Engaging the Future

Draft Report of the Task Force on Strategic Planning

June 22, 2006

4. Building the Research-Intensive University


The external environment for research is changing. Over the last decade, initiatives such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Research Chairs program, and their provincial counterparts have reestablished this country on the map of international research and have made it possible to recruit outstanding faculty, in many cases repatriated from abroad, who see new promise and possibility for their scholarly careers in Canada. We will continue to work with the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada to ensure that future growth in public research funding extends to all disciplines, and particularly the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

"The University's identity and reputation are integrally related to Western's research profile."

With these opportunities also come the challenges of competition: Western competes with universities, research institutes and regional research consortia across Canada for funding. A further dimension of the new Canadian research culture is the involvement of the private sector: in some government funding competitions, a component of the total funding package is to be secured from external sources. In some cases, these partnerships go beyond financial support and involve knowledge transfer and the possibility of commercialization of research discoveries. Effective interaction with government, institutional, public and private sector partners should be fostered, with appropriate safeguards for academic freedom and intellectual property.

The University's identity and reputation are integrally related to Western's research profile. With over $180 million in research activity in 2005-06, Western is one of the leading research-intensive universities in Canada. With our affiliated research institutions, Western ranks second in Ontario in overall research expenditures, accounting for roughly 13%; in the most recent Canada Foundation for Innovation competition, we placed second in the province. In the current very competitive environment, however, our relative ranking among Canada's research universities is at risk, and we need to take action to maintain our place among Canada's leading research universities.

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The University put forward its institutional priorities and commitments in a Strategic Research Plan in the Fall of 2003. By focussing priorities, the Strategic Research Plan provided definition and rationale for the vital components that sustain research at our University. Among the Plan's areas of emphasis are:

  • Guiding faculty recruitment and retention: the presence of strong researchers and research programs is an invaluable tool for recruiting faculty members and graduate students.
  • Providing appropriate infrastructure and services in support of research: active facilitation is instrumental in the University's success in securing funding to support both basic and applied research across the disciplines.
  • Fostering interdisciplinary and broad research initiatives: the evolving nature of scholarship in many areas is crossing traditional disciplinary boundaries and encouraging collaborative work.
  • Establishing discipline-appropriate, clear, and transparent measures of research success and progress: defining the criteria by which we evaluate our research activities is vital to measuring our development and our level of success.

Meaningful benchmarks are essential in setting objectives and demonstrating our progress toward them. This is also a necessary factor in determining Western's place in the context of comparative provincial, national and international levels of achievement. We must also recognize that criteria will differ across the disciplines and develop measures that recognize, respect and celebrate individual as well as collaborative research.

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Our Commitments:

  1. Western will provide the research infrastructure and support required to ensure a strong position among Canada’s leading research‑intensive universities. We will:

4.1 - Ensure that Western has the right facilities in the right places with the right people and equipment to maximize research synergies and success. This is especially important in the assignment and configuration of space to promote scholarly interaction among students, post-doctoral fellows, faculty and staff.

4.2 - Increase the involvement of undergraduate students through courses and programs that expose them to the excitement and challenge of university-level research.

4.3 - Emphasize the importance of knowledge transfer, technology transfer, contract research, and commercialization of research discoveries, and track progress in all of these areas. Relative to their levels in 2005-06, we set a five-year goal of 100% for increases in: contract research, licensing income, and announcements of discoveries.

4.4 - Promote interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary research through appointments, academic programs and space allocations that reflect inclusiveness and collaboration.

4.5 - Celebrate and reward research excellence that defines Western's international research stature across the disciplines.

4.6 - Track research funding per faculty member from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and total research funding from the Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR), and seek to be in the first rank among Canadian universities by these measures.

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