UBC Reports
October 16, 1997

Campaign promotes value of UBC research

UBC President Martha Piper conferred her first "honorary degrees" on eight diapered infants last week at the launch of the UBC Research Awareness Campaign.

The one- to two-year-olds received honorary "infant scientist" degrees in the First Nations Longhouse from Chancellor Bill Sauder and President Piper.

After tapping them each on the head with a "Think About It" cap, the chancellor said that he looked forward to admitting them officially "in the new millenium."

The infants, together with their parents, recently volunteered to help with Psychology Prof. Janet Werker's research into how infants process speech.

Bernie Bressler, vice-president, Research, said the graduation ceremony marked a lively beginning to an ongoing effort to promote the diversity and value of UBC research.

"The university has a dual mission of teaching and research," said Bressler. "We have a responsibility to make the public aware of linkages between the two as well as the positive impact that UBC research initiatives have on communities locally, across Canada and abroad."

Bressler said that UBC conducts the vast majority of research in the province with more than 4,000 research projects annually.

University researchers attract upwards of $135 million each year from government, industry and foundations.

In the last 12 years, UBC research has led to the creation of 71 spin-off companies, employing 1,500 British Columbians and generating close to $634 million in investment.

Bressler lauded UBC's participation in all 14 research networks in the federal government's Networks of Centres of Excellence program, noting that the Canadian Genetic Diseases Network at UBC recently had its funding extended for seven years.

However, he said, researchers at UBC and across Canada have serious concerns about their future, particularly in the area of basic research.

He said cuts to the three federal granting councils -- the Medical Research Council of Canada (MRC), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) -- are jeopardizing basic research across the country.

"A great deal of public attention has been focused on the campus's physical transformation over the past decade," said Bressler. "The purpose of this research awareness campaign is to trumpet the value and excellence of UBC's intellectual infrastructure -- its faculty, staff, students and alumni."

The Board of Governors broke from its regularly scheduled meeting to attend the launch.

Board Chair Shirley Chan said board members unanimously support the research awareness campaign "because research is one of the most important ways this university serves the people of British Columbia."

Bressler ended his remarks by saying that the campaign would not succeed without the participation of all members of the campus community.

"We all have a responsibility to make the public aware of what we do," Bressler said. "Whether faculty, students, staff or alumni -- we must all become advocates for UBC research."

Campaign co-ordinator Charlie Ker of the UBC Public Affairs Office said people can learn more about UBC Research through a Web site at www.research.ubc.ca.

Ker said a series of radio and print advertisements are being proposed for the new year to give people a better understanding of the scope of UBC research and its impact on people and communities throughout the province.