Video series showcases law profs’ research

Research Byte logo

Last summer, Americans tuning in to “The Academic Minute” on 28 radio stations across their land might have heard York’s Allan Hutchinson talking about his new book, Is Eating People Wrong?: Great Legal Cases and How they Shaped the World.

In 100 seconds, the Osgoode Hall Law School distinguished research professor (and interim dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies) introduced listeners to a case that still captivates lay and legal Allan Hutchinson in the first Research Byteaudiences, and exemplifies the complexity of common law. (See YFile story, June 10, 2011.)

Allan Hutchinson in the first Research Byte

Hutchinson was the first York prof (and York was the first Canadian university) to make it onto “The Academic Minute” – and he won’t be the last. Staff in Osgoode’s Research Office, led by Lisa Philipps, then Osgoode’s associate dean of research, had pitched him and his book after hearing about the popular show at a conference last spring. Then they got ideas of their own.

“How could we take ‘The Academic Minute’ and make it into something more visible?” remembers research officer Laurie Cormack, of that first brainstorming session. “Why don’t we do videos?” came the answer. Let’s call them Research Bytes, suggested then research coordinator Inbal Research Byte logoMarcovitch.

It would be a series of videos posted on the Osgoode website featuring law professors answering a question about, or explaining an aspect of, their research in three minutes or less and in easy-to-understand language.

Osgoode Dean Lorne Sossin loved the idea and provided funding for a pilot project. The funds would cover the costs of production by the University Information Technology crew.

Hutchinson agreed to do the first Research Byte. Then the research team began approaching other profs in the hall, at events, wherever, whenever. They had no trouble finding participants.

So far, six videos have been produced for Research Bytes. Four have been posted on Osgoode’s website, including Hutchinson talking about his book, Lisa Philipps on income splitting and Jamie Cameron on Lisa Philipps talks about income splitting, in her Research Byte journalists and their secret sources.

Lisa Philipps talks about income splitting, in her Research Byte

Most recently, Benjamin Berger answers the question, “What is the just and appropriate relationship among religion, law and public life?” in his Research Byte.

Three more videos will be released over the next three months – Aaron Dhir on diversity on corporate boards, in February; Faisal Bhabha, on 50 years of the Ontario Human Rights Code, in March; and Giuseppina D’Agostino, on the legal implications of commercializing intellectual property rights, in April. The plan is to roll out one video every month.

Judging by alumni responses, “it’s become quite a success,” says Cormack.  “It’s probably the fastest way to move knowledge electronically.” She notes it’s a great vehicle for Benjamin Berger talks about law, religion and public life, in his Research Byteknowledge mobilization.

Benjamin Berger talks about law, religion and public life, in his Research Byte

The pilot project is over, but Research Bytes will likely find the support it needs to continue, says Poonam Puri, Osgoode associate dean of research, graduate studies and institutional relations.

Down the road, Research Bytes will be more than professors talking on camera. There are plans to videotape graduate students responding to what the profs say, and create a dialogue. This future dimension to the project would be coordinated with the Faculty of Graduate Studies, a partner in Research Bytes.