Research Support Fund: Communication Stories


 

Collaborative space builds relationships, boosts research in the north

On a quiet corner of Lakehead’s campus, the Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research has been operating successfully as an independently funded research centre since 2013, offering workspace and expertise for collaborative, high quality and high impact research.
 
Centre for Rural and Northern Health ResearchUnder the direction of Dr. Christopher Mushquash, Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Mental Health and Addiction, the Centre focuses on northern and rural health issues and acts as a critical link between academia and community partners, including Indigenous organizations and several First Nations.
 
Offering research support and a physical workspace for collaboration and meetings, the Centre helps to launch and monitor 4–5 new multi-disciplinary research projects each year – work that provides important evidence to policy makers, planners and decision-makers for understanding and delivering effective, socially just health services.
 
“What we do involves a lot of relationship building, and we’re pretty proud of the success we’ve had making those links,” says Dr. Mary Ellen Hill, the Centre’s Senior Researcher and only full-time staff person. Working directly with a team of 9 part-time staff, 26 affiliated investigators, and 12 community partners, Dr. Hill plays a central role in developing and implementing the Centre’s large-scale collaborative projects.
 
With help from the Research Support Fund, the Centre is able to extend its capacity to develop high quality, large-scale funding applications on behalf of faculty co-investigators and community partners. In each case, over the span of several months, Dr. Hill supports these projects by bringing together the research team, partners and staff to develop research plans, methodologies, evaluation, and integrated knowledge processes for the health services under study.
 
“Mary Ellen’s role is essential in the development of high quality research partnerships and funding applications characteristic of the Centre,” says Dr. Mushquash. “The Research Support Fund allows us the financial flexibility to be able to support our partners in this research development.”
 
In addition to its research mandate, the Centre also provides part-time employment opportunities to current and recently graduated Master’s and PhD students, placing them in roles that further develop their practical skills in research and evaluation.
 
“The Centre for Rural and Northern Health Research is doing really valuable, really unique work to address the gaps in healthcare and delivery here in Northern Ontario and other underserved regions of the country,” says Anne Klymenko, Director of Research Services at Lakehead University. “The Research Support Fund is essential to ensuring that the Centre’s doors remain open so they can continue creating new and high quality opportunities for northern and rural research and communities.”
 
The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
 
In 2018/19, Lakehead University is receiving nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, including intellectual property, research management and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.
 

New ethics approval agreement helps streamline local research

Reciprocity Agreement for REB at LU/TBRHSC
The business of conducting research in Thunder Bay got a big boost recently thanks to a new agreement between Lakehead University and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre.
 
The reciprocity agreement, signed April 1, 2017, harmonizes the ethics review process at and between both institutions for any research involving people. Compared to the two-board, two-application review system in place before, the new agreement has created a highly coordinated, faster, and more efficient process for researchers.
 
With mutually agreed upon criteria that meets all the rigorous federal requirements, the new process means researchers can now apply for their ethics review by either institution’s panel – a significant change that eliminates costly and time-consuming duplication of effort.
 
“This new process came about out of our desire to ease researcher burden and combine our expertise at both institutions,” says Sue Wright, the Research Ethics and Administration Officer for Lakehead University. “Proposals no longer need to be approved by each separate panel to ensure they meet all the regulatory and ethical standards to proceed – all the same protection and ethical treatment of study participants is now guaranteed under a single review by either panel.”
 
In addition to leading the development of the new agreement for Lakehead, Wright is responsible for processing and recording all the paperwork for federal regulatory purposes, advising researchers and students on the new process, and staying in close communication with her counterparts at the health sciences centre.
 
“As we get used to this new process, there is still a large educational piece to implementing these changes,” says Wright. “I attend graduate student classes and faculty meetings to spread the word about the new process, and let people know where they can go for help and support for their ethics approval.”
 
Funded in part by the federal Research Support Fund, the ethics review process is an integral part of how both the university and the health sciences centre conduct their leading research. With more than 40 faculty members, their students, and dozens of staff jointly affiliated with both institutions, the new process will give a boost to local research and the economy.
 
Studies like clinical trials of new medicines or treatments, interviews and questionnaires with patients, and even shared training opportunities between institutions will be much faster to launch – a key part of ensuring that discoveries and developments arising from local research can be delivered sooner. Early feedback from researchers using the new review process has been overwhelmingly positive. A recent survey of the new process shows both faculty and students find the system “beneficial”, that it helps them “to move in a timely fashion’, and that “the Office of Research Services provides excellent assistance and guidance’.
 
“The spirit of collaboration leading up to the signing of the agreement is the real success story here,” says Anne Klymenko, Director of Research Services at Lakehead. “We now have a solid framework for mutually beneficial, streamlined ethics procedures that can be replicated with other partner organizations across Northern Ontario – it’s what the region needs to continue encouraging growth and development of clinical research and the knowledge economy”.
 
The new reciprocity agreement between Lakehead University and the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre ensures their Research Ethics Boards follow Canada’s Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans while reviewing each research project application.
 
The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2018/19, Lakehead University is receiving nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, including intellectual property, research management and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.

Office of Financial Services: where the bucks stop – and start – for research

If there is one person on Lakehead University’s campus that every researcher knows, and knows well, it’s likely Margot Ross.
 
As Manager of the Research and Trust Accounting department in university’s Office of Financial Services, Ross and her colleagues are the first point of contact for researchers awarded any money. The office holds in trust any funds received, working closely with each researcher to ensure the money is used and reported in compliance with all the of terms of each granting agency.
 
“The most common thing we hear from researchers after their initial excitement of being awarded a grant, is “okay, now what?” and we’re there to answer the what, as well as the how, why and when,” says Ross.
 
“The principal investigators are ultimately responsible for managing their grants and awards, but we’re here to assist and advise them on making sure they have all the support, resources and knowledge to fulfill those responsibilities according to the policies and regulations of each granting agency.”
 
The Office of Financial Services is the university’s hub for everything to do with money. From payroll and pensions to tuition and purchasing, this is a busy team of people supporting all of Lakehead’s students, staff and faculty.
 
A key part of this financial operation is the Research and Trust Accounting department, who are tasked with administering and monitoring the accounting for all research, endowed and trust accounts, while also providing reliable advice, training and support on accessing and using those funds.
 
And by all indications, the department is doing their job incredibly well: a recent Tri-Agency audit conducted by the three main federal research funding agencies passed Ross and her team with flying colours on their grant management framework, procedures, systems and controls that ensure research funds are used in accordance with all requirements.
 
At Lakehead, it all comes down to supporting a strong research culture on campus.
 
“The assistance we get from the Research Support Fund ensures we have the capacity to keep up with Lakehead’s fast-growing research enterprise,” says Anne Klymenko, Director, Research Services. “From hiring students, to purchasing equipment, to having all the right tools and resources in place to financially manage the funds, the research accounting support enabled by the Research Support Fund is vital to researchers after the work of getting a grant is done, and the business of conducting a leading research program gets underway.”
 
The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2017/18, Lakehead University is receiving nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, including intellectual property, research management and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.

 

Personalized research support: University Research Facilitators boost grant success

Dr. PhebeAnn Wolframe-SmithThe word “enterprise” is no exaggeration when it comes to describing the modern university research program: from grant writing and award administration to regulatory compliance, reporting and managing the use of funds, today’s researchers are part of a vast, complex operation with many moving parts.

Enter the Research Facilitator, one of the best tools universities can offer their researchers for navigating the ins and outs of successful grantsmanship. 

Thanks to the federal Research Support Fund, this role is being filled at Lakehead University by Dr. PhebeAnn Wolframe, the new SSHRC/CIHR Research & Knowledge Mobilization Facilitator in the Office of Research Services.  

Available specifically to faculty members in the social sciences and humanities at both the Thunder Bay and Orillia campuses, Wolframe is a welcome resource for information and support on attaining increasingly competitive publicly funded research awards. 

“Since the position was established in July 2011, Lakehead University has seen its grant success rate increase to meet national levels for the first time,” says Anne Klymenko, Director, Research Services. “Furthermore, in Dr. Wolframe’s new role, she’s able to help researchers with the full spectrum of resources needed for successful grant writing, from identifying opportunities, application development, review and editing, to partnership development with academic, community and non-profit collaborators, through to knowledge mobilization of research and results.”

Wolframe is also leading the development of Lakehead's SSHRC Enhancement Program, a series of workshops to encourage and support researchers who are preparing applications to SSHRC, with the ultimate goal of increasing overall success rates. 

As an experienced researcher, writer, editor and fundraiser herself, Wolframe is brings a particular skillset in helping researchers tell the story about their work in ways that are clear and compelling for both grant review committees and the broader public off campus.

“Real knowledge mobilization goes beyond just conference presentations and publications in academic journals,” says Wolframe, who recently completed a Knowledge Translation Professional certificate program to further develop her skills in this critical area. “A key part of my role here at Lakehead is brainstorming creative and customized ways for each researcher to get the word out about what they’re doing and requesting funding for, to showcase the impact we’re having out in the world.”

  The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2017/18, Lakehead University is receiving nearly $2 million in assistance from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs of research, including intellectual property, research management and administration, ethics and regulatory compliance, research resources, and research facilities.


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LUIL: a unique model for managing shared access to state-of-the-art R&D

Lakehead University Instrumentation LaboratoryChances are good that if you’re in a science or engineering-based program at Lakehead, then you’re already familiar with LUIL, the Lakehead University Instrumentation Laboratory. For the uninitiated, LUIL is a multi-purpose, centralized analytical service and training facility in the basement of the Centennial Building, and one of many labs that make up the university’s comprehensive research infrastructure.

What sets LUIL apart for its users is the more than $2 million of specialized research equipment it houses, including nuclear magnetic spectrometers and a scanning electron microscope—much of it unique to Northwestern Ontario, and all of it under one umbrella. Offering more than 20 different sophisticated analytical services ranging from bulk material elemental characterization to microstructural mapping, LUIL is an ideal example of generating the biggest bang from every research dollar.

“Shared use of first-class equipment is the essential philosophy behind our strategy for LUIL,” says Dr. Francis Appoh, Director of Analytical Testing Services at Lakehead. “From the beginning, the university set out to maximize the value of providing first-class equipment for teaching and research by centralizing single versions of high-quality instrumentation and making it available to everyone.”

With operating support from the federal Research Support Fund, LUIL is staffed by a team of five highly trained technicians, who play a key role in student training. LUIL is also accessible to faculty and students 24 hours a day, which translates to near-constant use of the equipment housed in the facility. “We greatly appreciate the support of the LUIL staff, not only for their daily operation and maintenance of the facility, but for the excellent training they provide to our undergraduate and graduate students, postdocs, research associates and even visiting scholars,” adds Dr. Aicheng Chen, Canada Research Chair in Materials and Environmental Chemistry at Lakehead, and one of LUIL’s most frequent users. 

LUIL’s success as a model for efficiently supporting advanced research and hands-on training for both faculty and students has received national attention. In fact, the LUIL model has been replicated at other universities as a bestpractice for managing complex scientific instrumentation. 

The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. In 2015/16, Lakehead University received $1.9 million from the Research Support Fund to support the indirect costs associated with federal research funding, including the Lakehead University Instrumentation Laboratory.

 

Biology Aquatics Facility: aquatic animal research lab offers high operating standards and trained personnel support

Biology Aquatics FacilityTucked quietly into the basement of the Centennial Building, Lakehead’s Biology Aquatics Facility—or BAF—houses a variety of active research projects in the aquatic biological sciences. From studies on how temperature effects fish growth and metabolism to monitoring hatching success in different species to fish behaviour research, the BAF provides faculty and students access to the specialized equipment needed to carry out such controlled laboratory experiments.  

With annual operating funds from the federal Research Support Fund grant awarded to Lakehead University, the BAF provides researchers access to services from a Registered Veterinary Technician and Veterinarian —all part of the research infrastructure and support that drew one of Lakehead’s newest Canada Research Chairs to the university.

“The BAF opens up the range of research we can conduct by providing the means to dig deeper and test the theories we have after observing patterns in the field,” says Dr. Michael Rennie, Canada Research Chair in Freshwater Ecology and Fisheries. “Without the BAF, I would not be doing these experiments, or I’d be challenged with trying to do these experiments in partner facilities as far away as Winnipeg.”

One of Dr. Rennie’s first grad students at Lakehead conducted all his lab-based experiments on yellow perch behaviour in the BAF this past year, benefitting greatly from the support and expertise of the part-time technician and veterinarian.

“Having the expert support to ensure all the BAF equipment is running effectively, monitoring the water quality in the tanks, and sharing in the responsibility and care for the fish is a massive benefit to my students and ultimately to the success of our investigations,” adds Dr. Rennie.

The modern facility also continues to hold its Good Animal Practice certificate from the Canadian Council on Animal Care, ensuring that aquatic animals are housed to the high standards set by the Council, as well as the Ontario Animals for Research Act. 

“Our animal care personnel play a crucial role in maintaining the high operating standards of research facilities like the BAF, often exceeding the regulatory requirements while ensuring they are in proper working condition for researchers,” adds Dr. Andrew Dean, Lakehead’s VP of Research and Innovation.

The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2015/16, Lakehead University received $1.9 million from the Research Support Fund for the indirect costs of its tri-agency funded research.

 

Romeo Research Portal: LU’s digital hub for research management

When you’re in charge of dispensing tens of millions of dollars in external research funding, facilitating collaboration between hundreds of investigators and stakeholders, and ensuring all regulatory, ethical and compliance requirements for a research enterprise are filed accurately and on time, you’re going to need an app for that.

At Lakehead, that app is the ROMEO Research Portal, an online database for digital management and reporting of internal and external research funding and ethics certifications.

Introduced in 2009, Lakehead investigators and research administrators can now use ROMEO for everything from filing ethics applications and reports to finding information on internal funding opportunities to workflow applications. For Research Services staff, ROMEO provides an efficient and integrated platform for overseeing, reporting and communicating about Lakehead’s research enterprise.

“Any researcher at Lakehead can access information about their own funding and certifications back to 2009, as well as apply online for a number of awards and certifications,” explains Bonnie Knott, Administrative Officer in the Office of Research Services and the university’s lead contact for ROMEO. “For those of us in research administration, it gives us a way to quickly and efficiently build reports on any number of research data, find information across departments, and track progress and activity on all our funded research.”

And with many other Canadian universities also adopting ROMEO as their digital research management system, it makes for seamless collaboration and project management between institutions.

Supported in part by Lakehead’s Research Support Fund grant, ROMEO is just one of the many ways the Office of Research Services facilitates research and innovation, scholarly activity and translation of research results at Lakehead.

“Our mandate in Research Services is to implement Lakehead’s strategic research priorities by providing the highest quality research administration and ethics support to investigators, so they can in turn realize the full potential of excellence in their research and innovation programs,” says Anne Klymenko, Director of Research Services at Lakehead. “We’re really proud to support the growth of Lakehead’s dynamic research enterprise as one of Canada’s top research-intensive universities.”

“The Research Support Fund is a critical way we can fulfill our mandate and ensure we can continue to support a growing research enterprise across many disciplines at the highest standards achievable,” adds Klymenko, who has overseen Lakehead’s research enterprise as it tripled in the last decade alone.

The Research Support Fund is a federal funding program for post-secondary institutions in Canada to support some of the costs associated with managing research funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. In 2015/16, Lakehead University received $1.9 million from the Research Support Fund for the indirect costs of its tri-agency funded research.