Research Matters is a public outreach initiative that explores how Ontario university research is transforming daily life and improving how people live, work, and play across the province and around the world. It is a collaborative project among Ontario’s universities to build new bridges between researchers and the broader society. This multi-platform endeavour involves a website and blog, social media, and public events—all designed to give Ontarians unprecedented access to the wealth of ideas and innovations happening at Ontario universities.
Thousands of talented researchers are quietly changing the world. Occasionally, one will make headlines with the announcement of a major breakthrough. However, often, university researchers work behind the scenes, steadily progressing toward ambitious new ideas—new ideas that improve public policies and private practice, advance technology, foster a healthier, happier, more prosperous society, build communities, and generally make life more interesting.
University researchers are deep, critical thinkers who challenge the status quo. They meet tough intellectual challenges with rigour and discipline. They know some problems will take a lifetime, or many lifetimes to solve. They also know this effort is well worth it. They offer creative solutions to real-life issues. They produce authoritative analysis, fresh ideas, and indispensable knowledge that could not come from any other source.
Ontario researchers do the work that makes it possible for government, business, and community leaders to make smart, informed decisions about a huge range of issues.
In specific portfolios from health to economic development, municipal, provincial, and federal governments all rely on university research to make informed policy decisions. University research also provides new ideas about what government should and should not be, suggests alternative voting systems, provides reality checks against campaign promises, and can help improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and ethics of governments.
Wayne Gretzky famously said, “A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.” The same goes for businesses. A good company knows its market. A great company knows what its market is going to be. University research helps businesses prepare for the next big thing in technology, medicine, human resources, trade, and law. This research does more than predict the future—it creates the future. University research generates patents, spin-off companies, and innovations that open up whole new markets to entrepreneurs. University research trains thought leaders to be critical, independent, solution-oriented thinkers who become business leaders in areas far beyond their specific field of study.
From social justice to alternative voting systems, from climate change to economic development, from technology to fine dining, and from better commutes to better relationships, university research contributes to the fabric of society in ways both obvious and subtle. Organizations devoted to social, political, and economic change rely on the theories, data, and insight of researchers to take informed, practical action. Whether it’s a local community group or an international NGO, a conservative think tank or an animal rights organization, they all depend on research. Individuals as well, whether they know it or not, benefit on a daily basis from inventions, ideas, and other advances that originated on university campuses across Ontario.
Imagine being the first person to see a new planet orbiting a distant star. Or developing a better way to help couples with fertility issues realize their dream of starting a family. Or reading a classic work of literature in an entirely fresh way. Or developing new tools to help protect children from Internet predators. Many university researchers harbour well-justified passion and pride in their work, dedicating their lives to challenging problems with huge societal impact. Even when the journey is long, even when the final breakthrough doesn’t come for generations, the benefits along the way—new ideas, new tools and technologies, new and better ways of doing things—contribute to the health, happiness, and richness of life for millions of people around the world.
Research shapes students’ experience and informs both what is taught in classrooms, and how it is taught. A vibrant university research community means that students don’t just learn what’s in the current textbooks—they have access to the new ideas and discoveries that will appear in the next edition.