Pushing the Boundaries of our Research Excellence
Excellence in research is a cornerstone of A&S. The University of Toronto is the top-ranked research institution in the country and, as the largest division within the University, A&S is a major driver of this research excellence. When compared to our Canadian peer institutions, we rank first in most fields in terms of publications and citations. QS rankings indicate that many of our subject areas are ranked among the highest in the world and our impressive international standing serves to attract outstanding students to our programs. At the core of our success is the active engagement of postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, and undergraduate students in our research enterprise. Our researchers hold some of the most prestigious international honours worldwide, including Guggenheim Fellowships, Sloan Fellowships, and Nobel Prizes, as well as domestic honours that include Steacie Prizes, Orders of Canada, and an impressive number of Fellowships of the Royal Society of Canada. Arts & Science faculty serve as editors and associate editors to many of the world’s most influential academic journals in areas spanning the Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences.
In addition to making outstanding theoretical and empirical contributions to their fields, A&S researchers are actively engaged in partnerships with Indigenous communities, industry, governments, and non-governmental organizations to meet social, economic, and environmental challenges and opportunities. Our researchers translate their discovery-based research and innovations into technology transfers through disclosures, licenses, patents, and start-ups. A&S will work with the Dean’s Advisory Committee on Indigenous Teaching & Learning to develop a strategy for supporting Indigenous research and partnerships with Indigenous nations and organizations.
As we move into our new planning phase, we will pursue strategies aimed not only at consolidating our position as a centre for cutting-edge research, but also at seeking new ways to push beyond the curve.
Commitment to Sustainability
Climate change is one of the most significant issues facing the world today. Only by bringing together scholars from across a wide range of disciplines can we hope to achieve solutions to this pressing concern. Many A&S faculty have already developed research programs dedicated to understanding various facets of climate change, ranging from exploring physical changes in the environment, to understanding the psychological barriers that hinder the adoption of sustainable behaviours. With our extraordinary breadth and depth of research, A&S is uniquely situated to continue this research, as well as to develop new partnerships that will leverage our strengths to investigate sustainability, within and across disciplines.
Starting in the fall of 2020, the Faculty will commence consultations on the development of a Strategic Research Plan that both encompasses our existing strengths and identifies new directions. We recognize and will continue to support the value of research that provides disciplinary depth and advances domain-specific knowledge. In addition, we aim to facilitate the development of new and transformative collaborative partnerships, both within and across disciplines, and to enhance our ability to take advantage of emerging funding opportunities, from within the institution to the international stage. This Strategic Research Plan will be developed with the leadership of scholars from across the sectors, through a consultative, iterative process that deeply engages researchers across Arts & Science. The Research Plan will identify existing research excellence as well as emerging priorities that leverage the breadth and depth of expertise from across A&S.
A&S will engage in consultation regarding the possibility of a new Institute for Advanced Study that will bring outstanding A&S faculty from across the Humanities, Sciences, and Social Sciences together with other leading scholars from around the world. The Institute would provide a community in which scholars and students can take advantage of the breadth and depth of A&S to engage in curiosity-driven research that bridges traditional boundaries of individual disciplines.
To facilitate interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral research, the Faculty will pilot a funding program, with a straightforward application and adjudication process, to support new collaborations across units within A&S, aligned with our identified Strategic Research Initiatives. Priority will be given to collaborations across sectors that incorporate undergraduate and graduate students, as well as postdoctoral fellows. Ultimately, this initiative should foster participation and success in Institutional Strategic Initiatives funding and collaborative tri-agency grants.
Arts & Science faculty are successful at acquiring independent investigator-led funding. We can increase our overall research funding, however, by taking advantage of numerous additional funding opportunities, including those from tri-council partnership and training grants, international research collaborations, foundations, and industry. Many of these funding opportunities have complex application and management processes, as they often involve multiple PIs, have international components, and include non-academic partnerships. To optimize researcher success in identifying and acquiring new funding, the Faculty will build supports to: facilitate preparation and submission of applications; identify new industry partners through the hiring of business development staff (for both grant opportunities and industry-sponsored research contracts); facilitate internal grant review; and provide matching funds when necessary, based on availability. These new initiatives will enhance the supports already provided within many of our academic units.
Faculty. A&S is committed to ensuring that every faculty member has the best possible opportunities to achieve and maintain research success. The 2018 external review of A&S highlighted a need for “administrative initiatives to address work-life balance policies for child-bearing leave, or eldercare, which are reported elsewhere as barriers to timely progression toward tenure and beyond for female faculty.” To ensure that all faculty members have the opportunity to progress to Full Professor in a reasonable timeframe, the Faculty will design and implement initiatives aimed at supporting research continuity for faculty members taking leave for the birth or adoption of a child, and Associate Professors who may require additional support in preparing for promotion to Full Professor status. In consultation with the Vice-President, Faculty & Academic Life and relevant stakeholders, we will develop a plan for eligibility criteria, funding amounts, and roll-out of these initiatives. Together, these two initiatives will provide important career development support and promote greater gender equity in distribution of faculty across the ranks.
Postdoctoral Fellowships. Since its inception in 2015, the A&S Postdoctoral Program has been a success in recruiting an extraordinarily talented group of researchers, but new investment is needed to keep pace with the market and attract the best possible applicants, particularly given the increasing cost of living in Toronto. The Faculty will therefore increase the stipend for post-doctoral fellows who are successful applicants to the A&S Postdoctoral Program, and increase the top-up for those who win Tri-Agency postdoctoral scholarships. The Faculty will also consult on a proposal for an internal postdoctoral program, which would require that students complete their PhD studies within a specified, reasonable timeframe. Internal postdoctoral fellowships would provide a subset of recent A&S PhD graduates with valuable time for additional training or preparation before applying for jobs, without having to relocate. Successful applicants would have a one-year opportunity to conduct research and teach within the Faculty or to participate in an internship with an external partner (e.g., NGO, government, industry). Academic units, or external employers, and the Faculty would contribute matching funds to comprise the salary for these fellowships. The intent of such a program is to support graduate students in the timely completion of their studies and provide a pathway to further training and credential-building, smoothing the transition to the job market.
Awards and honours are an important metric for evaluating researchers’ success, and we will ensure that our stellar faculty are recognized locally and internationally by identifying new award opportunities and assisting with the nomination process. We will support our units, particularly those without a robust internal structure for award nominations, in the development or expansion of Awards Committees to identify nominees, drawing on best practices with regard to equity and diversity in award and honour recognition. In addition, the Faculty will establish A&S Research Awards associated with different career levels, to boost recognition of our innovative and accomplished researchers. A&S Communications will develop new tools to showcase the leading-edge research of our faculty and students.
We will look for new opportunities to attract individuals with the potential to raise our research excellence to new heights. We will promote opportunities to bring the best of our undergraduate students into our research, seek ways to increase our complement of highly qualified international graduate students, and continue to grow our thriving community of postdoctoral fellows. In recent years, we have been able to replenish our faculty complement following a period of budgetary restraint. Moving forward, we will seek to hire additional faculty who have the potential to promote transformational change within the Faculty.
We will leverage our strengths to provide the best possible environment for both new and established scholars. We will support researchers in seeking funding, and seed research that enables faculty to build partnerships across disciplines. We will ensure that A&S postdoctoral fellows have resources needed to succeed in their fields. We will promote undergraduate research activity throughout the Faculty. We will work to ensure that our scholars are recognized for their accomplishments within the Faculty and beyond. A new Institute for Advanced Study would provide opportunities for outstanding scholars to come together to solve problems and explore new fields of inquiry. We will ensure that A&S researchers are poised to take advantage of the best possible opportunities to pursue their work and communicate their findings.