Research Cluster Award Winners!

Another round of results announced! KIAS is happy to let everyone know the six awards for the 2011 Research Cluster Grant competition.

For more information on these grants, including a desciption of the project, please visit the KIAS website:

KIAS is excited to announce the winners of the first cycle for the Research Cluster Grants. These grants will investigate and promote important research ideas, working in the KIAS established themes. The outcome of these grants will be interdisciplinary and thought-provoking work, which will be accessible to the university community and the public alike.

These grants advance the KIAS vision of interdisciplinary and comparative research, consistent with the high humanitarian ideals of the institute’s benefactors, Drs. Peter and Doris Kule. They are committed to the study of major issues present in the global community and will impact research, social viewpoints, and policies as they develop and evolve.

The grant winners will be able to utilize the innovative Kule Dialogues program, which focuses on dissemination and outreach to the various publics that KIAS is a part of. The program will provide the award winners with additional funding to get the word out about their research and to involve a variety of groups in the work that they are conducting. Information about the Kule Dialogues events and activities will be available on our website as they present themselves.

KIAS thanks all applicants for their submissions – it was a cmpetitive group of proposals. We look forward to seeing future applications from the University of Alberta research community.

KIAS Research Cluster Grant Awardees, 2011

(alphabetical order, non-ranked)

Isabel Altamirano-Jimenez, Political Science, Faculty of Arts/Native Studies
Indigenous women’s knowledge and stewardship of water

This project asks, among other questions: What kinds of knowledge do Indigenous women hold about water in northern Alberta and northern Oaxaca? How are Indigenous women’s knowledge and livelihood systems connected? How can dynamic and diverse values of water be incorporated within water legislation? How have both historical and contemporary strategies informed law and governance? How can this research inform policies for sharing spaces and places in North America?

To fully address these questions this interdisciplinary research team of Indigenous and non-Indigenous scholars draws upon: 1) accountable collaboration; 2) feminist critical realism; 3) Indigenous legal feminist methodology; and 5) archival research. By comparing these two complex and socio-historical configurations, this project seeks to explore the impact of social, political, and economic factors on the disjuncture between knowledge, gender, law, and governance in two distinct regions.

This eighteen month project is innovative because it aims at creating an interdisciplinary team and international network of Indigenous and non-Indigenous academics and community members. This study will be of interest beyond the academic community and it grows out of the initial steps taken on water policy and the need to focus on specific regions and climate zones to integrate local understanding of water resource. Thus, the ultimate objective of this project is to advance a new water ethics that will benefit all of society.

Diane Conrad, Secondary Education, Faculty of Education

Evaluating Youth Outcomes for the “High Risk Youth Uncensored” Program

High Risk Youth Uncensored: An Educational Exchange, underway since fall 2009, partners not-for-profit arts-based organization iHuman Youth Society; Edmonton and Area Child and Family Services High Risk Youth Unit; University of Alberta researchers, students and other community collaborators. The project also involves a number of youth as key collaborators. The study’s aim is to develop a series of arts-based workshops to educate service providers (e.g. law enforcement, health providers, educators, social workers) through face-to-face encounters with youth and their art-works (storytelling, music, drama, visual and digital arts) about how to best meet the particular needs of the youth populations they serve. Several successful workshops have already been facilitated and an evaluation of the outcomes for service providers is underway.

The focus of the proposed research is a formal evaluation of the positive outcomes for youth involved in developing and facilitating the workshops. Research has shown that arts interventions do have positive effects for youth at-risk. “Uncensored” encompasses many elements of successful arts programs, and goes further by putting youth into the roles of educators and researchers, as well as artists and performers. It is expected that the research will show personal and interpersonal benefits for youth, including greater self-understanding, validation of their experiences, and an understanding of the structural roots of their life challenges. As well as offering concrete material improvements in youths’ lives, “Uncensored” will provide a model for programming in cities across Canada, with benefits for youth, for the service providing community and for the community at large.

Sean Gouglas, History & Classics, Faculty of Arts

The Quest: Creating a gaming community platform driven by students in real world classrooms.

Our project is a collaboration between five UofA researchers, two teachers at Edmonton elementary schools, and a private Edmonton company called Rocketfuel Games. We propose to create a gaming platform and authoring toolset called The Quest to improve the educational experience of elementary students in Alberta. The ‘gamification’ of an elementary school curriculum takes the incentives and play-like structure of computer games (levels, experience points, achievements, etc.) and adapts them to the teaching curriculum. Students advance in levels by completing quests rather than assignments. The curriculum, wrapped in the envelope of game mechanics, motivates the students in novel ways, particularly when they are allowed to develop their own teaching modules. This last point is key to our proposal. Our game authoring toolset will allow students the opportunity to create their own educational games, rather than just play educational games – an important element in constructionist pedagogy.

Gordon Gow, Communication & Technology, Faculty of Extension

Environmentally sustainable farming practices through a technology-enhanced community of practice approach: Establishing a Research Partnership between the University of Alberta and Sri Lanka

The University of Alberta is playing a lead role in bringing together a small team of researchers from Canada and Sri Lanka to explore how low cost, ubiquitous information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) can contribute to food security objectives in developing countries by enhancing or cultivating local agricultural communities of practice. The team has begun to explore this community of practice approach with three cross-cutting objectives in sight: (1) Understand the current state of knowledge mobilization among local farming communities in Sri Lanka by studying the informal and formal interactions between knowledge producers and consumers, and especially the role of women in these networks; (2) Articulate how communities of practices (involving farmers, extension officers and other relevant stakeholders) may be developed or enhanced so as to increase information and knowledge sharing across the three identified problem areas whilst ensuring that women can access and reap a fair share of the benefits of these communities of practice; (3) Evaluate the utility of low cost and widely available communication technologies for enhancing the capacity of the poorest and most vulnerable, especially women in agrarian communities, in achieving sustainable agricultural practices and long term food security.

David Kahane, Political Science, Faculty of Arts

“Whose environmental stewardship? Citizen and stakeholder roles in making Alberta climate change policy”

It is important that governments, corporations, and citizens regard themselves as stewards of the planet, but our toughest environmental problems demand more than just an ethical commitment to care for the planet; they require an understanding of whole environmental systems, and action across whole political, social and cultural systems. Climate change is a case in point—the complexity of the problem has so far stymied effective and coordinated action by governments, industries, communities, and individuals.

‘Stewardship’ demands new forms of collaboration. Our interdisciplinary, interdepartmental, research team will analyze the formal public engagement exercises that have been most influential in forming Alberta’s current climate change and energy policies, looking in particular at how organized stakeholder groups and lay citizens have been involved, the specific design of their involvement, and the relative influence of these two groups on outcomes.

Our goal is to understand how well current approaches to public engagement on climate policy in Alberta actually enable collaborative, systems-oriented problem solving. Given this analysis, our work will describe ‘deliberative democratic’ reforms to citizen and stakeholder engagement that would enhance climate change policy making, make these processes and their outcomes more publicly legitimate, and support more concerted public action.

Our research will yield scholarly publications; will be taken out to key civil service, civil society, and public engagement practitioner audiences through a collaborative workshop; and will draw on this workshop to create a practice-oriented report.

Sheena Wilson, Campus Saint-Jean

Petrocultures: The Cultures of Oil in Canada and the World

Petrocultures is a new research cluster at the University of Alberta whose aim is to support, produce, and distribute research related to the socio-cultural aspects of oil and energy in Canada and the world today. The University has developed considerable expertise in the study of the scientific, financial, and environmental dimensions of our oil economy. A growing number of researchers at the U of A are engaged in an exploration of the social and cultural dimensions of oil and energy. The research activities and structures created by the Petrocultures Research Cluster will enhance and expand this research, and position the U of A at the forefront of a growing field of academic study.

With the aid of the KIAS Research Grant, over 18 months (May 2011-October 2012), Petrocultures will a) maintain a website to support and distribute socio-political research on oil and energy; b) produce a special journal issue of Imaginations on topic of “Oil and Water”; c) develop an international and interdisciplinary conference/workshop on the Oil, Energy and Culture, to be held in October 2012;d) organize an application to SSHRC in Fall 2012 for a large group research project.

Funding from KIAS to support the establishment of the Petrocultures Research Cluster will enable research on oil cultures at the U of A and create the framework to help support collaborative research on the topic from multiple disciplinary perspectives. This cluster will also produce scholarship that responds to the U of A’s research focus on water, food and energy.

If you would like to get more information about any of the projects, please contact Gillian Edwards, Executive Manager for KIAS, at


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