Research Working Group holds inaugural meeting, responds to task force recommendations

Featured image for the postdoc research story shows the word research in black type on a white background
Featured image for the postdoc research story shows the word research in black type on a white background

Responding to recommendations from the York University Task Force on Sustainability Research, the Research Working Group held its inaugural meeting on March 29.

York University is committed to supporting the growth and development of initiatives to enable the recognition of the University as a Canadian leader in sustainability research. The President’s Sustainability Council was created by President and Vice-Chancellor Mamdouh Shoukri in his first term as a reflection of this commitment.

“Forging a just and sustainable world” is one of the key themes in York’s strategic research plan Building on Strength. Similarly, public engagement for a just and sustainable world has been identified as one of five compelling areas of opportunity for the development of research at York over the next five years.

York University’s Keele campus

Much of the research in sustainability is conducted in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, but it also occurs in our Faculties of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies, Science, Health and Education; the Schulich School of Business; the School of the Arts, Media, Performance & Design; Osgoode Hall Law School; the Lassonde School of Engineering; and Glendon College. This illustrates just how multidisciplinary sustainability is at York University.

In 2014-15, a Task Force on Sustainability Research was created to examine options and develop innovative ideas for highlighting and further building York’s research in this area. This task force, chaired by Jennifer Foster (Faculty of Environmental Studies), leveraged collegial expertise and solicited broad advice on recommendations towards how York University can further advance research opportunities in this area.

The task force engaged in a two-phase consultative process, which included presentations to and consultations with members of the York University community, as well as meetings and discussions with student groups, three open forums where communi­ty members could contribute their input and online surveys. In addition, the draft report was circulated to a range of external partners who were consulted for feedback.

Task force report makes 21 recommendations

The task force released its final report in 2016, which highlights 21 recommendations for the continued support, cultivation, integration and dissemination of York University’s sustainability research.

“These recommendations were developed through advanced discussions with the York community and consensus-based decision-making within the task force,” said Foster.

The recommendations are:

  • Maintain a comprehensive inventory of sustainability research at York that will be updated regularly and available to York U members;
  • Work towards the establishment of a York-wide Sustainability Research Hub;
  • Conduct an analysis of York U’s sustainability research strengths to identify four to six broad areas where York U researchers are conducting innovative, high-impact, collaborative research; and
  • Coordinate high-level consultation sessions with York U’s external partners to identify the full range of possibilities and strategies for enhancing research collaboration.

Research working group created 

Robert Haché, vice-President research & innovation, said he was pleased to receive the report and looks forward to working with the community towards realizing the vision and recommendations of the task force.

Robert Haché
Robert Haché

“Sustainability research aligns with the core values of the University,” Haché said. “The report reflects tangible progress towards advancing sustainability research initiatives at York.”

In response to recommendations from the York University Task Force on Sustainability Research, a Research Working Group was created to address the research-based goals from the task force recommendations. This group’s inaugural meeting took place on March 29.

Goals in development

The first meeting of the Research Working Group also corresponds to work of the President’s Sustainability Council to develop a Sustainability Strategy for York University. The Research Working Group oriented its initial meeting to developing strategic goals for sustainability research at York, envisioning what York could look like in the year 2050.

The group discussed York’s campuses as “living labs,” mechanisms to connect researchers and break down silos between researchers and campus operations staff, sourcing both internal funding and large-scale external funding, and establishing a Network of Centres of Excellence in Sustainability.

The aim is to complete this document in late April, then host some Town Halls to gain feedback and further input regarding the long-term vision of sustainability. More information and a link to the community survey about the Sustainability Strategy can be found on the website.  All members of the York community are encouraged to complete the survey by April 17.

Importantly, the group is looking for researchers who would be willing to work with this group and do research in this area. If interested, contact Martin Bunch (Faculty of Environmental Studies) or Andrew Plunkett, York’s sustainability coordinator.

To learn more about the Task Force on Sustainability Research, consult the website.