A ‘bundled’ approach to learning in which two complementary subjects are studied with relatively equal intensity could be an effective way to help build and deepen scientific research capacity in Canada.
That idea was among the subjects discussed at a recent webinar, Building scientific capacity and a new generation of researchers, the final event in the Building Future Ready Communities: Virtual Tour series from Magnet and EnPoint.
The panel discussion looked at different ways to empower a new generation of researchers by nurturing talent and creating opportunities for career development.
Panelist Mohamed Elmi, Executive Director of the Diversity Institute at Toronto Metropolitan University, said those working to encourage research activity, or devise organizational practices in general, must answer three “fundamental” questions about their activity: Is this working? Who is this working for? And, how can we make this better for all?
Panelist Eric Siegel, Chief Innovation Officer at the Ocean Frontier Institute, put forward the idea of a “bundled” learning experience, suggesting Economics and Sustainability, or Biology and Policy, as complementary fields with high potential for intersecting opportunities in the years ahead.
“It’s not super broad and multidisciplinary, it’s not super deep in one thing,” Siegel said of the idea of a bundled approach. “It becomes what I would call a force multiplier. What I’m seeing are some really interesting double majors (that) seem to be so impactful.”
Siegel suggested two other combinations likely to open doors for future job seekers, given the wide applications of the main subjects: Mathematics and anything, or Computer Science and anything.
“Everything needs math,” Siegel said, “so just do math and anything. And computer science, for better or for worse, is behind almost everything we touch.”
Fellow panelist Simon Blanchette, a Senior Research Associate at the Diversity Institute and an adjunct lecturer at McGill University, encouraged aspiring researchers to follow their personal interests and passions, while challenging themselves to become more agile thinkers through exposure to diverse learning opportunities.
“I advocate against people doing a major in finance with a minor in accounting,” Blanchette said. “Do something else, sharpen your critical thinking. I do like dual perspectives but find some contrast as well. Challenge both sides of your brain at the same time because I think it leads to more critical thinking, and also embracing more diverse perspectives. We talk about agility for organizations, but agility for yourself, in terms of how you think, is also really important.”
Another vital byproduct of the broader perspective that diverse, ‘bundled’ learning promotes, the panelists agreed, is the likelihood of researchers better understanding the value and importance of getting their ideas in front of the largest audience of consumers possible, whether it’s to consume new knowledge or a new product.
“We are the bridge between broad data and actual, actionable knowledge,” Blanchette said of the research community. “We need to make sure what we create from it is actually actionable for individuals.”