industry partners, and our own faculty. All of these stakeholders support and build Queen’s research prominence.”

The campaign builds on the learnings and success of recently promoted website pieces, including researcher Anne Duffy’s research into university student mental health. Future features will showcase Queen’s research expertise – from health sciences to engineering and the arts.

Essential to the success of the campaign is a content-sharing model, where members of the Queen’s community, as key stakeholders and champions can help to promote and amplify the stories of Research@Queen’s through sharing and posting to their own social platforms. Through these posts, the Queen’s community will be empowering their contacts and networks to “Discover” Research@Queen’s.

The Discover Research@Queen’s campaign will run from February to August. For more information, please visit the Research@Queen’s website or contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives.

Research@Queen’s Feature: Diving into microplastics

How do we tackle this “wicked” problem? Queen’s researcher Myra Hird believes the answer is in our own consumption and production habits.

[Dr. Myra Hird]
Queen's researcher Myra Hird, FRSC, wants us to rethink our consumption and production habits.

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? Queens researcher Myra Hird believes the answer is in our own consumption habits.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

Due to exposure and wear and tear, big plastics inevitably break down into smaller pieces. Microplastics are pieces of plastic that measure up to 5 millimetres on their longest dimension. (The definition includes nanoplastics, which are even tinier particles.) Hard to detect and hard to control, these pollutants have been proven, in controlled experiments, to harm both the environment and living creatures. So far, the high concentrations simulated in laboratories have not yet been found in nature. Yet, given the limitations of the current measurement methods and the fact that many human activities (agriculture, fishery, industry, and others) continue to release microplastics into the environment, this is no reason for relief.

Continue the story on the Research@Queen’s website.

Women CEOs negotiate better severance than men — for all the wrong reasons

As CEOs, women have it tougher than men. Their severance deals prove it. ​

Woman CEO listens to two other women
 Women CEOs face a much tougher road than their male counterparts. They’re more harshly judged and more likely to get fired.Tim Gouw / Unsplash)

Over the last 20 years, the number of female CEOs leading S&P 500 firms has increased fivefold. But it’s a deceiving figure: among large publicly traded firms, women still only make up six per cent of all CEOs.

One reason is that many qualified women are simply not interested in throwing their hats in the ring. One survey found that 64 per cent of men want to be appointed to top executive roles compared to only 36 per cent of women.

Why do women shy away? Some management experts say female CEO candidates do not feel they are playing on a level playing field, and that they’re more likely to be laid off than their male counterparts.

They are right to feel vulnerable. According to a recent study, female CEOs are 45 per cent more likely to be fired than their male counterparts. Previous research has shown that a man’s competence is often assumed in leadership roles while a woman’s competence is generally questioned. And female CEOs are more likely to be blamed when their organizations struggle, and are much more likely to be targeted by activist investors.

Rougher road

Female CEOs face a tougher road than male CEOs and they know it. You can see this play out when corporate boards try to recruit for the executive suite. Research I conducted with Felice Klein (Boise State University) and Cynthia Devers (Texas A&M University) examined whether pre-employment severance agreements reflect the heightened concern of prospective female CEOs that they are more vulnerable to being dismissed.

Severance agreements specify the amount paid out to the CEO in case of termination, and previous research has shown that they are used to insure the CEO against the risk of dismissal. As such, they offer a good measure of the perceived dismissal risk.

Given the well-publicized gender pay gap, most people would believe the severance agreements of male CEOs are larger than those of female CEOs. But we found that, in this case, the gender gap is reversed. Incoming female CEOs tend to negotiate much better severance agreements than men, but it’s for all the wrong reasons.

Our study was based on preliminary severance agreements between firms and newly appointed CEOs. It covered new CEOs of publicly traded U.S. corporations from 2007 to 2014, in all 870 cases.

We found that female CEOs tend to receive larger initial severance agreements than their male counterparts. The average contractual severance payment for incoming female CEOs is US$6.6 million versus $4.2 million for male CEOs. After controlling for other factors that affect the value of guaranteed severance payments, this “gender gap” remains significant.

You would think that women would be particularly cautious about leading struggling firms, and this shows up in our research. The gap in severance agreements is larger for firms with weakening performance or in cases where the previous CEO was terminated early.

The increase in the gender gap in these firms is driven by larger severance agreements for female CEOs; the severance agreements of male CEOs were no richer when men were appointed to struggling organizations.

More women in top positions reassures potential women CEOs that there is less risk of being terminated.
More women in top positions reassures potential women CEOs that there is less risk of being terminated. (Christina Wocintechchat / Unsplash)

More women, less risk

On the positive side, women considering a CEO position are apparently reassured by the presence of other female top executives. We found the gap in severance agreements was smaller in organizations that operate in industries with a greater number of female CEOs or that have at least one female director. In these cases, they clearly feel there is less risk that they will face biased evaluations of their performance.

There are messages here for both corporate boards and women considering senior executive positions.

The takeaway for boards is that if they really want to bring women into the executive suite, they can use the severance agreement as a recruiting tool to compensate women for the obstacles that they will inevitably face.

Workplace environment is critical

And as our study indicates, it is not enough to have a pipeline of qualified female candidates for the CEO role — the firm’s environment also plays a crucial role in reassuring female executives that their performance won’t be undervalued.

And for women, our research shows that they have more bargaining power in the employment negotiation process than they may have thought. We found that women are able to secure greater severance guarantees without trading cash — or incentive-based pay for severance. They identify the added risk and expect the reward for taking it on.

There’s also plenty of evidence to show that women CEOs are good for business. According to one study, public companies with women CEOs or chief financial officers were generally more profitable and produced better stock price performance than companies led by men.

Unfortunately for women, that performance does not seem to make their tenure any less risky.The Conversation


Pierre Chaigneau is an Associate Professor at Smith School of Business, Queen's University.

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

Gaining undergraduate research experience

The Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) application period is open until March 2, 2020. 

[Clare Simon and Lisa Pasolli]
USSRF recipient Clare Simon takes a moment in front of her 2019 poster presentation with her faculty supervisor Dr. Lisa Pasolli.

For undergraduate students looking to explore research, the Undergraduate Student Summer Research Fellowships (USSRF) provide a unique opportunity outside of regular coursework to acquire valuable skills and prepare for further education.

Fellowship recipients develop a research project in the social sciences, humanities, or creative arts over the course of the summer under the guidance of a faculty researcher. The program, sponsored by the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio, was designed to provide students with meaningful opportunities to engage in discovery-based learning and to develop research and presentation skills. In 2020, a minimum of 19 fellowships of $6,000 each will be awarded, including funding for two projects at the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) in England.

Clare Simon is an undergraduate student in history who received a fellowship last year for her project “Not just somebody’s mother: University Campus Daycare Co-operatives in British Columbia and Ontario, 1960s to 1970s” under the supervision of Lisa Pasolli (History).

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

“The USSRF program helped me find the areas of research that I was really excited about and gave me vital experience that will help me in my future endeavours,” she says. “I learned a lot about how to formulate research questions, locate appropriate sources, write my own project, and I even got to travel with Dr. Pasolli to the University of Ottawa archives.”

In developing her project proposal, Simon and Dr. Pasolli, were able to build on Simon’s interest in public policy and gender to identify a project related to campus co-operatives.

Through the course of the summer, Simon learned that a research focus can evolve as you go through a research process and gather findings and data. Her project analyzed case studies from Simon Fraser University, University of Toronto, and Queen’s to situate the formation of daycare co-operatives within the context of contemporary ideologies such as the Women’s Liberation Movements. Her research led her to explore the history of university daycares and the recognition of the importance of childcare on university campuses.  

At the USSRF celebration this past fall, the 2019 recipients concluded their fellowship with a poster presentation of their projects. It was an opportunity to engage with the public, their supervisors, and other recipients on their research topic.

“It definitely made me feel more confident that I can hold my own in an intellectual environment and can participate in the expansion of knowledge,” Simon explains.

USSRF also allows undergraduate students to see a glimpse of what graduate research could be like. For Simon, it was a chance to explore a research topic and confirm her interest in pursuing a master’s degree. She was also able to leverage her project in her graduate applications, including using the written portion as a writing sample. Simon will pursue a closely related research project, shifted to focus on a British context, during her Master’s of Philosophy at the University of Cambridge.

The application deadline for the 2020 USSRF program is March 2, 2020. Information on the program and how to apply can be found on the USSRF website.

Powering the drive to electric buses

Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s and member of ePOWER Suzan Eren says innovations in power electronics is key to electrifying 5,000 transit buses. (University Communications)
Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s and member of ePOWER Suzan Eren says innovations in power electronics is key to electrifying 5,000 transit buses. (University Communications)

The Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePower) at Queen’s University is part of a new cluster of post-secondary institutions receiving funding from the Canadian Urban Transit Research and Innovation Consortium (CUTRIC) to pursue battery electric bus research. CUTRIC is contributing $2.6 million in funding to help achieve the federal government’s ambitious goal of electrifying 5,000 transit buses.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research@Queen’s.

The funding, along with an additional $132,500 from federal MITACS industrial research program, will support innovative low-carbon and smart mobility research projects at Queen’s University, OCAD University, University of Windsor, and Ontario Tech University, which form CUTRIC’s National Academic Committee on Zero-Emissions Buses (NAC-ZEB).

This work will address the challenges faced by electric buses and help us realize the goal of making them a transit standard.

Suzan Eren, Assistant Professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Queen’s and a member of ePOWER, and her team are working to optimize the powertrain used in heavy-duty electric buses to pave the way for practical and efficient next-generation electric buses.

“The key technology of this project is innovations in power electronics to revolutionize the design of a new powertrain architecture,” Dr. Eren says. “This work will address the challenges faced by electric buses and help us realize the goal of making them a transit standard.”

This announcement builds on approximately $16 million in federal funding already awarded to the City of Brampton, TransLink, York Region Transit, and Newmarket-Tay Power Distribution Ltd. through Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) to help launch the Pan-Canadian Electric Bus Demonstration & Integration Trial: Phase I.


Subscribe to RSS - Research Prominence