Evaluation of the Harris Centre's Applied Research Fund

Reid-Shute, Kate (2009) Evaluation of the Harris Centre's Applied Research Fund. Project Report. The Harris Centre.

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Abstract

This report was developed for the Leslie Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development at Memorial University to assess the impacts of the Centre’s Applied Research Fund (ARF). The evaluation focused on the first three rounds of ARF funding (2005/06, 2006/07 and 2007/08), as 2008/09 projects have not yet been completed, however the latest round of projects are discussed in this report where appropriate. The evaluation was conducted by assessing ARF’s impacts through the lens of the Harris Centre Evaluation Framework. Findings were drawn from Harris Centre documents and ARF reports as well as from interviews and discussions with Harris Centre staff, ARF researchers and relevant external stakeholders (i.e. community representatives, including government departments and agencies, community organizations, businesses and business organizations, and individuals). The Harris Centre has a mandate to coordinate and facilitate Memorial University’s educational, research and outreach activities in the areas of regional policy and development. The Harris Centre created the Applied Research Fund to stimulate research activities relevant to Newfoundland and Labrador’s regional policy and development needs and opportunities by offering funding up to $15,000 to Memorial faculty, students and staff to conduct such research. The Harris Centre also utilizes ARF to encourage researchers to mobilize the findings from their work to stakeholders in the community who can make use of them. ARF has received funding from the NL Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development (INTRD) and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA). In the first four rounds, funding to ARF totalled $100,000 each year. Consistent with the mandates of INTRD and ACOA, the Harris Centre places emphasis on providing ARF funding to projects that seek to contribute to economic and rural development in Newfoundland and Labrador’s regions (see Appendix E for project descriptions). Since ARF’s inception in 2005, 31 projects have been funded (21 in the first three years; see Appendix D for table of all projects). Two additional projects were awarded funding, but were cancelled due to extraneous circumstances; with permission from the funders, the Harris Centre reallocated these funds to further knowledge mobilization of other ARF projects (Appendix F). There were substantially more projects awarded to males and Memorial faculty than females and staff or students; the large majority of applications were from males and faculty members, which indicates that the Harris Centre should address the marketing of ARF so that it reaches and speaks to the other demographic groups. Gender parity was achieved in the latest round of funding (2008/09), so it appears that marketing has been corrected in this area. ARF funding is filling a valuable need by stimulating research that can assist external stakeholders in making policy and development decisions in Newfoundland and Labrador. ARF provides Memorial researchers with funding for projects that address Newfoundland and Labrador’s regional policy and development issues, contributing to understandings of the province’s unique context, needs and opportunities. Many projects funded through ARF would not likely have qualified for funding from other traditional academic sources, because other available sources are not likely to support: • NL-specific projects (which many other funders regard as only being of interest to a small readership), • the collection of base-line data (which is crucial in providing context for planning, but may not have direct or immediate impacts in itself), and/or • Research that crosses sectors (which is important for holistic approaches in policy and development). iv ARF also acts as a ‘seed fund’, in that once projects have received funding from ARF, researchers have been able to leverage much funding from other sources. The fifteen researchers interviewed were awarded a total of $202,950 through ARF. Three of these researchers reported that the funding they received directly led to leveraged funding of $5,215,000 plus in-kind funding, three researchers reported that ARF was helpful to them in obtaining more funding, one researcher reported that other sources took a greater interest in the project once ARF funding was received, and one researcher reported receiving $47,600 from other sources for a follow-up project (see ‘Evidence of importance of funding to projects’, Evaluation Question 3). The ARF projects funded between 2005/06 – 2007/08, provide context and understanding of Newfoundland and Labrador’s unique history, needs and opportunities in regional policy and development. Some projects set out base-line data on which further inquiries can be addressed while other projects investigated assumptions, policies and practices relevant to management decisions. This evaluation categorizes the ARF projects by themes under Evaluation Question 2 and in Appendix E to identify the relevance of projects to Newfoundland and Labrador’s regional policy and development issues. The six themes identified were among Newfoundland and Labrador’s most pressing needs and opportunities: A) Fisheries B) Renewable energy C) Natural resources D) Economy E) Governance and Community Organization F) Culture Through ARF projects, Memorial researchers have developed expertise in applied regional policy and development research and in maximizing the impacts of their findings by transferring them to external stakeholders who can use them. External stakeholders have also developed expertise through the collaborations stimulated by ARF’s emphasis on applied connections to community needs and opportunities. The expertise developed by researchers and external stakeholders were often viewed by interviewees as only incremental to their prior, substantial expertise. ARF had the most impact on developing expertise where researchers had little prior experience in applied research with community relevance and applicability. Overall, both researchers and external stakeholders gained appreciation for the potential for academic / community collaborations and felt optimistic about seeking out future opportunities for collaborations. Findings and reports from ARF projects have been widely communicated to external stakeholders through an array of means. ARF’s requirement that applicants develop a Knowledge Mobilization Plan has encouraged researchers to think about how they can deliver their findings to maximize the likelihood of impact. The Harris Centre has provided many opportunities for researchers and external stakeholders to engage in two-way knowledge transfer, but should continue working to maximize dissemination opportunities as outlined in the current Request for Proposals (Appendix C). Directly connecting changes in policy and practices to a singular piece of research can be difficult. Before research is adopted and implemented by external stakeholders with capacity to affect change, there is often a substantial time lag in which knowledge is diffused and previous understandings and approaches in society must be shifted. Despite these difficulties, it is clear that the findings from many ARF projects are reaching external stakeholders who can make use of them – findings from many projects have been taken under advisement by external stakeholders and there is ongoing discussion between researchers and external stakeholders on several projects. Several ARF projects have substantial potential for affecting direct change, and are close to realizing their full impact in economic and regional policy and practices. Appendix E provides a summary of ARF projects (2005/06 – 2007/08) and their potential benefits and impacts. Some of the most notable of these are recapped below: • Dag Friis’ design of a hull for a pleasure trawler boat will assist boat builders in Newfoundland & Labrador in adapting to changing market trends, while maintaining a ‘home-grown’ feel and developing v skills within the province. The Glovertown Shipyard is prepared to begin building the hull once it is ready. (2005/06 ARF project) • James Feehan’s report on declining trends of federal government presence within the province (in both employment and decision-making capacity) has been relied on by NL stakeholders (including the provincial government and the City of St. John’s) in applying pressure to the federal government to restore and improve levels of federal government presence. (2005/06 ARF project) • Tariq Iqbal designed hybrid energy systems for the northern and remote Labrador communities of Battle Harbour Island (2006/07 ARF project) and Port Hope Simpson and Cartwright (2007/08 ARF project), based on renewable resources available in each. The systems are being reviewed by stakeholders in the communities for feasibility. • Trevor Bell’s workshop on the impacts of climate change on Labrador’s renewable resources increased stakeholder (including government departments and local communities) understandings of the issues and their capacity to develop strategies for adaptation. (2007/08 ARF project) • Michael Wernerheim’s report on the conditions in localities necessary to support industries can inform government on how to maximize the likelihood of economic success through strategic placement of industries within the province. (2005/06 ARF project) • Wade Locke’s Atlantic Canadian contribution to the international study conducted by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on the role of higher education institutions in development brought together all four Atlantic provincial governments, the Atlantic associations of universities and of colleges, the Council of Atlantic Premiers and the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. Locke’s report inspired the Harris Centre to host an international conference on the role of Higher Education Institutions (Knowledge in Motion, Oct 16 – 18, 2008), attended by over 225 participants, from across Newfoundland and Labrador, every province in Canada, the United States, Iceland, Scotland, England, France, Denmark and Australia. (2005/06 ARF project)

Item Type: Report (Project Report)
URI: http://research.library.mun.ca/id/eprint/8156
Item ID: 8156
Keywords: Regional policy, Development, Fisheries, Renewable energy, Economy, Governance, Culture Natural resources
Department(s): Divisions > The Harris Centre
Date: 27 February 2009
Date Type: Publication

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