Wendy H. Wong honoured by Royal Society of Canada as a new member of the College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists

September 7, 2021 by Sean McNeely - A&S News

Wendy H. Wong, an award-winning scholar, recognized internationally for her work on the impact of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the growth of human rights has been named to the Royal Society of Canada’s (RSC’s) College of New Scholars, Artists and Scientists.

The college recognizes up-and-coming researchers who have demonstrated a high level of achievement in their careers to date.

Wong is a professor in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Department of Political Science, a research lead at the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society, and a Canada Research Chair, Global Governance and Civil Society.

“It’s such an honor to be invited to join such a distinguished group of scholars, in recognition of my achievements to this point,” says Wong. “I look forward to contributing to this interdisciplinary community!”

According to the society, Wong is “an award-winning, curiosity-driven and policy-relevant scholar, recognized internationally for her work.”

She is one of three Faculty of Arts & Science scholars recognized by the RSC in 2021.

Alexie Tcheuyap has been named a fellow. Tcheuyap is a professor in the Department of French; served as vice-dean, faculty, academic life & equity; and is now associate vice-president and vice-provost, international student experience.

Norman Murray, a professor in the Faculty of Arts & Science’s Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA), and a former CITA director, joins Tcheuyap as an RSC fellow.

“This year, the Royal Society of Canada recognizes three scholars whose work reflects the depth and diversity of the Faculty of Arts & Science,” says Melanie Woodin, dean of the Faculty.

“While studying such far-ranging disciplines as astrophysical dynamics; African literary, cinema and media studies; and global affairs, they share the same insightfulness, passion and curiosity. We’re very excited and proud that they have received these well-deserved honours.”

Since Wong received her PhD in 2008, the Canadian Research Chair program, SSHRC, and the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research have each singled her out for critical support, leading her to be considered one of the strongest voices in NGO research.

As well, Wong has also written two books and published nearly 30 peer-reviewed and non peer-reviewed articles in a variety of academic journals and books.

Her first book, Internal Affairs, won the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) Outstanding Book Award in 2014.

Internal Affairs emphasized the importance of understanding the organizational structure of NGOs in order to draw conclusions about their influence on international human rights.

Her second book, The Authority Trap (2017) which she co-authored won the same ARNOVA award in 2019. The Authority Trap argues that more authority leads international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) to make more conservative choices, hence, the “trap.”

The book creates a measurable standard of INGO “power” and documents INGOs varying ability to influence various global audiences. It then shows how these different abilities affect the strategies adopted by INGOs in their efforts to address human rights, environment, humanitarianism and development.

With being named to the RSC, Wong intends to use her newfound network to greatly expand her research, discover new collaborators, and discuss new ideas, including her forthcoming book with MIT Press, which explores the profound impact of datafication on human rights. The growth of Big Data and Artificial Intelligence (AI) “reveals a painful truth: human rights need a serious reboot, soon,” says Wong.

Coupled with her role as Research Lead at the Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society continues, she hopes to probe more deeply the relationship between human rights and emerging technologies.

With all of this and several other research projects on the horizon, it’s no surprise that Wong is “excited to learn from colleagues in different fields and at different universities throughout Canada to gain insights into how we can use our research to move forward on tackling global problems.

“Many of the most pressing and interesting questions before us require interdisciplinary collaboration to solve,” adds Wong. “Things like the datafication of human life, or global warming, or human rights are all challenges that cannot be resolved through one approach.”

Wong also intends to continue her contributions to public debates and causes. She was a regular guest blogger with the international relations blog Duck of Minerva. She’s been an invited panelist and presenter at numerous NGO- and human rights-related international conferences this year, and she’s been a guest on a number of popular radio broadcasts and podcasts, in addition to contributing articles to newspapers such as the Toronto Star, National Post and The Globe and Mail.

All of this work aligns perfectly with the RSC’s goal of placing a brighter spotlight on the work of academic scholars.

“Part of the RSC College’s mandate emphasizes engaging the public through our research,” says Wong. “I intend to look for opportunities to reach non-academic audiences with my findings. In so doing, I would like to explain the importance of political science and social sciences more generally in understanding our modern world.”

“I’m delighted, but not surprised, to learn that Wendy has been invited to join the College of New Scholars,” says Ryan Balot, the Department of Political Science’s acting chair.

“Wendy’s work is creative, wide-ranging and interdisciplinary. It is a source of inspiration to both students and colleagues. Along with her impressive scholarly achievements, Wendy has continually demonstrated the relevance of her work to public policy and to wider political discourse.”