March 16, 2011

Knowledge Mobilization and Climate Change


On March 1st, York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit and the Climate Consortium for Research Action Integration (CC-RAI) co-hosted the York University Climate Change Policy & Research Day. This was the biggest event held so far as part of the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change project. The event demonstrated the value of seeking far greater research collaboration between researchers and policy makers to tackle climate change with the urgency it deserves.
Policy and Research DayWe were fortunate to have as our chair Karen Kraft Sloan, Special Advisor on the Environment to the Vice President Research and Innovation, Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Environmental Studies and Canada’s former Ambassador on the Environment.

This event brought together 3 distinct groups:

  • Policy staff from local and regional governments and community organizations from City of Toronto, the Region of Durham, the Region of Peel, Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Association for Canadian Education Resources (ACER), and York Region;
  • Researchers from York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Peter Victor, Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LAPS) Ali Asgary, Richard Bello, David Etkin, as well as Science & Engineering (FSE) Huaiping Zhu; and
  • Graduate students from across various academic disciplines.

Policy Research Day CrowdIn the morning, an audience of York graduate students and faculty as well as other invited policy staff observed an open forum between policy staff and researchers. The policy makers presented on climate change issues they face, shared adaptation strategies, and identified areas where they need expert opinions and more research. York’s professors responded with their ideas and presented their latest research on climate change impacts and adaptation.

Karen Kraft SloanResearchers and policy makers came together to address research gaps and explore potential research collaborations. For instance, the City of Toronto sought opinions on the best way to build a business case for adaptation to climate change while the Region of Peel was interested in working with York’s professors to develop a regional database of environmental statistics and economic data to help them in their decision making. The researchers, many of whom advise national governments on best practices for mitigating and adapting to climate change, were excited by the prospect of working with local policy makers towards home-grown solutions.
Students, policy partners, and faculty“It was really good for me personally to know the people who are working in this area and [I] would welcome any opportunity to collaborate with them in this very important line of research” said Ali Asgary, who is the Graduate Program Director of the York MA program in Disaster & Emergency Management.

Collaborations like this are key to getting Canada as a whole to achieve fair, ambitious, and binding carbon emissions reductions. “I enjoyed the panel discussions … the interaction between the academic/research perspective and the policy participants’ viewpoint was very interesting” said Nancy Rutherford who is the Principal Planner in the Policy Planning Branch at the Region of Durham.
York graduate students greatly enjoyed the lively panel. “I very much enjoyed the presentation. I gained a lot of valuable information” said Maryum Sherazi, a Masters of Environmental Studies (MES) student at York University. “I also enjoyed getting insights on the relationship between the policy makers and the researchers.”

Faculty (front to back): Etkinds, Bello, Victor, Asgary, ZhuStudents and policy makers mingled in the afternoon session, which emphasized career pathing. “It was a valuable chance to meet senior policy makers who are doing such important work on climate change,” said Erica Stahl, a candidate in the joint MES/JD program at York University studying climate change and social justice. “Sometimes you forget that you can turn your passion into a career, and that your job can help make the world a better place. This event got me inspired again.” Everyone involved expressed their desire to build on the relationships forged at this event. “[It was] inspiring to meet [a] group working together towards greatest impact [on this issue]” wrote one participant in their evaluation form for the event.

The Knowledge Mobilization Unit worked with the organizations represented on the panel to profile a competition for five paid summer internships at the City of Toronto, the Region of Durham, Toronto Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), the Association for Canadian Education Resources (ACER); and York Region.

CC-RAI would like to thanks our policy partners for taking part as well as York faculty.

In the fall of 2011, the Knowledge Mobilization for Climate Change Project will host its Research Forum. This event will build on the successes of the Policy and Research Day and profile the student interns who will have completed their placements with our policy partners. March 1st was just the beginning.

This event also had a social media presence. It was live tweeted by a number of our participants with the hashtag #KMbCC. For a full transcript of the tweets, please see here. Gary Myers, Digital Researcher at York’s Knowledge Mobilization Unit also wrote about the event on his blog, KMbeing. You may read Gary’s post by clicking here.

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