Since submitting its first Strategic Plan, the University of Prince Edward Island has had dynamic growth in research capacity, intensity, and success. For example, as Research InfoSource has reported, our year over year increase in research funding for 2001-02 was the second highest in Canada at 127%. Similarly, UPEI has seen greater than a fivefold increase in Tri-Council funding over the past six years.
UPEI is also currently in the design phase for two major additions to our campus research infrastructure and capacity. First, following a National Research Council (NRC) led Research Roadmapping exercise conducted in 2002, it was announced in the federal budget of February 2003 that an NRC research institute will be established in Charlottetown. The NRC institute has a five-year operating budget of $20M (growing to $5M/yr by the fifth year of operation) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and the Province of Prince Edward Island have provided funding for construction of the 50,000 sq.ft. facility. This Institute, the NRC Institute for Nutrisciences and Health (INH) has established its mandate as “serving Canada and local communities through excellence in research by developing and applying nutritional advances and discoveries to optimize health”. This mandate is echoed in the research foci of UPEI articulated in this Strategic Research Plan (Human Health and Development, Comparative Biomedical Sciences, Molecular and Materials Science ,Cognitive and Neurosciences).
The second significant addition to UPEI’s research capacity is the 80,000 sq. ft. expansion to the Atlantic Veterinary College (AVC) scheduled to open in 2005-6. This expansion includes significant additional research space and further enhances capacity for our strategic areas of Aquatic Health Sciences, Comparative Biomedical Sciences, Health and Human Development, and Cognitive and Neurosciences.
The enhanced capacity provided by these new facilities is further bolstered by the targeted, research capacity building support UPEI researchers have received through CFI’s Innovation, Research Development, CRC and New Opportunities programs ($4.7M) and through the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF). Through the AIF, UPEI has received $8.8M to support research and development in Bioresource Innovation, an area which bridges our strategic foci of Comparative Biomedical Sciences, Human Health and Development, Molecular and Materials Science, Cognitive and Neuroscience and Environmental Science. Additionally, UPEI faculty have received a further $4.8M of support for Aquatic Health Sciences work in fish and in lobster health. Finally, AIF has also awarded $2M to support work specifically in Comparative Biomedical Sciences.
In conjunction with these dynamic research developments, the University of Prince Edward Island has increased its internal capacity to support research growth with the creation of the office of Vice- President, Research and Development that includes a Research Grants Officer and a Technology Transfer Manager and the development of new programs for internal funding of research, including start-up and matching funds.
The University continues to endorse the seven constellations of research strength identified in its original strategic research plan.
Research Plan with a particular emphasis in the areas of Cognitive and Neurosciences, Environmental Sciences, and Human Health and Development in the near term. UPEI is committed to equity and we actively seek nominees from under-represented as well as main stream populations. We will continue to seek nominees for our Canada Research Chair positions through national and international advertisements and postings as well as through proactive networking to identify potential nominees from under represented populations. The University has chosen to utilize our CRCs to enhance and expand our research capacity and thus seeks nominees from outside of UPEI. In all our searches and discussions with potential nominees we endeavor to be responsive to their academic and family needs and to structure our commitment to each in a manner that is both equitable and tailored to the potential nominee’s requirements. To date UPEI has identified, interviewed and negotiated with four women, each of whom we would have welcomed the opportunity to nominate as a research chair. In each case our potential nominee declined our offer of nomination and remained elsewhere in a current position. Nonetheless, UPEI remains committed advertising widely as well as to actively seeking out and following through on potential candidates from under-represented groups with the goal of achieving and maintaining an equitable cadre of Canada Research Chairs.
UPEI’s research strategy pursues the following broad goals: the support of research, individually and in teams, across the full spectrum of academic disciplines; the enhancement of teaching and learning by an environment rich in research and creativity; the development of a dynamic culture of research, creativity, and innovation across the University. As the province’s only university, UPEI must be a key site for and play a leadership role in knowledge-based development. To help achieve these goals, UPEI will seek to deploy Canada Research Chairs and Canada Foundation for Innovation grants to promote the development of teams of researchers comprising scholars from more than one academic unit or discipline. These teams will be encouraged in areas of existing or emerging research strength and excellence. Supported areas of research will have a demonstrable impact — in terms of benefits and reputation — for Prince Edward Island, the Atlantic Region, and Canada. Canada Research Chairs will be catalysts and leaders for these constellations of researchers and Canada Foundation for Innovation grants will help provide the tools needed for high-level collaborative research.
The University has created an office of Vice President, Research and Development; the first VP, R&D, assumed office on 1 May 2001. Planning, administrative, and logistical support for research are provided by this office, the office of the Associate Dean (Graduate Studies and Research) within the Atlantic Veterinary College, and by Deans’ offices in other Schools and Faculties. The University provides direct financial support for research, including matching funds for CFI projects. It also provides facilities, equipment, and support staff for research.
Research is emphasized in undergraduate programs. Graduate programs to the PhD level have been offered for a decade through the Atlantic Veterinary College and Masters level programs have recently been introduced in biology, chemistry, and education; a multi-disciplinary graduate program in the arts and social sciences will commence in September 2003.
The strategic research plan (http://research.upei.ca/) was developed through broad consultation and participation led by the President. Individuals and groups were invited to propose constellations of research strength (actual or potential) that encompassed researchers from more than one discipline or unit, promoted the building of research teams, showed strength or potential through a track record of peer-reviewed funding and publication, and had demonstrable impact, in terms of benefits and reputation, for Prince Edward Island, the Atlantic Region, or Canada. Proposals were posted on the WWW and two open meetings were held to discuss them; comments and discussion were encouraged at the meetings and on the WWW. A Working Group comprising nine lead researchers plus senior academic administrators prepared a draft strategic research plan, which was circulated and posted on the WWW. The Working Group revised the plan taking into account feedback from the University community. A special meeting of Senate was held to discuss and approve the plan.
To decide where to allocate Chairs and what projects will go forward for CFI support, the President, Deans, and Vice Presidents consult with researchers and determine the timing and priority of nominations and applications. Decisions are based on the following considerations: likely impact on a research “team’s” ability to attract peer-reviewed funding, publish in peer reviewed journals, train future researchers, and build new research collaborations; quality of the specific nominee for a Chair, as measured by the same criteria; impact of the Chair or CFI grant in Prince Edward Island, regional, national, and/or international terms, as measured by real or expected partnerships or funding relationships; extent to which the nominee or grant will have an impact in more than one discipline or unit.
The following areas encompass “constellations” of research activity which: (i) represent existing or future strengths; (ii) encompass the work of researchers from more than one discipline or unit; (iii) have a proven ability or strong potential to attract peer-reviewed funding; (iv) offer a demonstrable impact — in terms of benefits and reputation — for Prince Edward Island, the Atlantic Region, and Canada; and, (v) promise an element of “team-building” that will benefit UPEI as a whole.
AQUATIC HEALTH SCIENCES: Eleven faculty members (molecular biologists, parasitologists, epidemiologists, anatomists, ecologists, and an engineer) from five Departments in two Faculties comprise this group. During the past five years scientists within this group have been awarded twelve NSERC and MRC grants, totalling $2.26M; participated in research contracts with government and private industry partners valued at a total of $1.53M; been awarded a $1.3M CFI Research Development Fund grant to establish the Centre for Marine and Aquatic Resources; published at least 109 papers in peer reviewed journals and six book chapters; supervised a total of eight PhD, twenty-four MSc and six BSc Honours students, plus three postdoctoral fellows. A closely related group of seven faculty members comprises a Population Health Research Group which does much work on infectious diseases of finfish. Over the last five years the Population Health group has attracted more than $2.5M in research funding and published more than sixty scientific papers; six members of the group have had 31 peerreviewed manuscripts published since 2002 alone, with a further 29 accepted for publication or under review. The University owns a Fish Hatchery in Cardigan, PEI, and has established a Lobster Health Research Centre and a Fish Health Diagnostic Service, all of which contribute to the work of this group.
Research foci pertain to the health, distribution, conservation, and aquaculture of natural resources in aquatic ecosystems; and health of animal populations, including food safety and public health. Examples of application of these foci include population structure of lobster stocks using molecular markers; effects of impoundment practices on trout and salmon stocks; diseases of aquatic wildlife, especially salmon, trout, and lobster; disease problems encountered in aquaculture and fish hatchery systems; anatomical studies of lamprey cartilage and lobster arteries, used as models with human health applications. Research at UPEI benefits fisheries and aquaculture, which are important industries in PEI and the Atlantic region.
COGNITIVE SCIENCE/NEUROSCIENCE: Seven faculty members (four of whom have won the UPEI Award for Scholarly Achievement) from three Faculties have funded research programs in these areas. Since 1995 cognitive science/neuroscience researchers at UPEI have received more than $1.1M in peer-reviewed funding and published more than fifty peer-reviewed articles, ten books or book chapters, and delivered more than fifty presentations at national or international congresses. These researchers supervise two PhD, four Masters, and more than thirty Honours students, three postdoctoral researchers, and four staff researchers. Two eminent neuroscientists at Dalhousie University have adjunct appointments at UPEI. Researchers in this constellation collaborate extensively. There are several collaborative grants within the group and at least ten active research collaborations with researchers elsewhere.
Research foci include pharmacotherapy of neurodegenerative disease, the molecular basis of stroke-induced brain dysfunction, pharmacological and nutritional neuroprotective strategies in stroke, central regulation of autonomic function, behavioural studies of learning, memory and cognition, assessment of cognitive function in dementia, and the neural processing of musical grammar and multimedia. Research at UPEI contributes to worldwide efforts to understand and correct neurodegenerative disease, neurotrauma, and mental disorders.
COMPARATIVE BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE: More than twenty researchers from eight Departments in three Faculties are involved in collaborative research into various aspects of animal and human disease. This group of researchers at UPEI represents a unique collection of clinical and basic scientists with expertise ranging from molecular determinants of health and disease, to whole animal physiology, to studies of populations. Linkages to other Atlantic Universities, health professionals, government officials, and stakeholder groups in the community are strong. This group has a high rate of publication and has enjoyed great success in attracting external funding, both tri-Council and other. Graduate students are trained at both M.Sc and Ph.D levels. Collaborative, externally funded research initiatives include the Atlantic Canada Network on Bioactive Compounds, the PEI Health Research Institute, and the Atlantic Centre for Comparative Biomedical Research.
The goal of comparative biomedical research is producing knowledge that will ultimately improve the health of humans and animals. Research foci include: healthful benefits of bioactive compounds (e.g. nutraceuticals, functional foods), nutrition, pharmacogenetics, drug metabolism, pharmaceuticals, neurophysiology, neuropharmacology, neurodegenerative diseases, learning and memory, cancer, bone and orthopedic research, toxicology, molecular virology, immunology, and microbial genomics. Research at UPEI contributes to understanding of human health issues such as breast cancer, diabetes, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and cardiovascular disease and to a broad range of health issues affecting food and companion animals.
Research foci at UPEI include anthropogenic effects related to land use practices (habitat fragmentation, agricultural use of pesticides, sediment “run off”) on biotic communities within the watersheds and on the quality of potable ground water; the health of humans, domestic animals and wildlife (such as resource-based aquatic species and traditional Innu-harvested animals) as affected by environmental contaminants and infectious agents; chemical and biological detection of pesticide and metal contaminants in aquatic environments; early biological warning systems for environmental stress. There is a strong focus on the development of environmentally sustainable practices, as they relate to an emerging life sciences economy based on innovative uses of bioresources. This research addresses issues of particular concern in Prince Edward Island, but is closely connected to research being conducted or planned at a number of Canadian universities.
HUMAN DEVELOPMENT AND HEALTH: Twenty-two researchers from Arts, Education, Nursing, Science, and Veterinary Medicine are engaged in active research relating to Human Development and Health. In the past five years researchers in this group have: been awarded funding totaling $3.4M from at least seventeen agencies; published more than forty peer-reviewed articles, thirteen books, seven book chapters, and numerous monographs and reports; participated in and organized national and international conferences; supervised research by at least thirty Masters students. One national peer-reviewed journal is edited out of the Faculty of Education. A Centre for the Study of Health and Aging was established in 1988.
Research foci include cognitive development and conceptual learning; children’s health and learning-based decision making; promotion of children’s healthy living; high-risk behaviours; literacy and social health; effects of aging on memory; cognitive stimulation as health factor in aging; and nutrition and quality of life issues in all ages. Research by this team has shown that: children and adolescents’ choices can significantly reduce morbidity and mortality associated with chronic diseases such as cancer, asthma and cardiovascular disease; youth smoking cessation and prevention programs can reduce the rate of smoking; infant attention and actions skills are related to early intelligence; children's conceptual understanding of scientific concepts is organized and influenced by current teaching practices; child-parent relationships and family context alter the quality of life for children.
Research foci include the political economy of North Atlantic islands, with an emphasis on the creative use of jurisdictional capacity; the literature of small islands; island ecosystems with an emphasis on environmental issues and sustainability; migration; small islands societies; human health; and innovation and technology. This research has a major impact on public policy.
Research emphasizes supramolecular chemistry (which studies the forces between interacting molecules and the study of lipophilic molecules that form structures parallelling cell membranes); the study of biomembranes using atomic force microscopy and mathematical modelling; the nature of the surfaces of materials including defects in materials; mathematical concepts of soft and hard condensed matter; the synthesis and characterization of new nanocomposite materials, including catalysts for hydrodesulfurization, electronic conduction, and polymer synthesis.MEASURING SUCCESS