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How a unicorn is helping Ontario’s public and Catholic schools welcome gender diversity

Queen’s researcher Lee Airton has created Gegi.ca, an online resource that helps students advocate for their gender expression and gender identity human rights.

Gegi.ca is a newly launched website that advocates for gender identity and gender expression
Gegi.ca is a newly launched website that advocates for gender identity and gender expression

Queen’s researcher Lee Airton, Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies in Education, and Kyle Kirkup, Associate Professor in the Faculty of Law (Common Law Section) at the University of Ottawa, have launched an online resource that targets elementary and high school students and educators seeking more information about gender identity and gender expression human rights protections. With “Gegi” – a beautiful/handsome nonbinary unicorn – as their guide, K-12 students across Ontario can acquire information and tools to self-advocate within their school and school board.

The launch of the website aligns with Education Week and Catholic Education Week initiatives across Ontario.

Gegi.ca was created following a study by Dr. Airton and Dr. Kirkup of how Ontario school boards were responding to their new legal responsibilities to offer an environment free from two separate forms of discrimination: for who you are gender-wise (your gender identity), and how you let others know through things like your clothing, grooming, and behaviour (your gender expression). The resource aims to translate and mobilize findings from their recent Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Development Grant (2018-2020), which identified that Canada is going through a gender human rights law revolution and that action was needed to directly address the incremental and uneven rate at which K-12 school structures and practices are changing in response.

“Gender expression and gender identity are still new concepts to many people, let alone new areas of legal responsibility for school staff. Gegi.ca is intended to fill this gap by supporting Ontario’s K-12 students and their loved ones is the kind of self-advocacy that changes schools for everyone,” says Dr. Airton.

Each Ontario school board (public and Catholic) will have two dedicated student and staff web pages on gegi.ca. These pages connect students and their loved ones or staff directly to relevant board policies and suggest what a Gegi visitor can do or whom to contact if their board has not yet updated its policies. Students are also invited to download and share information about their gender identity or gender expression human rights in relation to athletics, field trips, and washroom or changing room access directly with school staff or administration.

The site will also host a series of downloadable and accessible resources both in French and English. These resources contain the most up-to-date law- and research-informed guidance on the changes required to fulfill every school’s duty to create a learning environment free from discrimination on the basis of gender expression or gender identity.

 “Gegi.ca is a powerful resource for Ontario students and their families to ensure their gender identity and gender expression is protected and that students can thrive and grow in our schools,” says Rebecca Luce-Kapler, Dean, Faculty of Education.

Gegi.ca targets both students and teachers, providing access to knowledge and skills that are typically only held by legal professionals. Skills fostered by gegi.ca’s resources include legal self-advocacy (i.e., correctly identifying governing laws, past legal precedents, policies and procedure; and maintaining written records and conducting correspondence), and identifying key actors and levers of power within their own school and school board. For school staff who face gender expression discrimination, gegi.ca’s board-specific pages connect to local school board policies and advocacy resources, as well as union policies. Lastly, teachers and school administrators who recognize the presence of gender expression or gender identity discrimination in their school can access gegi.ca’s collection of tip sheets and curated resources, all of which prompt proactive change. The Gegi.ca team will also share the resources with equity leads in Ontario’s school boards and work to engage all directors of education as part of the rollout.

For more information on gegi.ca, visit the website.

Transforming the global academy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen’s community comes together to illustrate social impact

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

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

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

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

THE Impact Rankings

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

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

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

The Queen’s Submission – A Community Effort

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

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

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

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

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

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

Science Rendezvous Kingston – At home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Financial literacy across Canada

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

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

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

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

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

Sponsored financial literacy materials

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

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

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

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

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

Give teachers professional development

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Queen’s remembers Ken Ball

Ken Ball
Ken Ball

The Queen’s community is remembering Kenneth (Ken) Ball, Administrative Assistant and Workshop Supervisor and pillar of the Technological Education Program at the Faculty of Education, who died Sunday, Feb. 14, in his 78th year.

A dedicated life-long learner, it was not uncommon to find Mr. Ball in the Technological Education Workshop researching new technological innovations, design and make methodologies, hands-on/minds-on learning tasks and of course, making breathtakingly beautiful teaching and learning artifacts to help new teachers hone and perfect their skills in preparation for classroom teaching. Mr. Ball’s love of learning and warm-hearted, pragmatic approach to support students was a role he loved. He was admired and respected by the students he worked with, both for his dedication and his guidance for which he was awarded the Service Excellence Award in 2015.

Mr. Ball was a vital part of the education community in Kingston. Following his rich career as a teacher and administrator with the Limestone District School Board, his thirst for knowledge drew him to the Faculty of Education; first, as the developer and teacher of a summer science and technology enrichment program for local school children to foster a love of technology and later, as dedicated teacher and mentor to many pre-service teachers, instructors, and administrators alike.

As the Technological Education Workshop Administrator, Mr. Ball who was affectionately known and almost always addressed simply by his first name “Ken”, was often the first point of contact for pre-service teachers seeking a deeper understanding of project-based learning. He was always keen to offer his insights and worked diligently to assist all who requested his help in finding real-world solutions to technological challenges. Ken’s commitment to “leaving this world just a little better than how I found it”, was demonstrated in the facilitation and development of numerous community-based and service-learning projects including an augmented bicycle trailer for a boy with a severe physical disability, numerous local lending libraries, a cupboard to combat food insecurity on campus, adapted musical instruments for children with developmental and/or physical challenges just to name a few.

Ken’s genial manner and warm sense of humor fostered a climate kindness and joy and his boundless energy and scholarship will be greatly missed by colleagues, students, and staff.

A family obituary is available online.

Queen’s remembers Professor Irwin Talesnick

Irwin TalesnickThe Queen’s community is remembering Irwin Talesnick, Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Education, who died Nov. 21, 2020.

Professor Talesnick arrived at Queen’s in 1968 after teaching high school chemistry, physics, and general science in Toronto since 1960.

He would stay at Queen’s for the next 25 years as a professor of chemical preparing new teachers for life in the classroom and inspired many teacher candidates with his enthusiasm and love for science.

He also developed a number of teaching tools during his career, including the ‘Orange Juice Clock’. Powered by orange juice, the clock face featured atomic numbers, and helped introduce students to the main concepts of electrochemistry.

Similarly, he was well known for his stance that “Science is a verb,” meaning that students should be doing science, not watching it being done.

Professor Talesnick was a long-time, prominent member of Science Teachers Association of Ontario, and received the organization’s Life Member Award, recognizing his outstanding and sustained service to STAO.

When he retired from Queen’s in 1993, the organization presented him with the STAO Excellence in Science Teaching Award, and, at that time, renamed the award in his honour.

He was recognized by the Faculty of Education for his commitment to science education through the Irwin Talesnick Science Education Bursary, which was established by the organizing committee of ChemEd 89.

Following his retirement, Professor Talesnick increased his workshop and lecture schedule, taking him across Canada and the United States, as well as Mexico, England, Wales, China, Sweden, and Israel. His lectures were designed to motivate teachers, students, and the general public to inquire into the phenomena that are placed before them in the laboratory and in everyday life.

What motivates changing behaviours during COVID-19

 

A woman shopper wearing a surgical mask stocks up on toilet paper at a supermarket
In the early days of the pandemic, people panic bought toilet paper. (Shutterstock)

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to make some pretty interesting decisions like buying in bulk, wearing face masks and physically distancing from other people.

The Conversation logoHow do we make decisions and choices? Motivation is the reason why we do what we do. Motivation theory analyzes the why of human behaviour as a means of understanding people’s decision-making processes. But people’s motivations are more complicated than we might think, because decisions are usually based on several factors that may or may not be context-specific.

My research looks at how people can be motivated to innovate: I study learning environments, leadership strategies and how to develop innovation potential. Understanding motivation in innovation can help us understand how we make decisions in unusual times.

Motivation depends on what’s going on

Motivation as a field of study can be found in the writings of the Greek philosopher Plutarch and the Bhagavad Gita — among many other ancient texts — although focused psychological studies or motivation dynamics are rather recent. In the past century, motivation theory has looked at whether motivation is extrinsic or intrinsic to a task.

Those of us who study motivation have many theories to choose from, each with strengths and weaknesses. You would, however, be hard-pressed to find a framework more easily transferable than expectancy-value-cost theory (EVC), which understands motivation as uniquely contextual for each situation.

One way to think of it is as a dynamic interaction of the expectancies (confidence in the outcome) and values (what makes it valuable) going up against the perceived costs related to a given task to a given person in a given context. If your held expectancies and values outweigh your perceived costs, you are likely motivated to complete the task, and vice versa.

What drove people to buy up toilet paper?

For most of March and April 2020, it was pretty hard to come by toilet paper because it was literally rolling off the shelves. People were panic-buying toilet paper in bulk, and supply couldn’t keep up with demand.

Applying EVC theory suggests that people were increasingly motivated to buy toilet paper because of a perceived need to be prepared. The increase in perceived value went unchecked, and plenty of people’s motivation to buy toilet paper went through the roof as fast as their probably sound reasoning went down the drain.

Increasing, explaining or revealing the values of any task (good or bad) makes it more likely that someone will do it. When you effectively communicating why people should behave in a certain way by explaining the value of a decision or choice, they are more likely to behave in that way.

How did people adjust to working from home?

A public health mandate may have necessitated many people to work from home, but until many people actually had settled into working from home, few would have believed that they could passably perform their role from home. Folks might have been nervous or unconfident in their ability to accomplish their role early on, but over time, people grew into working from home or in whatever changed circumstance they found themselves working in.

In other words, we adapted to the reality in front of us. Lots of people would now be more likely to think it’s possible to capably manage working from home.

Our expectations of success are built by our lived experiences, especially the unplanned ones, and we are more comfortable doing what we have done in the past. These experiences change what we believe ourselves to be capable of doing.

Motivating a desired outcome

EVC theory can be applied to increase the chances of a specific outcome. As a first step, EVC theory splits the factors into two groups, those that promote the task outcome and those that hinder the task outcome. Naturally, we would want to make the promoting factors as big as possible and the hindering factors as small as possible as for instance innovating or changing thinking .

This makes for a two-pronged approach to motivate people to make the desired choice: maximizing expectancies and values and mitigating costs, such as time investment, isolation, loss of stability, sense of safety and additional effort.

In the case of people adapting to physical distancing (or pretty much anything), providing easily understood information from a trusted source will likely increase the chances of the behaviour. Explaining in clear terms what someone will get from doing something builds one or more types of value, such as fulfilling a communal or shared duty.

This can be applied anywhere, for example, fitness during the pandemic, healthy diets, physical distancing. The key is helping someone see and believe they can do something, explain what the whole point of the exercise is and what they get from doing it (fun, fulfilment, importance or reward) and then work to address their perceived barriers to actually doing it. This turns into the blueprint for driving desired behaviours.The Conversation

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Eleftherios Soleas, Adjunct assistant professor, Education, Queen's University.

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

2020: The Year in Research

A look back at the major initiatives, the funding and awards garnered, and how a community mobilized to respond to and combat COVID-19.

In recent years, we have taken a moment each December to highlight some of the research that has captured our attention over the previous 12 months.

2020 was not a normal year. It challenged us, tested us, and saw our research community pivot in creative and unexpected ways to respond to the global crisis. Through all of this, research prominence remained a key driver for Queen’s and our researchers continued to make national and international headlines for their discoveries and award-winning scholarship.

Join us as we review some of the highlights of 2020.

[Photo of Hailey Poole dispensing hand sanitizer]
A team of Queen’s researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering along with GreenCentre Canada partnered with Kingston Health Sciences Centre and Tri-Art Manufacturing (Kingston) to develop hand sanitizer, producing up to 300 litres of product per week to help meet the needs of Kingston hospitals.

COVID-19 Response: Mobilizing as a Community to Confront COVID-19

In the early days of the pandemic, Queen’s researchers across disciplines were active in offering commentary and fact-based analysis on COVID-19-related issues – from understanding if DNA is key to whether you get COVID and helping to diagnose unusual symptoms related to COVID stress to suggesting 5-min workouts you can do at home. Many of these analyses were carried on national and international news platforms, demonstrating the critical contribution that researchers and academics can make to informing the conversation.

When news of PPE and ventilator shortages and test wait times hit international media, research and student groups across campus leveraged their skills to come up with innovative solutions. Here are a few examples:

  • A team of researchers from the Departments of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering, along with GreenCentre Canada, partnered with Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC) and Tri-Art Manufacturing (Kingston) to make 300 litres of hand sanitizer per week to help meet the needs of Kingston hospitals
  • Researchers from Queen’s University and KHSC partnered with Public Health Ontario Laboratories and Hamilton Health Sciences Center to develop an in-house COVID test that can provide results in 24 hours
  • Faculty and students at the Human Mobility Research Centre and Ingenuity Labs joined forces with KHSC health professionals to take on the Code Life Ventilator Challenge, a global call to design a low-cost and easy-to-manufacture ventilator that can be created and deployed anywhere around the world
  • Queen’s Noble Laureate, Dr. Arthur B. McDonald, led the Canadian arm of the Mechanical Ventilator Milano project, which aimed to create an easy-to-build ventilator that can help treat COVID-19 patients. In May, the Government of Canada announced an agreement with Vexos to produce 10,000 Mechanical Ventilator Milano (MVM) units and in September the ventilators received Health Canada approval
(Photo by Matthew Manor / Kingston Health Sciences Centre)
Queen’s University and Kingston Health Sciences Centres (KHSC) partnered with Public Health Ontario Laboratories and Hamilton Health Sciences Center to develop an in-house test for COVID-19 that can be completed in large volumes and provide results in 24 hours. (Photo by Matthew Manor / Kingston Health Sciences Centre)

The Vice-Principal (Research) Portfolio also quickly mobilized to offer Rapid Response funding, which was awarded to advance 20 research projects supporting medical and social coronavirus-related solutions. Queen’s researchers also partnered with industry to transform pandemic decision-making and healthcare through two Digital Technology Supercluster projects, Looking Glass and Project ACTT, focused on predictive modelling and cancer testing and treatment. The projects received over $4 million in funding from the Government of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster’s COVID-19 program.

Funding Future Research

Queen’s continued to attract leading researchers and competitive funding and awards through a number of national and international programs.

[Rendering of the MVM Ventilator]
A team of Canadian physicists, led by Queen’s Nobel Laureate Art McDonald, is part of an international effort to design the MVM Ventilator. With support from Canadian philanthropists and Queen's alumni the project was able to progress, leading to an order of 10,000 units from the Government of Canada.

Hundreds of grants for new projects and research infrastructure were secured through CHIR, SSHRC, NSERC and CFI, Canada’s national funding agencies. Seven multidisciplinary Queen’s research projects received $1.7 million in support from the New Frontiers in Research Fund (NFRF) 2019 Exploration competition, a program that fosters discovery and innovation by encouraging Canadian researchers to explore, take risks, and work with partners across disciplines and borders. Additionally, The Canadian Cancer Trials Group, SNOLAB, and Canada’s National Design Network, all of which are Queen’s-affiliated research facilities, saw a funding increase of over $60 million through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s Major Sciences Initiatives fund. The Institute for Sustainable Finance received a boost of $5 million from Canada’s big banks to support ISF’s mission of aligning mainstream financial markets with Canada’s transition to a lower carbon economy.

The university welcomed and appointed seven new and two renewed Canada Research Chairs (CRC) in two rounds (September and December 2020) of CRC competition announced this year. One of the country’s highest research honours, Queen’s is now home to over 50 Canada Research Chairs. Queen’s also welcomed seven promising new researchers through the Vanier Canada Graduate Scholars and Banting Post-Doctoral Fellowship programs.

Recognizing Research Leadership

2020 saw Queen’s researchers win some of Canada’s top awards and honours for research excellence and the university continues to rank second in Canada for awards per faculty member (2021 Maclean’s University Rankings).

[Photo of Leach’s storm petrel chick by Sabina Wilhelm]
Queen's researchers, from graduate students to Canada Research Chairs, continue to make an impact on our understanding of the world. (Photo by Sabina Wilhelm

Queen’s had a successful year earning fellowships within Canada’s national academies. Nancy van Deusen and Cathleen Crudden were elected to the Fellowship in the Royal Society of Canada, while Amy Latimer-Cheung and Awet Weldemichael were named members of the organization’s College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists. Health research leaders Janet Dancey, Marcia Finlayson, and Graeme Smith were inducted into the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences, and Michael Cunningham and Jean Hutchinson were elected to the Canadian Academy of Engineering.

While our researchers were recognized with dozens of honours throughout the year, below are a few highlights: David Lyon secured Canada’s Molson Prize for pioneering the field of surveillance studies. Education researcher Lynda Colgan received the NSERC Science Promo Prize for her efforts in promoting science to the general public. Heather Castleden was awarded a Fulbright Visiting Research Chair at the University of Hawaii at Mānoa to engage with Native Hawaiians about their leadership in renewable energy projects. A lauded steward of the environment, John Smol received Canada’s Massey Medal for his lifetime of work in studying environmental stressors. The first Indigenous midwife in Canada to earn a doctoral degree, health researcher Karen Lawford was named one of this year’s 12 outstanding Indigenous leaders and received the Indspire Award for Health.

Internally, researchers were honoured with the university’s Prizes for Excellence in Research (Yan-Fei-Liu, Michael Cunningham, and Gabor Fichtinger) and the Distinguished University Professor (Audrey Kobayashi, David Bakhurst, Julian Barling, Glenville Jones, John Smol, Kathleen Lahey) title.

Major Initiatives

The Discover Research@Queen’s campaign was launched to build engagement with the Research@Queen’s website and encouraged 1000s of key external stakeholders to learn more about the research happening at the University. Our community continued to mobilize their research through fact-based analysis on The Conversation Canada’s news platform. In 2020, 79 Queen’s researchers published 85 articles that garnered over 1.9 million views.

[Illustration of the scales of justice by Gary Neill]
Queen's University researchers Samuel Dahan and Xiaodan Zhu are using AI to level the legal playing field for Canadians, including those affected by COVID-19 unemployment.

This year marked the fifth anniversary of the Art of Research photo contest with over 100 faculty, staff, students, and alumni submitting engaging and thought-provoking research images. Ten category and special prizes were awarded.

The WE-Can (Women Entrepreneurs Canada) program through Queen’s Partnership and Innovation (QPI) celebrated one year of supporting women entrepreneurs in Kingston and the surrounding area, through programs such as Compass North and LEAD.  The QPI team also marked one year at its new downtown Kingston location, the Seaway Coworking building, which allows easy access for the community and partners.

To support researchers thinking outside of the box to solve some of humanity’s most complex problems, the Vice-Principal (Research) portfolio launched the Wicked Ideas competition to fund high risk, high reward projects with interdisciplinary teams that are not easily supported through traditional funding opportunities. Twelve projects received funding in round one and researchers can now apply for round two.


Congratulations to the Queen’s research community for their resilience and successes this year. We look forward to seeing what new research and opportunities 2021 will bring. To learn more about research at the university, visit the Research@Queen’s website, and for information about research promotion, contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives.

[Art of Photo by Hayden Wainwright]
2020 Art of Research Photo Contest Winner: Hayden Wainwright (MSc Biology), Nature's van Gogh (Category: Out in the Field)

Internal funding for global impact

The Wicked Ideas research competition is now open for applications with notice of intent due Jan. 6.

The Vice-Principal (Research) is offering close to $2 million in funding for Queen’s researchers who are thinking outside of the box to solve some of humanity’s most complex problems.

[Wicked Ideas Graphic]

The Wicked Ideas Competition is open for its second year as an initiative to fund high risk, high reward projects with interdisciplinary teams that are not easily supported through traditional funding opportunities. The goal is to provide Queen’s researchers with the initial support to collaborate and apply their expertise towards wicked problems, issues so complex and dependent on so many factors that it is hard to grasp what exactly the problem is or how to tackle it. This year the initiative supported innovative approaches to cleantech, Lyme disease, and microplastics.

The Competition

This year’s competition will have two application streams. A minimum of 10 teams will be funded through the Interdisciplinary Stream where team members will be from multiple disciplines. The Discipline Specific Stream will fund a maximum of five teams where members can be from within a given discipline. The competition is open to all Queen’s faculty members, and teams can also leverage the expertise of students, post-doctoral fellows, and community members, to name a few, as members. Up to 15 teams successful in the first phase of the competition will be awarded $75,000.

To compete for the second phase of funding, teams will be invited to pitch their projects to an adjudication panel made up of researchers, community members, industry, and other partners. Up to five successful teams from this round will receive an additional $150,000. Projects can concentrate on local, national, or global challenges and should focus on novel approaches (high risk) and disruptive or transformative thinking (high reward). Participating teams will also be asked about their potential knowledge mobilization outcomes and how this research could impact the community or lead to further partnerships for implementation and collaboration.

"The first Wicked Ideas competition supported exciting projects that are addressing complex issues in creative and innovative ways with the potential to lead to additional funding through the government’s New Frontiers in Research program," says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice-Principal (Research). "I very much look forward to the response of the research community to this year’s opportunity."

Notice of Intent

Notice of Intent applications are due Jan. 6, 2021. For more information on the initiative and how to submit your project, see the Vice-Principal (Research) Office.

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