Advancing knowledge, furthering our collective understanding

- July 9, 2020

Researchers from Dal have received $1.6 million for their innovative social sciences and humanities projects through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grants program.

SSHRC is one of the three federal granting councils responsible for supporting the researchers and scholars who are strengthening science and evidence-based decision-making, while nurturing a culture of curiosity in Canada. The Insight Grants program supports research excellence in the social sciences and humanities. Funding is available to both emerging and established scholars for research initiatives of two to five years. This stable support for long-term research initiatives is central to advancing knowledge, as it enables scholars to address complex issues about individuals and societies, and further our collective understanding.

“We are very proud of all the SSHRC Insight Grant recipients from Dalhousie,” says Alice Aiken, Dal vice-president of research and innovation. “The discoveries made by these researchers will give us a greater understanding of the world around us and provide the government with evidence to make sound policy decisions about families and communities, health and the environment, and jobs.”

The announcement was made on Tuesday, July 7, 2020. A total of $91 million in funding was awarded to 1,253 researchers from 60 different institutions across Canada.

Highlights of some of the successfully funded projects:

Dr. Elaine Craig

Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law

There have been decades of law reforms in Canada aimed at eliminating discriminatory stereotypes and practices from Canadian sexual assault law. Yet the impact of these ground-breaking reforms, in terms of rates of reporting, conviction, attrition, and sexualized violence itself, has been negligible.
While there has been a great deal of caselaw research examining judicial reasoning in sexual assault cases, and some empirical work examining the policing stage of the process, there has been very little study of Crown processing of sexual assault cases, the practice of sexual assault law by lawyers or sexual assault trials themselves. Put simply, there is much that we do not know about the legal process in sexual assault cases in Canada. To understand why law reforms have fallen short and to determine how we might advance legal responses to sexualized violence in ways that will achieve measurable improvements, we need to know more about the processing of sexual assault cases. Similarly, the effectiveness of new initiatives, such as specialized sexual assault prosecutors and state-funded independent legal advice for survivors, cannot be assessed without a better understanding of their impact on the legal process.
The overarching objective of Dr. Craig’s research project is to increase this knowledge and understanding, and will be pursued by examining the patterns of decision-making and the practices and perspectives of crown prosecutors. The results of this study will improve public awareness regarding sexual assault cases, which may assist with both barriers to reporting and community-based proposals to improve legal responses to sexual violence.

Dr. Pauline Gardiner Barber

Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences

“Welcome to Canada,” beckons the door sign of a Tim Hortons’ café opened in May 2019 in Makati, Manila’s booming financial district. The café is one of over 100 to open since 2017. Inside, youthful middle-class customers view a large map of Canada in an upscale décor. Despite a complex history of foreign ownership, the brand has long been associated with a quintessential working-class Canadian identity.

Dr. Pauline Gardiner Barber’s project “Fast Food: Slow Migration” investigates the enduring, multi-generational, multi-directional social relationships that shape and are shaped by the mobilities reflected in the arrival of Tim Hortons in Manila. Questions that Dr. Gardiner Barber and her research team are asking include “Why does Tim Hortons now emerge as a significant contender for the attention of youthful customers?” and “What role does migration play in constituting a new Filipino middle-class being courted by symbols of Canadian identity, and to what end?”

Through her research, Dr. Gardiner Barber hopes to produce a new study of the circulating mobilities in the ever-shifting migration corridor connecting the Philippines to Canada, and through the Tim Hortons' case, to analyze the growing role of multi-national corporations in this migration corridor.

Dr. Anna MacLeod

Professor, Faculty of Medicine and Director, Education Research

Medical education is experiencing a mental health crisis. Medical students are consistently found to experience depression, emotional exhaustion, and suicidal ideation at significantly higher rates than the general population. There are multiple factors that contribute to these mental health challenges; however, many believe that inevitable experiences with death, a lack of time and support to unpack these profound experiences, and a privileging of emotional neutrality/detachment may contribute.
As Canadian medical education becomes increasingly competency-based, there may be even less opportunity for reflection with respect to profound emotional experiences, like death. Given this combination of factors, Dr. Anna MacLeod’s Dalhousie-based research team, which includes Dr. Sarah Burm, Dr. Simon Field, Olga Kits, Dr. Stephen Miller, and Dr. Wendy Stewart, believes it's time to critically investigate the formal and informal ways in which medical students learn about death and dying in undergraduate medical education.
Dr. MacLeod’s research team will be conducting a four-year ethnographic investigation that will follow a group of medical students through their degree. The team will analyze curriculum, perform focused observations, and conduct in-depth interviews with students to explore discursive engagement with experiences of death. By turning a focused eye to the emotional socialization of medical students, and the experiences of death and dying within it, this research team is hoping to help contribute to a solid footing for a healthier future practice. Canadians will benefit, in the long term, from doctors who are emotionally prepared for experiences of death and dying, and therefore able to be more empathetic and, importantly, mentally well.

Dr. Jamie Baxter

Associate Professor, Schulich School of Law

Atlantic Canada’s food systems are under enormous strain. Farmers in the region struggle to maintain sustainable businesses at scale, even as rural communities deal with the combined pressures of aging populations, declining social services, industry concentration, out-migration and rural poverty.

Farming and harvesting in Atlantic Canada contribute to climate change and other environmental problems such as biodiversity loss, while food production across the region grows more difficult and uncertain as a result. Atlantic Canadians experience the highest levels of food insecurity in Canada outside the North, and suffer from high rates of chronic disease from unhealthy diets. All of these problems are interconnected across and within the region’s food systems.

This complex set of problems is increasingly being addressed through novel forms of collaborative food systems governance that demand participation and leadership from both government and non-government actors. Working closely with participants in these emerging governance structures from around Atlantic Canada, Dr. Baxter’s project will help us to understand how the rules and policies that shape our regional food systems are being developed in new ways, using new structures of decision-making and implementation. By integrating legal and policy analyses to explore opportunities for collaborative food systems governance, this research will produce insights for knowledge users undertaking the work of building these new structures (both in Atlantic Canada and other regions), for provincial and municipal policymakers participating in these arrangements or developing facilitative laws and policies, and for researchers working on a range of place-based policy issues that call for innovative responses to governance challenges.

The following researchers from Dal also received funding from SSHRC Insight grants:

•    Dr. John Cameron, Associate Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
•    Dr. Catrina Brown, Associate Professor, Faculty of Health
•    Dr. Sandra Meier, Associate Professor, Faculty of Medicine
•    Dr. Aaron Newman, Professor, Faculty of Science
•    Dr. Julia Wright, Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
•    Dr. Melanie Zurba, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Management

For more information, visit the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council’s website.


All comments require a name and email address. You may also choose to log-in using your preferred social network or register with Disqus, the software we use for our commenting system. Join the conversation, but keep it clean, stay on the topic and be brief. Read comments policy.

comments powered by Disqus