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Community-University Connections

Community-University Connections LogoA former initiative of POLIS from (2001-2006), Community-University Connections advocated for collaborative and participatory research as a tool for better decision making on complex human and environmental health-related issues.

Community-University Connections was based on the premise that, to protect interconnected health and well being of individuals, communities and ecosystems, scientific research ought to be:

  • Ecosystem-based;
  • Precautionary in nature;
  • Inclusive of local knowledge and expertise to the fullest extend possible; and
  • Respectful of local traditions and customary laws of Indigenous and local peoples.

Community-University Connections was created at POLIS in 2001 by Kelly Bannister and Katherine Barrett, both of whom had just joined POLIS as post-doctoral research associates after completing their PhD’s at the University of British Columbia. The initiative was made possible through joint funding from the Endowment of the Eco-Research Chair, the Clayoquot Alliance for Research, Education and Training Project (a three-year project headed by Dr. Rod Dobell, and funded through the Community University Research Alliance program of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) and the Coasts Under Stress Project (a five-year project headed by Dr. Rosemary Ommer, and funded through the Major Collaborative Research Initiative of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council).

Our initial goal was to develop an institutional model for collaborative research between universities and local Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal communities in B.C.  The process was informed by the successful European “science shops” model and the emerging U.S. “community research centers”, which provide a specific site at the university where citizens and community groups can link directly with researchers to help solve community-related scientific problems.

Community-University Connections aimed to expand and adapt the science shops and community research centers concepts to the priorities of BC communities by establishing a permanent facility at the University of Victoria that is networked to regional “access nodes” in communities throughout BC, working with and through governmental, non-governmental and First Nations organisations in these regions.

Collaborative research and education activities were initiated in the Northern Barkley and Clayoqout Sound region of western Vancouver Island in partnership with the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust and with participation of several local non-profit organisations and First Nations. Major accomplishments include:

  • Facilitating the completion of a Standard of Conduct for Research in Northern Barkley and Clayoquot Sound Communities (Download PDF) to guide research in the region according to mutually-agreed community and university standards;
  • Establishing a “pilot science shop” in the region through the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust
  • Supporting community-defined needs for compiling a research and document database of previous research conducted in the region, and an inventory of local research needs and priorities;
  • Developing undergraduate credit courses on community-based research in the region in 2003 and 2005, which were co-organised and co-instructed by both university and community experts.

Since its inception, Community-University Connections advocated for the establishment of a permanent “community liaison” facility at the University of Victoria that would serve as a campus resource for university researchers and local communities alike. In Nov 2006, the Vice-President, Research at the University of Victoria announced the opening of a new Office of Community-Based Research, under the directorship of Dr. Budd Hall, former Dean of Education and well-known participatory research advocate.

Community-University Connections compiled and analysed existing community-based research models; explored ethical and policy issues in community-university research partnerships (particularly with First Nations); and facilitated learning activities on community-based research theory, practice and issues. We encourage the new Office of Community-Based Research to foster respectful and mutually-beneficial research and learning activities, with particular sight for:

  • collaborative development of research protocols with communities or local collective decision-making groups;
  • meaningful involvement of local people in research and learning activities;
  • return of results to communities in meaningful and useful forms;
  • acknowledgement and due credit for community contributions to research; and
  • protection of individual and collective rights to local or traditional knowledge and associated resources.

Community-University Connections is coordinated by Kelly Bannister

Visit the Community-University Connections Project Website

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Page last updated: 02/03/2013