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The Conversation: Why life insurance companies want your Fitbit data

Fitbit data
Insurance companies have been keeping track the physical activities of customers, but previous initiatives were pilot projects. (Photo: Unsplash/John Schnobrich)

I recently predicted that health data from electronic sources could soon be compiled into a health or wellness report and shared with insurance companies to help them determine who they’ll cover.

And now John Hancock, the U.S. division of Canadian insurance giant Manulife, requires customers to use activity trackers for life insurance policies in their Vitality program if they want to get discounts on their premiums and other perks.

Customers can withhold their fitness data, but that will result in higher premiums, which may put life insurance out of reach for low-income earners. This in turn could have an impact on whether would-be homeowners can take out mortgages, some of which can require a life insurance policy on the principle borrower.

The fact that insurance companies track the physical activities of customers has been making headlines for years, but previous initiatives were pilot projects.

Now, customers who don’t want to offer up their health data to John Hancock have two choices: Don’t report it and pay higher premiums, or go somewhere else for their insurance.

But what’s going to happen if other companies follow suit?

Figuring out when you’re having sex?

Your privacy will be infringed upon by apps that pass on to your insurer all of the activities you do while wearing your smartwatch.

That could include steps walked, heart rate, blood pressure – your insurer may even be able to figure out when you’re having sex.

This is nothing new. We’ve long known that wearable technology records “data about you and your condition, activities and day-to-day choices.”

And we know that that data collected by these devices and through our internet activities “continually leak.” In fact, researchers have discovered that 70 per cent of third-party apps collect data that can then be used to create a profile of buying and spending habits.

So is it really a problem that customers use wearable technology like Fitbit and report their healthy activities, such as workouts and healthy eating, to their insurer?

Well, yes. One problem is that this information is not always correct. Fitbit itself acknowledges that “the algorithm is designed to look for intensity and motion patterns that are most indicative of people walking and running” and that it may not always be accurate in reporting other activities, such as riding a bike or working.

Then there’s the question of what happens with your premiums if you stop engaging in these activities. How much time will insurance companies allow women to recover from childbirth before they have to get back to their insurance plan’s requirements for physical activity?

What about people recovering from joint replacements or heart surgery? How long will these people have before their premiums go up?

Active Seniors
Older adults’ exercise activities may not be accurately detected by wearable technology. (Photo: Unsplash/Lucie Hosova)

Older adults at risk

Older adults are especially vulnerable to this sort of data-based gatekeeping. The glitches in wearable technology’s data collection may be amplified with older people, whose exercise behaviour might not be as strenuous as that of younger adults, and therefore subject to more recording errors.

In addition to the potential under-recording of their fitness activities, many people over 65 years old have at least one illness, which, when combined with data errors, may make them ineligible for discounted insurance programs. This could change the retirement opportunities for many older adults.

And what about the healthy lifestyles that insurance companies reward their customers for living?

Diet, fitness and medication regimes go in and out of favour. Taking “baby aspirin,” for example, to prevent heart attacks and stroke has recently been shown to be ineffective for healthy adults.

Another example of the fickleness of health trends involves healthy eating guru Brian Wansink, who’s had some academic articles retracted, including those that told us not to go grocery shopping when we’re hungry and not to use large bowls when we’re eating.

This all suggests that the food and activity choices of insurance companies are linked to scholarly research.

Conflict of interest?

But what happens if a multinational business owns both insurance and manufacturing companies? Is it possible that insurance perks and discounts could be linked to purchases from their subsidiaries, disguised as “health initiatives?”

In other words, the insurer could reward customers for adhering to a health regimen that might be helpful, but could also be bogus or, in the worst-case scenario, harmful or exploitative while financially benefiting the insurance company.

If legislators don’t get involved, Big Business could end up literally dictating to us what we can and can’t do, or eat, if we want or need insurance.

For those who can’t afford healthy food or recreational fitness, and those who refuse to allow their data to be harvested, life insurance premiums, and other products like mortgages, may drift out of reach.The Conversation


Lisa F. Carver is and adjunct professor in the Faculty of Arts and Science and Post Doctoral Fellow, SSHRC-funded ACTproject at Queen’s University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

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

Faculty of Arts and Science publishes annual review

It has been a year to celebrate for the Faculty of Arts and Science. Increased enrolment numbers, combined with significant efforts made towards campus diversification, faculty renewal, and many more exciting initiatives are recognized and celebrated within the faculty’s 2017–2018 Annual Review. Making this year’s edition even more significant is that it marks Dean Barbara Crow’s first year at Queen’s University.

[Faculty of Arts and Science Annual Review]
The Faculty of Arts and Science Annual Review is available online.

As Dean Crow notes, there is much to celebrate within the Faculty of Arts and Science, with many new faculty- and student-centred initiatives coming to fruition “through a reinvigorated focus on research promotion, faculty renewal, and deliberative actions toward equity, diversity, and inclusivity.”

“As we embark on new initiatives, both in the classroom and with our research, the Annual Review is a fantastic way to thank everyone for and to celebrate all of the wonderful accomplishments we achieved together last year. We hope you enjoy seeing what we have been up to and where we are going. 2017–2018 has been an important transitional and transformational year.”

From increased collaboration with the Arts and Science Undergraduate Society (ASUS), which led to the first-ever career summit event, Life After ArtSci, to the introduction of a suite of recruitment initiatives to support a growing graduate student community, to continued work with our Dean’s Council of amazing alumni who help provide industry insights, the Faculty of Arts and Science made great strides in terms of improving the student experience.

The faculty has celebrated many other notable accomplishments over the past year, but a few of the stand-out moments include:

The 2018–2019 year will see a sustained and expanded focus on the faculty’s priorities: equity, diversity, inclusivity, Indigeneity, international student support, and graduate enrolment. In addition to these major priorities, there will also be new initiatives centred on research prominence, graduate student experience, and financial sustainability through revenue diversification.

“At this time next year, we hope to have as many good news stories to share with you and I hope that you see the gains we are making,” says Dean Crow.

The 2017–2018 Annual Review of the Faculty of Arts and Science, is available online.

The Conversation: Terrorism at the Taj – Hotel Mumbai pulls no punches at TIFF

The new film highlights the things ordinary people can do in extraordinary circumstances.

[Dev Patel in Hotel Mumbai]
Dev Patel stars in in Hotel Mumbai, a movie that depicts the Mumbai terror attacks that took place Nov.26-29, 2008. (Photo: Arclight Films)

Director Anthony Maras’ new film Hotel Mumbai had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. The film stars Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), Armie Hammer (Call Me By Your Name), Jason Issacs (Harry Potter) and Anupam Kher (The Big Sick). All of these actors attended the premiere and participated in a compelling Q&A conversation with the audience after the film.

The movie depicts the Mumbai terror attacks that took place Nov. 26-29, 2008, when 10 gunmen belonging to the Pakistan-based militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba staged a series of co-ordinated attacks across the city, ending with a multi-day siege of the luxurious Taj Mahal Hotel that left 164 dead and hundreds wounded.

Based on hundreds of hours of interviews with survivors and witnesses and told from the perspective of hotel guests, staff and to some extent the gunmen, the film sets out to recreate the attacks faithfully and authentically.

The film expertly ratchets up tension and confusion, drawing the viewer into a harrowing experience that is not broken up by lengthy plot digressions or exposition.

Hotel Mumbai provides a raw and rare look behind the curtain of a terrorist attack, inviting the audience to experience its unrelenting and gut-wrenching reality. The film doesn’t concern itself with the contextual details that emerge in the aftermath of a terror plot; instead it replicates the confusion, panic and genuine fear one would feel at the time.

For almost the entire two hour run-time, the viewer is left to struggle with the intensity of that confusion, not knowing when or if safety will materialize.

Since Sept. 11, 2001, popular media in North America has moved from amorphous representations of political violence to a plot format that explicitly uses terrorism, invokes real militant groups and focuses almost exclusively on the United States and Islamic extremism as their bread and butter. Few films actually take the viewer inside the experience of terror plots as they happen; this is where Hotel Mumbai ushers in a new complex path with audiences.

The only potential drawback of this narrative style is that for viewers unfamiliar with the broader political context of terrorism in India — and in Western audiences they may be the majority — there is little information about where the attack comes from or how it fits into the larger story of the Indian subcontinent.

Terrorism in India

The Mumbai gunmen were trained in Pakistan and, as depicted in the film, carried out their attack with direction via mobile phones from planners in Pakistan’s metropolis port, Karachi. The gunmen were found to be members of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a Pakistan-based militant group that was also responsible for a 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament in New Delhi.

The existence of groups like LeT is a significant sore spot in India-Pakistan relations. India accuses Pakistan of enabling or even encouraging such groups and Pakistan consistently denies these allegations.

LeT emerged out of the radicalization of the Kashmir conflict — a territorial dispute between India and Pakistan over which country has the right to govern the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley. This conflict began with the 1947 partition of British colonial India into the two sovereign nations of India and Pakistan and has gone through numerous phases of escalation and détente.

India’s continued military presence and the human rights abuses carried out by security forces in Kashmir provide a major source of grievance to some Indian and Pakistani Muslims. Although India is home to the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia, Muslims in India are heavily disadvantaged in comparison to the Hindu majority. They also experience higher rates of poverty and lower literacy levels.

Despite this, the vast majority of Muslims — whether in India or elsewhere — consistently reject religious extremism.

Everyday heroism

As a suspenseful and emotional snapshot of the events of November 2008, the film certainly succeeds. The audience’s applause felt genuine and visceral, not polite or obligatory. The cast themselves were visibly emotional on stage, notably when Maras revealed that one of the real-life survivors of the attack portrayed in the film was present in the audience. This survivor (unnamed here to avoid spoilers) received an immediate and emotional standing ovation.

The film is full of heroes, but not the kind that audiences are accustomed to seeing in movies about terror attacks. In Hotel Mumbai, heroes can die with the casual and unceremonious pulling of a trigger, just like anyone else. Though the film uses character archetypes, it does so in a way that disrupts common film tropes associated with the genre.

For example, the local police are brave but are hopelessly outgunned and out of their depth when faced by trained insurgents with automatic weapons. Armie Hammer’s character, the white American male that so often saves the day in Hollywood blockbusters, spends most of the film wanting to protect his family but having no real idea how to do so.

By contrast, Anupam Kher’s Chef Oberoi displays a quiet dignity by relinquishing his opportunity for escape in favour of protecting the hotel guests by calmly hosting them in one of the hotel’s hidden lounges. Dev Patel, as always, gives a memorable performance as a hotel staff member who just wants to get back to his family but displays remarkable courage and compassion along the way.

Just as there is no Hollywood action hero ready to jump in and save the day, Hotel Mumbai also steers clear of depicting the kind of one-dimensional villains that dominate most films in the spy or terrorism genres. The attacks in the film (as in real-life) are brutal, shocking and almost casual in their indifferent disregard for human life.

But the gunmen themselves remain undeniably human. In one scene, we see the terrorists coldly gunning down unarmed civilians and in the next we see them teasing each other about whether there is pork in the canapés. Later, we see the inner conflict of one of the gunmen, who seems to be in over his head as he oscillates between crippling self-doubt and brutal determination.

It is the dissonance between these two dimensions that make this depiction of terrorism so compelling. We also see how the attack impacts each of the attackers in subtly different ways, reinforcing that each has been drawn into this act of horrific violence through their own distinct motivations, whether religious, political or socio-economic.

It is not necessarily that the gunmen in this movie are relatable or sympathetic in the traditional sense (for the most part they are not), but they are resolutely human and that is part of what makes their violence so disturbing. The viewer is asked to face the uncomfortable truth that the people who carry out these attacks might not be the monsters hiding in the shadows that we so often see depicted on screen, but are simply ordinary people carrying out extraordinary acts of brutality.

Despite the horror that this film paints with such gritty and meticulous attention to detail, Hotel Mumbai is ultimately not about violence as an act that is carried out upon passive victims. Instead, it is about the resistance, resilience and quiet heroism of people confronted by chaotic scenarios filled with impossible choices.

Rising terrorism on ‘soft targets’

The film asks us to challenge easy assumptions and to rethink any sensationalist preconceptions we may hold about how we would, or would not, react in such a crisis.

Hotel Mumbai feels every bit as relevant today as if it had been released back in 2008 when the attacks occurred. If anything, the passage of a decade has perhaps made the tragedy of the Mumbai attacks resonate even more strongly with international audiences.

Massacres carried out by armed gunmen in “soft targets” such as hotels, train stations and shopping malls have become depressingly common in recent years.

Historically most of al-Qaida’s most well-known attacks have used explosives, making them devastating in their death tolls but also relatively difficult to plan and execute.

Since 2014, ISIS has popularized the strategy of using any and all weapons available to attack public spaces, making attacks carried out by their sympathizers incredibly challenging to prevent. This style of attack is widespread across the ideological spectrum with notable examples including the Norway massacre of 2011 and the Las Vegas shootings of 2017.

Hotel Mumbai is ultimately intended as an “anthem of resistance” for those who survive such attacks, a quiet memorial of those who don’t and a sobering snapshot of the chaos of terrorism for those who, fortunately, have never found themselves inside its brutal plot.The Conversation


Emily LeDuc is a Doctoral Candidate and Teaching Fellow in the History Department at Queen's University. Joseph McQuade is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Centre for South Asian Studies, a branch of the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto.

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

The Conversation  provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors. 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.

Up close and personal with a deputy minister

The Fall Policy Talks series opens with a personal look at the balancing act of a deputy minister.

Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, speaks to a packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and Queen’s and Kingston community members. (Photo: University Communications)
Malcolm Brown, Deputy Minister of Public Safety, speaks to a packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and Queen’s and Kingston community members. (Photo: University Communications)

A packed room of School of Policy Studies graduate students and members of the Queen’s and Kingston community listened keenly to the stories and advice of Deputy Minister of Public Safety Malcolm Brown, the first speaker of the Fall 2018 School of Policy Studies “Policy Talks” Series.

“At the Department of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, we make decisions that impact Canadians’ physical safety and environments. For example, at the Canadian Border Security Agency, 300 to 400 decisions are made every day on who to allow into the country,” says Mr. Brown. “In an emergency preparedness capacity, we’re responsible for planning for what we hope never happens, from natural disasters to threats to the continuity of government.”

A Queen’s alumnus, Mr. Brown (Artsci’82) holds the most senior public service position at Public Safety, advising the Minister and acting as the connection between bureaucracy and politics. The department covers a large portfolio, including Correctional Services Canada, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Canadian Border Security Agency (CBSA), Parole Board of Canada and the RCMP. Mr. Brown spoke about the role he plays in public policy and the relationships he manages to keep the portfolio running efficiently.

The School of Policy Studies hosts Policy Talks, a weekly series that covers a broad range of policy topics. Mr. Brown’s opening talk for the series gave the audience a look behind the scenes of one of Canada’s most high security departments.

“I report directly to the Clerk of the Privy Council Office and support the Minister, and I manage the relationship between the Minister and the department,” says Mr. Brown. “Deputy Ministers need to understand their Ministers to make this work. Figuring out how my Minister works and takes in information is crucial. If you don’t work together properly, you both operate in a vacuum.

“It’s essential that I, as the Deputy Minister, am the most trusted public service advisor to the Minister. Transparency and respect between other leaders in the portfolio departments keeps stakeholders in the loop, while also allowing me to manage those relationships.”

Audience members peppered the Deputy Minister with questions after his speech, including what it takes to be a leader in federal government.

“Impatience,” he says. “You can’t be satisfied with how things always are. You need to politely, and with respect, challenge the ways we’ve always done things.”

Many of the talks will be livestreamed this year. For details on this and upcoming Policy Talks, visit the School of Policy Studies website.

Miller Medal winner moved mountains

Queen's University Professor Emeritus Raymond Price honoured by the Royal Society of Canada for a lifetime of work.

A lifetime of research contributions to academia and industry by Queen’s University Professor Emeritus Raymond Price has been recognized by the Royal Society of Canada (RSC). Dr. Price has been honoured with the RSC’s Willet G. Miller Medal in Earth Sciences.

Dr. Price (Geological Science and Engineering) has been acclaimed nationally and internationally for his exploration and graphic descriptions of the geology, geophysical setting, origin, and tectonic evolution of the southern Canadian Rocky Mountains, and also for his conceptual models of tectonic processes at various scales.

Dr. Price will be awarded with a national honour named for Willet G. Miller, who was appointed to the Department of Geology, School of Mines in 1893, and the first person to teach geology at Queen’s. The university later honoured Willet G. Miller by bestowing his name on Miller Hall in 1931.

“The RSC’s Miller Medal is a prestigious recognition of Dr. Price’s distinguished research career and his influence on resource, environmental and geoscience policy in Canada,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). 

Beginning in the 1950s, Dr. Price’s work for the Geological Survey of Canada and in academia has explored the geodynamics of mountain building. He has greatly influenced fundamental thinking on the dynamics of plate tectonics and mountain building while also ensuring the economic implications of his ideas were well known in the petroleum industry.

Dr. Price first joined Queen’s in 1968, was invited back to the Geological Survey to become director general and later assistant deputy minister, and rejoined Queen’s in 1990 where he accepted the chair of a scientific working group looking at the engineering, geological, and environmental merits of deep geological disposal of high level nuclear fuel waste.

“I certainly can’t think of a more deserving geoscientist than Dr. Price for this award,” says colleague Laurent Godin. “Dr. Price has been influential in so many ways. His work and dedication to geosciences has had profound influence on our understanding of how mountain belts form and evolve. Beyond his world-class scientific research, Dr. Price has done exemplary service to science and society, serving and often chairing countless international scientific committees. Most importantly, he has shared his knowledge and wisdom through mentorship of hundreds of students and colleagues - and continues to this day. His dedication to science, policy-making, and generous mentorship deserves to be known and recognized.”

The impact of Dr. Price’s work has been recognized by numerous honours. Dr. Price became a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1972, Foreign Associate of the U.S. National Academy of Science in 1988, Foreign Fellow of the European Union of Geosciences in 1989, Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1997 and Officer of the Order of Canada in 2003. In addition, he has received honorary doctorates from four Canadian universities and many other awards.

For more information visit the RSC website.

Queen’s remembers Professor Emeritus C.E.S. (Ned) Franks

Queen’s University is remembering the accomplishments and contributions of C.E.S. (Ned) Franks, a professor emeritus in the Department of Political Studies and the School of Physical and Health Education.

[CES (Ned) Franks]
Professor Emeritus C.E.S. (Ned) Franks died on Tuesday, Sept. 11. (University Communications) 

Dr. Franks taught at Queen’s for 35 years, and was a leading expert on Canada’s parliamentary system. He died Tuesday, Sept. 11. He was 81.

“Queen’s and Canada have lost a great political scientist in Ned Franks. He had a long career which included mentoring many students who have gone on to distinguished careers in academia, the public service, journalism, and politics,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Daniel Woolf. ”An expert on Canada’s parliamentary system he served as a regular adviser to government and media. He also participated in Queen’s governance, most recently on the former Campus Planning and Development Committee.”

Born in Toronto, Dr. Franks attended Upper Canada College, earned his BA (1959) and MA (1965) from Queen’s, and his DPhil from Oxford.

He returned to Queen’s as an assistant professor in 1967 after working for several years with the Government of Saskatchewan, including a stint as clerk assistant of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly.

Throughout his career at Queen’s, Dr. Franks’ influence and reputation was felt well beyond the university and his advice and insight were regularly sought out by fellow scholars, governments, and media.

“He was a kind of larger-than-life figure both here in the department but also in the scholarly community and beyond. His intellectual breadth was incredibly broad and deep. He had a passion for knowledge,” says Jonathan Rose, an associate professor in Political Studies. “I don’t know any other political scientist who has written respected books on canoeing and Parliament. His sense of wonderment about things beyond and outside of the narrow discipline of political studies was incredibly refreshing and demonstrated a love of learning about the world.”

Dr. Franks was Dr. Rose’s supervisor during his master’s studies at Queen’s and later became his colleague when he joined the Department of Political Studies. He was strongly influenced by Dr. Franks’ sense of rigour and the importance of precision in scholarship.

“Here was an academic who continued the best tradition of Queen’s, which is to make connections between policy making and scholarship,” Dr. Rose says. “I think one of the reasons Queen’s politics is respected in Ottawa is because of this close connection and regular advice that scholars like Ned would provide governments of all political stripes.”

In addition to more than 100 articles and chapters in books, Dr. Franks wrote or edited 14 books and monographs, including The Parliament of Canada, The Canoe and White Water, and Dissent and the State. His work included explorations into public administration, government accountability, parliamentary government in Canada, aboriginal self-government, canoeing, sport and politics, Canada's North, issues related to nuclear energy, and politics in India.

He also wrote numerous influential op-ed pieces for newspapers and magazines and was asked by national and international media for his insight on important issues on the Canadian political agenda. 

In 2002, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal and, in 2004, the Royal Canadian Geographical Society awarded him its 75th Anniversary Medallion.

In 2007 the Queen’s University bestowed its Distinguished Service Award upon Dr. Franks in recognition of his four decades of leadership and work on campus planning, including playing a key role in the planning and construction of Mackintosh-Corry Hall as well as a major renovation and expansion program for the Agnes Etherington Art Centre.

“With gentle humor, positive reinforcement and comprehensive knowledge you have presided and offered wise counsel as the university sought to improve planning activities for the practice of commissioning buildings, and procedures for selecting leading architects and adopting competitive processes,” a section of the award citation reads. “The results may be found in the record of award-winning structures renewing one of Canada’s historic institutions.”

Dr. Franks also played the roles of an adviser on student life matters and a supporter of student self-government, serving as a mentor to generations of student leaders in the Alma Mater Society, and twice was appointed as honorary president.

Funeral arrangements will be announced once finalized.

Research takes flight

Queen’s University researcher Luc Martin takes to the skies with the Snowbirds to study team dynamics.

Anyone who has been to an airshow in Canada is probably familiar with the Canadian Forces Snowbirds, a military flight demonstration team that thrills spectators with their aerobatic performances. Since 2015, Queen’s University researcher Luc Martin, an expert in team dynamics, has been working with the Snowbirds in their high-risk environment where effective communication is critical.   

In early June, Dr. Martin, a professor in the Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies, took to the air with the team during a media flight which gave him an even deeper appreciation of the communication and teamwork that occurs between formation pilots during a flight.

[Luc Martin and Snowbirds]
Queen's University professor Luc Martin (School of Kinesiology and Health Studies) took to the air this summer with the Snowbirds. (Supplied Photo)

“I likely could not do the experience justice if I tried to put it into words,” Dr. Martin says. “As a researcher, it helped me to appreciate the conditions that this team must navigate, which is unlike any other group I have studied. Because they perform as a collective in such an intense, high-risk environment, they are ideal for studying team-building efforts, cohesion, leadership, and communication.”

Dr. Martin’s research revolves around group dynamics and the actions, processes, and changes that occur either within or between groups, and what those might mean for various individual or team level outcomes. He visited the Snowbird’s base in Moose Jaw, Sask., where he observed the pilot selection process.

The newly-selected pilots became the central figures in Dr. Martin’s investigation into how new members are chosen and integrated. He then followed their transition from newcomer to veteran (when they were involved in selecting future members), through to their retirement from the team – a timeframe that normally lasts only two years.

“I’ve found that the team has a very clear understanding of the type of pilot they are looking for, and skill or capability is only a part of it,” says Dr. Martin. “There are many other characteristics sought and the team has purposefully included strategies throughout the selection process to identify them. It’s important to recognize that while these pilots represent the elite of the elite, the success of the show (and the safety of each member) rests on their ability to work together, and this takes high levels of trust and accountability.”

While few people are likely to find themselves working in such demanding environments, there are certainly important take home points that could benefit anyone who works in a team setting.

“Although having a clear understanding of the type of member you’re trying to recruit is critical, you need to go one step further and design selection processes that allow you to specifically evaluate those characteristics,” says Dr. Martin. “It’s also necessary to show the incoming members exactly what to expect, as demonstrating clear normative expectations early can facilitate their integration into the group.”

Dr. Martin published his initial observations of the Snowbirds in the Journal of Applied Sport Psychology. His co-author on the project was Mark Eys from Wilfred Laurier University.

Two faculty named Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Fellows

Queen’s researchers awarded one of Canada’s highest academic honours for health scientists.

Queen's researchers Robert Ross and Michael Green
Queen's University researchers Robert Ross and Michael Green.

Queen’s University researchers Robert Ross (Kinesiology) and Michael Green (Health Sciences) will be formally inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (CAHS) Fellowship, one of Canada’s premier academic honours, on Thursday, Sept. 13. As internationally-recognized researchers, Drs. Ross and Green were selected for their global leadership, academic performance, and scientific creativity.

“Drs. Ross and Green have left indelible marks on their respective disciplines and, through their knowledge translation efforts, have improved physical health and access to health care for Canadians,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research).

Dr. Ross has been recognized nationally and internationally for his research and knowledge translation activities concerning the unique role physical activity has in the management of lifestyle-based disease. Since 1992, he has received $8.3 million of research funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), won two of the most prestigious international awards for excellence in exercise science research, and served as the first vice-president of the Ontario College of Kinesiology and chair of the American Heart Association Program Committee for the Council on Lifestyle and Cardiometabolic Health.

“The generation of knowledge that leads to the creation of strategies designed to manage lifestyle-based disease, and the translation of that knowledge to the end user, has been my life’s work,” says Dr. Ross, of the Queen’s School of Kinesiology and Health Studies. “It is an honour to be named to the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences for our work thus far, and I look forward to using the platform provided as a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences to continue promoting the message that exercise is medicine, and consequently, improving the health of Canadians."

Dr. Green is a leader in academic family medicine in Canada and head of the Department of Family Medicine at Queen's University. He is recognized across Canada and internationally for effective collaborations with Indigenous communities, and was instrumental in creating the College of Family Physicians Fact Sheet on Systemic Racism and Indigenous Health and on Canada's competency framework for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Health. His research with Indigenous communities was recognized with a major Impact award from the Ontario SPOR Support Unit, and he leads the INSPIRE-PHC research program that includes six universities and 35 researchers.

“I am very grateful to be named as a fellow by the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences,” says Dr. Green. “I have spent my career working toward increasing access to and equity in primary health care, and improving Indigenous health. I see this award not just as recognition for how far we have come in those efforts, but as emphasizing the need to continue these improvements into the future.”

Drs. Ross and Green will be named to the CAHS Fellowship at a ceremony in Ottawa, joining the ranks of other Queen’s CAHS Fellows, including Anne Croy, Susan Cole, Roger Deeley, Stephen Archer, Jacalyn Duffin, John Rudan, Chris Simpson, Elizabeth Eisenhauer, and others. The CAHS is one of Canada’s national academies, along with the Royal Society of Canada and the Canadian Academy of Engineering. These academies inform government and the public on issues critical to health care and health improvement.

Learn more about the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences Fellowship.

The Conversation: Canada left behind as ride-hailing services go global

[Andras Vas/Unsplash]
Ride-hailing services have gone global and is now a mobility option in 89 countries, serving more than 2,600 cities around the world. (Photo by Andras Vas/Unsplash)

Like it or not, ride-hailing has become an established, regulated and accepted form of transportation in most of Canada’s largest cities.

Canadian cities aren’t unique in this regard. Ride-hailing is now a mobility option in 89 countries, serving more than 2,600 cities around the world.

By adopting a global outlook, Canada can better understand, manage and benefit from the integration of ride-hailing as a component of urban mobility.

Global scale

In Toronto and in many North American cities, ride-hailing was initially seen as a disruption to the taxi industry, a heavily licensed and regulated municipal sector. But ride-hailing is maturing, and firms continue to innovate and expand through a variety of modifications to ride-hailing services such as pooling and subscriptions.

Ride-hailing companies are also investing in other mobility services including bikes and scooters. And they’re leveraging their network of drivers to provide other logistics services like food delivery.

Globally, ride-hailing firms abide by place and city-specific regulations and policies while simultaneously catering their services to appeal to local markets and cultural practices. In Canada, the United States, the U.K. and Singapore, ride-hailing means travelling by car.

However, in places like Indonesia, Vietnam and Uganda, hailing a ride can mean riding on the back of a motorcycle. Jakarta is a city of more than 10 million people known for crushing congestion and a dearth of reliable public transit. The arrival of ride-hailing firms has been credited for offering a workaround to congestion.

This is because ride-hailing is bringing products and services directly to customers. In India, passengers can even hail a tuk-tuk.

The unicorns of ride-hailing

As ride-hailing becomes an increasingly accepted mode of transportation with relatively low barriers to entry and expansion, ride-hailing firms have gone global.

Uber, with operations in 66 countries, exemplifies the global reach of ride-hailing. But Uber is hardly alone.

There are now 12 ride-hailing firms that have reached what’s known as “unicorn” status. This means that they are startup firms with a market valuation of $1 billion or more. These ride-hailing unicorns are Uber, Didi-Chuxing, Lyft, Grab, Ola, Go-Jek, Yandex, Cabify, Gett, Careem, 99 and Taxify.

Their headquarter locations range from San Francisco to Sao Paulo, Dubai to Beijing, exemplifying the global reach of ride-hailing. They are also the recipients of significant venture capital investments. Based on an examination of venture capital investment in urban tech, ride-hailing and mobility service firms attracted more than 60 per cent — or greater than $40 billion —of all urban tech investments between 2016 and 2018.

These firms also lead as innovators by building new mobility services. Others combine products and services in new ways, taking advantage of technology, algorithms, networks and concentrations of people.

In Indonesia, for example, credit card adoption rates are below seven per cent, and most people don’t have bank accounts. Therefore, local startup Go-Jek is not just a ride-hailing company, but also a financial services firm offering a cashless payment system woven into its app.

In Singapore, local ride-hailing unicorn Grab invested $6 million in an artificial intelligence centre and partnership with the National University of Singapore. The centre will focus on using data collected by Grab to address mobility challenges faced across Southeast Asia.

And in India, Ola has partnered with government agencies, civic organizations and private sector firms on social entrepreneurship initiatives that train drivers, promote female entrepreneurship and emphasize sustainability through fuel choices.

Tiny Estonia has a ride-hailing unicorn

There are no ride-hailing unicorns headquartered in Canada. While Canada may represent a relatively small market in global terms, the most recent entrant to the ride-hailing unicorns club is Taxify.

Taxify is headquartered in Tallinn, Estonia, a former country of the Soviet Union with a population of just 1.3 million. Tallinn is a city that was pretty much on nobody’s map of global cities. The city, and Taxify, are emblematic of a new global economic geography of innovative firms and cities. Taxify currently operates in 28 countries, including Australia, Nigeria and Canada.

The rapid globalization of local ground transportation services was unexpected. But thanks to what’s known as the “platform economy,” many local services have been reconfigured into global ones with consequences for markets, firms and places.

The platform economy is comprised of big data, algorithms and cloud computing. These come together to create new digital infrastructure on which entire new markets and ecosystems operate.

This digital infrastructure has created new value for its owners and is an essential part of a reconfigured globalization. The global economy is being reorganized so that the owners and operators of these platforms are also the owners of the data and power. This power may be even more formidable than that held by the factory-owners of the early Industrial Revolution.

Ground transportation has until recently been a local concern and deeply rooted in place. For instance, public transit agencies like the Toronto Transit Commission or Vancouver’s TransLink are operated locally or regionally. Taxi brokerages also tend to operate locally.

Ride-hailing, however, is part of the platform economy infrastructure. This unique form of digitization allowed firms to expand rapidly to multiple markets, multiple languages and multiple sets of regulations and guidelines.

Ride-hailing depends on mobilizing local citizens to contribute, but it’s also profoundly global, with powerful consequences for the platform owners and those cities that house them.

The challenge for Canada

Canada is facing challenges because it’s simply become a consumer of platform ride-hailing products. We do not house any of the ride-hailing headquarters. We are not developing our own stand-alone mobility solutions for the world stage.

As multinational ride-hailing platforms firms take the lead on ground transportation services in Canadian cities, they also gain exclusive access to a treasure chest of data on people and places.

Our future economy depends on our public agencies having the knowledge and power to make informed policy choices around mobility investments. As our largest cities struggle with congestion, it’s now more important than ever to step up and invest in our urban mobility futures.

The sort of economy and society we create in this transition to digital platforms will be determined by the social, political and business choices we make. Canada needs to lead, not follow, in the global race for better mobility.The Conversation


Betsy Donald is professor in the Department of Geography and Planning at Queen's. She is also a Registered Professional Planner.

This article was originally published on The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors.

The Conversation, which provides news and views from the academic and research community. Queen’s University is a founding partner. Queen's researchers, faculty, and students are regular contributors. 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.

Living off the land

For 18 students, the great outdoors was their classroom as part of a field study course.

  • [Queen's University Global Development Studies Re-Indigenizing course Eel Lake]
    DEVS 480 student participate in a workshop on identifying and preparing medicinal plants. Many students were surprised to learn that many natural remedies often grow alongside harmful plants such as poison ivy. (Supplied Photo)
  • [Queen's University Global Development Studies Re-Indigenizing course Eel Lake]
    At Big Rock in the River, Professor Lovelace talks about recent conflicts over access to Indigenous food resources like Manòmin, also known as wild rice. In some instances, settlers have stood in solidarity with Indigenous peoples to oppose commercialization and unsustainable harvesting methods. (Supplied Photo)
  • [Queen's University Global Development Studies Re-Indigenizing course Eel Lake]
    After learning about Indigenous architecture, building a secure shelter is one of the first group activities students do when they arrive on the land. Global Development Studies major Wyatt Julien reviews some of the Indigenous theory readings that are an integral part of the course. (Supplied Photo)
  • [Queen's University Global Development Studies Re-Indigenizing course Eel Lake]
    Students get hands on experience harvesting Manòmin and learn how much work is involved to earn high quality calories like rice. Indigenous methods of harvesting are sustainable and preserve the health of the rice beds for future generations. (Supplied Photo)
  • [Queen's University Global Development Studies Re-Indigenizing course Eel Lake]
    Students and instructors pose for one last picture before heading back to Kingston. Cameo appearance by Professor Lovelace's dog Blue. (Supplied Photo)

Hunting, fishing, harvesting wild rice, and building your own shelter – DEVS 480 is a course unlike any other. These activities aren’t just worth marks, they are also what you need to do to keep your belly full and maintain a roof over your head.

The course, which has the full name “Re-Indigenizing People and Environments”, is taught by professors Robert Lovelace and Richard Day from the Department of Global Development Studies, and is supported by many community volunteers.

This field study begins with seven weeks of online study, readings, and discussion before taking students out on the land. Participants then travel to Eel Lake north of Kingston for the field portion of the course.

For the following eight days, students live off of the land in an Indigenous lifestyle, they participate in Indigenous cultural practices like sweat lodges, and complete an in-depth study of Indigenous theory.

“To secure good air, water, food, and relationships, human beings need a close relationship with the earth. Recognizing that we are dependent on the material earth but also upon the symbiotic processes – the interrelated actions – of earth is a beginning,” says Mr. Lovelace.

In addition to foraging for food and building a shelter, the students also hunted with a bow and arrow, learned about medicinal plants, and participated in workshops on tool making, managing soil, and growing food, harvesting, and preserving food.

Jessica Franko (Artsci’19) enrolled in the course seeking something “tangible” and “unique” in her university experience. The course was full of those moments, but what stood out the most for her was harvesting wild rice.

“It really changes how you think of the labour that goes into your food, and changes your connection to the food,” she says. “We all cooked for each other and quite literally fed each other – we had a day we were not allowed to feed ourselves – and this sparked discussions around food security and our relationship to food.”

Ms. Franko is quick to point out, however, the challenges are not just physical – they are also mental and emotional.

“There was a lot of theorizing in this class and I sometimes found it difficult to engage in the heavy hitting phrases like decolonization or re-indigenization,” she explains. “These are not easy terms to work through without the proper context, readings, and guidance. We had a lot of difficult conversations trying to figure out where, as settlers, we fit into the discourse.”

Max Lindley Peart (Sc’19, Artsci’19) similarly found the mix of theoretical and practical knowledge useful and challenging. After hearing about the course from upper year students, he had been hoping to enroll – and it didn’t disappoint.

“This course didn’t only privilege learning from a very intellectual perspective – it also gave lessons which were very emotional,” he says. “This came to a point for me when, on our last night on the land, we held a campfire and brought out music, stories, and jokes as a community. It really reinforced for me how we became a community – when we got back to Kingston, none of us wanted to say goodbye.”

“Throughout the whole field study, my heart felt full because I was doing this with a community of friends I could be open and honest with,” he adds. “There is no better learning environment, and it’s the kind of environment I will strive to create wherever I go after this.”

DEVS 480 is only offered every second year. The course is open to all students but mainly attracts students from the Faculty of Arts and Science, and a mix of Indigenous and non-Indigenous learners. To learn more about Global Development Studies course offerings, visit the Department’s website.


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