Digging through my files, I found my 2005 application for IRIS director. When I started the job in July 2006, I certainly didn’t imagine doing it for so long: for the initial term plus 3 renewed terms: 3 years + 2 years +1 year + 1 year, totalling 7 years over an 8-year period (Prof. Stepan Wood stepped in as acting director, when I went on sabbatical to Harvard and Oxford). Looking back, I’m surprised at how coherent the plan I came up with, actually was. It subsequently evolved, of course, though, at first glance, I’m pretty happy that I was on the right track back then: many of the ideas and goals have been implemented.
- Make it sustainable, integrative, interactive, inclusive and “trans-disciplinary” while simultaneously maintaining a tight research focus in ongoing projects.
- Make it applicable to the broader community (both academic and non-academic)
- Give it a strong science base, and recognize that while science alone will NOT provide the compelling arguments that are needed to make the sustainability issue a top priority for funding, that poor science will harm the chances of long-term success
GOALS FOR THE INSTITUTE
1. Develop and nurture a research environment where cutting edge research aimed at understanding what it would take to bring about a paradigm-shift from an unsustainable to a sustainable approach to our lives, could truly take place. Currently the government of Canada is faced with a variety of threats to our security, from invasive species (including diseases like SARS) to climate change, yet on major issues such as these, the intellectual capacity present in our academic institutions is underutilized. Addressing this gap would be a direct goal in my IRIS.
2. Foster authentic trans-disciplinary research, (not to be confused with multi-disciplinary research), in which academics from Sciences, Social Sciences and Education, as well as areas such as Philosophy and Ethics, and also Business interact in a meaningful way. I see IRIS as a place where the tensions that pervade the standard research funding models of rewarding academics (certainly within Science) for doing more and more narrowly focused research in which the main criteria for evaluating success is primarily numbers of papers published, would be directly addressed, so that research teams would operate at multiple scales in space and time, and not lose the broader focus while at the same time maintaining the output of research papers or books that is used by some of our main federal funding agencies as the primary indicator of success.
Identify key themes for research (e.g. within international, national, business-oriented, public, and NGO areas of activity).
Develop a functional framework for inter-disciplinary collaborations (many groups and instituted claim to be doing this, but few are truly successful).
Develop a fundraising programme that moves beyond the normal sources of Academic funding (NSERC, SSHRC) to identify key private Foundations who can be approached (I realize that much of this groundwork may already have been done).