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Awarded CIFAR Research Workshops

by CIFAR Jun 10 / 17
Awarded Workshops


The CIFAR Research Workshop program provides an opportunity for researchers to explore key questions of global importance that can best be addressed through interdisciplinary, international teams. 

We are pleased to announce these funded workshops that reflect this drive to answer research questions that are timely in the context of world events, high-risk, and have strong potential for advancement or refinement through a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach.

Open call workshops

Earth 3D – Subsurface Science and Exploration

Lead organizers:
Barbara Sherwood Lollar; University Professor, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Toronto
Christopher Ballentine; Professor and Chair of Geochemistry, University of Oxford
Nigel Smith; Director, SNOLAB Deep Underground Research Facility 
Victoria Orphan; Professor of Geobiology, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena

Understanding of the Earth, in terms of science and engineering, policy and public understanding, remains very much constrained by our limitations as organisms anchored to the thin veneer on the surface of the Blue Planet. Globally fundamental questions remain concerning the complexities of chemical, physical and biological interactions in the Earth’s subsurface. The research frontiers to be explored in this workshop focus on three themes (WATER; LIFE; SPACE AND TIME) – each of which encompasses fundamental discovery science of direct relevance to advancing scientific knowledge, to developing policy, and to expanding public understanding of the Earth and the solar system. The assembled contributors from geochemistry, biology, hydrogeology, physics, and planetary science will not only bring creative insights and interdisciplinary approaches to bear on these problems, but this workshop will link creative collaborations along these three themes in a unique and integrated way.

Governance, Crisis and Disorder in Metropolis

Lead organizers: 
Patrick Le Galès; CNRS Research Professor of Sociology and Politics, Sciences Po
Michael Storper; Distinguished Professor of Regional and International Development, University of California, Los Angeles
Julie-Ann Boudreau; Professor, Institut national de la recherché scientifique - Centre Urbanisation Culture Société

Cities, metropolis, are fundamentally political entities within states, against states, as alternatives to states. A classical trope in the field of urban studies holds that large metropolitan areas are somehow ungovernable, chaotic and violent, sites of such ills as corruption, disorder, inequality, segregation, planning failures, environmental disasters and predatory elites. And yet a different set of tropes sees cities and city-regions as centres of economic and social innovation, and the essential engines of economic growth, prosperity and social mobility dealing with risk and sustainable development. We propose to concentrate on the emergence of different forms of governance in the metropolis, and thereby to reconsider the classical question of what is governed and what is not governed, or perhaps better stated, alternatively governed in them. At the center of our reflections will be the making of new forms of collective action and public policy to deal with major questions of police, housing, access to water and energy, education, economic development, and various kinds of risks.

Multisystemic Resilience

Lead organizers:
Michael Ungar; Director, Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University 
Katrina Brown; Professor of Social Science, University of Exeter
Susan Cutter; Carolina Distinguished Professor, University of South Carolina
Michael Pluess
; Associate Professor in Developmental Psychology, Queen Mary University of London

Thinking about multisystemic resilience may resolve many problems that have been discussed in fields such as neurobiology, psychology, disaster management, environmental science, business, international development, health care, and economics. Scientists across these and many other disciplines are shifting their focus from the factors that explain “wicked” problems to investigations of the everyday interactions that can solve resilience puzzles. There have been very few efforts, though, to bring resilience scholars together and share research on resilience across disciplinary silos. To address this dearth of shared knowledge about resilience, we propose a workshop to address two broad research questions: (1) Does the resilience of one system at one scale influence the resilience of co-occurring, subordinate and supraordinate systems with which it has reciprocal relationships? (2) Do the processes, mechanisms, and patterns of recovery, adaptation and transformation associated with a system’s resilience at any scale share commonalities with the processes, mechanisms and patterns associated with resilience occurring in other systems?

Smart Inclusive Cities

Lead organizers:
Alexander Whalley
; Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Calgary
Enrico Moretti; Michael Peevey and Donald Vial Professor of Economics, University of California, Berkeley
Claudio Silva; Professor, Computer Science and Engineering, New York University
Patrick Wolfe; Professor of Statistics and Honorary Professor of Computer Science, University London College

Geography is more important than ever. Silicon Valley is the center of the economic universe, yet just 200 miles away California’s Central Valley struggles with poverty. While the disparities are clear, what is driving them is not. Most of what we know comes from highly aggregated infrequently reported data that hide many determinants of economic performance. This workshop will leverage the power of big data to reveal the true drivers of regional performance. We will create a new scholarly community from Computer Science, Statistics, Geography and Economics who bring creative insights and interdisciplinary perspectives to a central issue of our time. The paradox of urban economics is that just as people, products, and ideas a becoming more and more mobile the importance of where they are has grown and grown. Resolving this paradox is crucial for stakeholders who seek to improve the performance of our cities and regions to make us more prosperous, happier, healthier, and wiser. We will build depth in two areas - social interactions and the built environment. These foci are central to urban science and with the massive amounts of data now available are ripe for significant advances.

What’s at Stake in the Fourth Industrial Revolution?

Lead organizers:
Patrick McCray; Professor, Department of History, University of California, Santa Barbara
David C. Brock; Director, Center for Software History, Computer History Museum
Lee Jared Vinsel
; Assistant Professor, Science & Technology Studies, Virginia Tech
Margaret Graham; Associate Professor of Management, McGill University

Many economists and industry leaders posit that global industrial society is entering a period of profound technological change, many hold this period constitutes a Fourth Industrial Revolution. Further, some writers and other commentators have made troubling predictions that these technologies will lead to massive unemployment, increased economic inequality, and social strife. The phrase “Fourth Industrial Revolution” implies previous revolutions, and, indeed, the tradition of naming and numbering industrial revolutions is quite longstanding. The term “Second Industrial Revolution,” for instance, dates at least to the 1920s. While these naming-traditions are simultaneously attempts to interpret the past, to control the present, and to shape the future, academic researchers have given little attention to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and this more general phenomenon. The goal of this two-day workshop is to bring together scholars who study the social dimensions of technology—anthropologists, historians, sociologists, and experts in management studies—to put the Fourth Industrial Revolution in broader sociocultural and historical contexts.

Child well-being workshops

Inequalities in Child Development

Lead organizers:
Jane Waldfogel
; Compton Foundation Centennial Professor for the Prevention of Children and Youth Problems; Columbia University School of Social Work
Anna Chmielewski
; Assistant Professor, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Liz Washbrook; Senior Lecturer in Quantitative Methods, University of Bristol

Inequalities in child development by parental socio-economic status (SES) are a direct impediment to social mobility and life chances and hence a concern across OECD countries. This workshop aims to advance our understanding of SES disparities in child development by setting the stage for international and interdisciplinary analyses leveraging detailed cohort and administrative data from rich countries – such as Canada, Ireland, France, Germany, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, UK, and US -- that are similar enough to form valid comparisons, but also sufficiently different to allow us to learn about the role of context in the development of inequalities. The workshop will explore the possibilities for cross-national harmonization of longitudinal data that will enable us to move beyond existing cross-sectional and single country snapshots and to examine multiple developmental stages, outcomes, and countries in a single overarching framework. We aim to lay the groundwork for an international and interdisciplinary network that would provide new evidence on the dynamics of inequalities in childhood and adolescence, what factors influence them, and how national contexts strengthen/buffer these processes

Famines and Vulnerability of Adolescents

Lead organizers:
Jose Cuesta; Chief of Social Policy and Economic Analysis, UNICEF Office of Research
Sue Horton; CIGI Chair in Global Health Economics, University of Waterloo
Richard Akresh; Associate Professor, Department of Economics, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Annamaria Milazzo
; Consultant, World Bank; University of Bocconi

Droughts, floods, hurricanes and other large-scale weather shocks take place every year across the globe, with increasing frequency and virulence. This proposal is both timely––as we are observing the unravelling of a famine––and timeless–– as catastrophic emergencies will continue to unfold. Also, because conflict and natural disasters occur around the globe, better evidence on this topic constitutes a global public good. Better evidence will have serious implications for effective policy design for emergency and developmental interventions. Evidence in this area may also nuance our understanding of children’s vulnerability depending on age, where most focus at present has been dedicated to the policy implications related to infants. It implies sharing knowledge, evidence and ideas with economists, nutritionists, psychologists, emergency experts and conflict scholars. It also implies bringing together an intersection of already existing networks working on conflict, emergencies, food insecurity and nutrition with relation to adolescents’ well-being.

New Measures in Adolescent Development

Lead organizers:
Jo Boyden; Professor of International Development, University of Oxford
Kate Tilleczek; Professor, Faculty of Education and Arts, University of Prince Edward Island
Robert Blum; William H. Gates Sr. Professor, Johns Hopkins University
Marc Bornstein; Head of Child and Family Research, Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Adolescence – the period between 10 and 19 years old - is increasingly recognized as a sensitive period for human development. Nevertheless, adolescence remains a poorly understood stage in the life course. Nearly 9 in 10 of the world’s 1.2 billion adolescents live in low- and middle income countries, where many face multiple threats to their wellbeing and development. Yet most of what we know about this life phase, including the most effective means of supporting adolescent development and wellbeing, comes from research and evaluations in high-income countries. This workshop will draw on cutting edge research insights to contribute to the development of a portfolio of measures which are both relevant to adolescents living in adverse social and economic circumstances, and appropriate across a range of cultural contexts. Leading economists, anthropologists, medical and behavioural scientists will share knowledge and tools so as to identify best methods to track adolescent development into and through adolescence; to understand the impact of biological, environmental, and psychological factors alongside the social and economic contexts; and to gauge the impact of policies and interventions.

Revisiting Core Concepts in Autism with New Tools

Lead organizers:
Takao Hensch; Professor, Molecular Cellular Biology, Harvard University
Charles A. Nelson; Professor, Pediatrics, Harvard University
Marla B. Sokolowski, Distinguished University Professor, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto
Peter Szatmari; Professor, Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, University of Toronto

For decades, the etiology of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has been shrouded in mystery yielding many more hypotheses than data. With the dramatically increased incidence and social burden of the disorder, research has rapidly progressed often at the forefront of neuroscience. It is now timely for an innovative interdisciplinary workshop that bridges the clinical and social sciences to synthesize current knowledge and generate new research directions for diagnosis and intervention. This two-day workshop that will bring together sophisticated basic research, patient advocacy and convergent corporate interest to address the many challenges that remain. This will be an opportunity for world experts to gather in a focused workshop format that has the potential for immediate impact on the field, including the identification of new treatment strategies.

In partnership with See Things My Way Centre Innovation in Autism and Intellectual Disabilities and the Miriam Foundation, CIFAR is pleased to support this workshop.

Supporting International Dialogue on Children and Work

Lead organizers:
Tara Collins; Associate Professor, School of Child & Youth Care, Ryerson University
Jo Boyden; Professor of International Development, University of Oxford
Michael Bourdillon; Professor Emeritus in Social Anthropology, University of Zimbabwe
Neil Howard; Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Antwerp

The workshop will be framed in alignment with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which encompasses protective and participatory rights as well as entitlements to provision, on the grounds that realization of children's rights is the most effective way of securing their well-being. It will aggregate the best of international, interdisciplinary scholarship on the relationship between children’s work, their well-being and human rights. Gathering the key players involved in debates about children and work is both an important and unique opportunity to explore their views and evidence about children and work. This includes UN and allied agencies along with researchers and practitioners. Bringing together this combination of actors will facilitate the building of shared knowledge, relationships and an international collaborative network that will both advance the state of knowledge, identify knowledge gaps, and ensure that policies and programs related to children and work can be effective in promoting children’s well-being.

In partnership with the Jacobs Foundation, CIFAR is pleased to support this research workshop.