Advancing research in uncertain times
Amir Asif
Vice-President Research & Innovation

York University

The unexpected COVID-19 pandemic reminded us all that we live in uncertain times. Yet, despite challenges, York University persevered, not only delivering courses remotely but continuing to advance our research agenda by investing in innovative initiatives to drive positive change for our local and global communities.

The tenor of our times underscores the importance of making the world a better place to live. The University's current academic plan is centered around Building a Better Future. To work towards that goal, all of York's current endeavours are underpinned by our commitment to shared values, including the promotion of social justice, diversity, and the public good with an emphasis on contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs help guide our research, connecting well with the university's reputation as a research leader that crosses disciplinary boundaries.

This January, York awarded $4.05 million to 13 interdisciplinary research projects conducted by our Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Clusters (CIRCs). CIRC, now in its second year, fosters interdisciplinary collaboration, global research excellence and world-class training opportunities while supporting critical research to advance York's SDGs contributions.

The newly funded CIRCs include projects that address numerous SDGs, such as reducing inequality (Designing Sound Futures: Inclusive Design and Transdisciplinary STEAM Learning); promoting good health and wellbeing (Overcoming Epidemics: Transnational Black Communities' Response, Recovery and Resilience); and sustaining clean water resources and security (Detection and Remediation of Water Contaminants).

Providing research opportunities for students is another way to advance York's research agenda. Students are our future, and we are committed to providing them with the knowledge and abilities that allow them to be impactful members of their communities and the world at large. For example, the Lassonde School of Engineering offers a summer research program that provides undergraduate students with experiential learning opportunities. Last summer, 90 students worked alongside Lassonde faculty on a variety of projects focusing on the SDGs. Raneem Ayoub contributed to Sustainable Cities and Communities by researching Dynamic Parking Pricing Using Real-Time Payment Data, while John Li Chen Hok explored Lead in Decentralized Drinking Water Systems to address clean water and sanitation.

Our undergraduate Liberal Arts & Professional Studies students can also engage in summer research as part of the DARE (Dean's Award for Research Excellence), which provides hands-on research opportunities and one-to-one mentoring. In 2022, 42 students were accepted into this competitive program. For instance, Kayla Saunders, a Gender & Women's Studies student, worked with Gail Vanstone, an associate professor of humanities, to produce an annotated bibliography of Indigenous films and writing created between 2000 and 2022.

In partnership with the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, York University will host the 2023 Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, the largest academic gathering in Canada, and one of the largest in the world. Centered on the theme of Reckonings and Re-Imaginings, Congress brings together 8000 scholars, graduate students and practitioners representing 67 academic associations from humanities and social sciences disciplines.

As a research-intensive University, York is also committed to enhancing the health and well-being of the communities we serve. York's future vision includes a new medical school in the neighbouring City of Vaughan. Our outstanding health research currently spans all 11 Faculties and develops innovative approaches to solving pressing questions in health care, disease and injury prevention, and the digital delivery of health care.

The creation of a medical school will boost the University's strength in health research by providing real-world inspiration for cutting-edge new research and knowledge translation. Led by our 37 Research Chairs in Health, York has already seen strong growth in knowledge mobilization and technology-transfer in health-related areas with early and late-stage innovations in mobility technology; future opportunities beckon.

If we continue to invest in innovative research that addresses the problems of today and tomorrow, York will be able to lay claim to one of its catchphrases: Right the Future.