Reflecting on “Research Matters Pop-Up Research Park” at Parliament Hill

By Alexandra Sawatzky (PhD Student, Dept. of Population Medicine) and Dr. Sherilee Harper (Assistant Professor, Dept. of Population Medicine), on behalf of the InukNet Team.

On May 18th, Sheri and I travelled to Ottawa to take part in the “Research Matters Pop-Up Research Park” at Parliament Hill. We were both honoured and humbled to represent the University of Guelph at this gathering.

Shortly after our arrival at Parliament, we headed upstairs to attend Question Period in the House of Commons. Having the chance to experience this snapshot of political life firsthand was incredible, an added bonus to our already stimulating day.

Following Question Period, we made our way down the hall to set up for the Pop-Up Research Park. The Research Park served as an opportunity for us, alongside other Ontario university researchers, students, and industry or community partners, to engage with MPs and other senior government officials to discuss and share our research.

Each pair or group of researchers was asked to stand under a banner displaying a photo that described our work, as well as a catalytic question that was meant to ignite conversation. While there was an incredible diversity of research topics around the room, all topics related to issues impacting Canadians where they live and work. Sheri and I were there to speak about our experiences working alongside the Inuit community of Rigolet, Nunatsiavut, Labrador to develop a participatory environment-health surveillance program. As our work is premised on creating and maintaining strong relationships with this community, we posed the question: Can community-university collaboration enhance Inuit health and wellbeing?

We connected with MPs from across the country, including Yvonne Jones, MP for Labrador. Sheri also had the honour of meeting Dr. Jane Philpott, Minister of Health. Although we were mainly discussing ideas and themes specific to our research, these ideas and themes – such as the theme of collaboration – resonated with everyone we spoke with. Indeed, we also engaged in discussions about the overarching reason that brought us all together in the first place – the importance of strengthening partnerships and communication between research, government, industry, and communities.

Strong partnerships and effective communication are needed in order to support innovation, collaboration, and better futures for all sectors of society. Research-based innovation would not be possible without the partnerships between industry, academia, and government –partnerships that are created and reinforced through events such as this Research Park.

Participating in this event demonstrated to us how important it is to connecting researchers with government, industry, and community representatives throughout the entire research process – from development to implementation to evaluation. Indeed, developing and growing our perspectives on, and approaches to, research and innovation cannot be done in isolation. Rather, creating and pursuing strong partnerships across disciplines and sectors can help us all to pursue better approaches to research, policy, and practice that are aligned with the needs, goals, and priorities of all those involved.

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