Queen’s creating new research excellence clusters

University looking to bring together scientists to promote collaboration
Image supplied by: Mark Ormiston
These structures will work to provide a multidisciplinary research environment.

Promoting “discovery and innovation,” Queen’s University is committed to advancing research through multidisciplinary groups.

Queen’s plans to implement Research Excellence Clusters (RECs), which are groups of independent researchers with diverse but related interests united under a central theme.

“The nature of science has changed over the last few decades to the point where if you are not working actively with other people, you are probably less competitive rather than more competitive,” said Mark Ormiston, co-director for the Translational Medicine Program, in an interview with The Journal.

RECs will bring about departmental success by fostering collaboration between faculty and students, allowing them to better share feedback, resources, and methods.

The concepts of these research groups aren’t new, but they have grown in popularity. Stephen Scott, vice-dean research at the Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences (QHS), successfully worked in an REC-like structure through the Centre for Neuroscience Studies for many years.

Within QHS, there are six research superclusters which work to increase cluster-supported grants, interdisciplinary research collaboration, and support services.

While waiting for official approval on their REC status, Ormiston’s research group continues to foster a collaborative environment.

“You want to cultivate a dynamic environment and that means more interactions, more supervision, more papers and grants, which means more money to do cooler experiments. It should be a self-fulfilling virtuous cycle,” Ormiston said.

Given their collaborative nature, RECs are run differently than typical research groups.

“It was very important for us to have regular meetings between the investigators, have regular mechanisms for our students to interact and mechanisms for those students to present their work, so we have monthly research-in-progress meetings,” Ormiston said.

Unlike other research meetings, these integrated meetings promote student interactions and joint feedback. These social settings foster collaboration and joint studies across research groups.

“We have ideas about how our individual labs are going to run, but there are often ideas that come out of the lunchroom or the softball game after work, or when students hang out with each other,” Ormiston said.

Although most labs often gather, the formality of RECs should only further these interactions, helping spread ideas.

Both undergraduate and graduate students could benefit from RECs. Currently, the REC Ormiston is involved in has already taken strides through co-supervision of graduate students by faculty members.

Although the REC is fairly new, with most participating faculty members having joined Queen’s in the last year, Ormiston explained a clear vision for the future.

“We have plans for grant submissions and it’s only going to build from here on up,” Ormiston said.

Principal REC members would be exclusively Queen’s professors, but part of the process for REC membership is to reach beyond the faculty and potentially beyond the university to establish international networks.

“If you’re not crossing disciplines, you’re at least crossing boundaries when it comes to methods, often really impactful papers are crossing the whole spectrum,” Ormiston explained.


Health Sciences, QHS, Research, science

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