Queen’s drops two places in national research rankings

Principal Patrick Deane addresses research status at open meeting

Deane spoke about Queen’s research status on Nov. 11.

According to data released last week, Queen’s dropped two places in the 2018 national ranking for research, scoring 13th out of 50 Canadian universities.

Principal Patrick Deane addressed the move down the list at his open community meeting on Nov. 11, the second in a series of meetings he hopes will inform the University’s next strategic framework, which is a long-term plan developed by Queen’s administration.

“I am aware there is a sort of crisis of confidence in the University about our research standing,” Deane said at the meeting.

While the conversation focused on issues of high international tuition fees and campus racism at the first open meeting on Oct. 15, Deane focused Monday’s meeting on internationalization and research.

“They are closely related, of course, because they bear together on another big issue, which is our reputation as an institution,” Deane said. “Whether we like it or not, in this day and age, universities are global entities. They have to have an impact in a global context. They have to be players on an international stage.”

He said that while some of the factors behind that crisis are circumstantial, like Kingston’s geographic location, some are cultural.

Part of the reason behind Queen’s drop from 11th to 13th place in the nationwide rankings was a 15 per cent  funding decrease in research income.

Out of 50 research-intensive institutions in Canada, Queen’s financial loss was the second-highest decrease behind the University of New Brunswick, which saw a 19.7 per cent loss in sponsored research income in 2018.

Deane said most of that drop was a result of fluctuations in clinical trial funding.

“That loss was approximately a $30-million loss in research revenues to the University, that clinical trials hit,” Deane said. “So it’s a large drop in the U15. If we’re thinking about where this institution stands, or should stand, on the national scene, that is an important thing to think about.”

In 2018, eligible faculty members at Queen’s brought in approximately $226,000 in research dollars, an average sitting in the same area as schools like Western University, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Alberta.

“It’s a respectable figure,” Deane said.

On the other hand, he pointed out that in 2018, McMaster brought in nearly double the amount Queen’s did, and the University of Toronto brought in approximately $407,000.

Deane said that while most of that number can be chalked up to contextual factors like greater access to health networks and higher concentrations in the sciences and bio-medical research disciplines, Queen’s still needs to think seriously about its research enterprise.

“The horse has left the gate,” he said. “We are a research-intensive university […] We will be assessed next to those other research-intensive institutions, and we need to therefore be thoughtful about how we improve our performance.”

When Deane opened up the floor to feedback, one audience member suggested the University invest in better IT systems to make access to researchers around the world easier. He added this would also reduce faculty air travel, which has been a growing subject of criticism among sustainability activists.

Michael White, a research services librarian, echoed the need to improve technological resources at Queen’s.

He suggested Queen’s develop a plan to build the University’s digital communication infrastructure, investing in citation management resources or collaborative writing tools like Overleaf.

In response, Deane said it makes sense to focus research production through a technological lens.

One audience member asked Deane how he thinks the Bader International Study Centre (BISC) could fit in with the University’s internationalization plan.

Deane said while the castle is a unique asset, Queen’s doesn’t quite know what to do with it.

“My view’s always been that you have to recognize its difference before you can integrate it. I think it’s a mistake to assume it’s just an extension of us,” he said. “However, I think it needs to be a cornerstone of our internationalization strategy.”

Deane said the BISC should be offering an exciting, globally-informed experience for students, as well as potentially bringing research partnerships together.

“We’re nowhere near making the most of [the castle] as an asset. At the moment, enrollment is down—alarmingly down,” he said.


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